Nathaniel Browning, the beverage director at the Second Street Bistro, makes a mean cocktail. In fact, it’s not unusual for a regular to ask who is behind the bar before they order their favorite cocktail. If you spend some time in the bar area during a busy Power Hour, you’ll see him mixing up pineapple-jalapeno margaritas – the house favorite – or chatting with the customers about their wine, their day, or their dinner.
Nathaniel said that over the years, the Bistro bar has evolved into a place that is known for mixing really great cocktails and serving up excellent pours of wine. Nathaniel boasts years of experience behind a bar, as well as a heavy background in reading classic mixology books. He has taken this experience and helped to establish many of the Bistro’s best selling cocktails. He gave the house sweet and sour mix a makeover by bumping up the amount of fresh-squeezed juices used in the mix, and stopped topping off the margaritas with a splash of water. The result? The best margarita in town.
The Bistro’s greatest asset behind the bar is the house-infused liquors that make the signature cocktails, which happen to be Nathaniel’s specialty.
“The keys to infusing liquor are to use really good products to infuse it with, and letting it sit for the right amount of time,” he said.
When he first started infusing liquor, Nathaniel would make several batches, each with different amounts of ingredients and sitting for different periods of time. He discovered that one week is the magic number – less time will yield weak flavors, and more time will cause the flavors to turn.
Currently, the Bistro infuses the following liquors: raspberry vodka, cucumber gin, mint rum, pineapple and jalapeno tequila, and ginger vodka. Nathaniel is also currently experimenting with blueberry vodka.
The cocktails using these liquors are by far the most popular at the Bistro. On a busy summer night, Nathaniel said he has made more than 40 pineapple-jalapeno margaritas. Other popular cocktails include the classic Mojito (with mint rum), the Pink Tulip (with raspberry vodka, lemonade and soda), the Cucumber Gin and Tonic (with cucumber gin), and most recently the Ginger Martini, which sold out in its debut weekend.
When asked about the recent trends in cocktails, Nathaniel laughed and said he is “self-inducing” the trend of bringing the classic cocktails back. The cocktail du jour is often a throwback to the early twentieth century. Last week, the special was the Aviation cocktail (gin, lemon juice, and maraschino), which was made popular by a bartender in New York in 1916.
“People aren’t really into the mixing of cocktails anymore,” Nathaniel said, adding that it is often due to hard-to-find ingredients.
“But if we have the resources to do this mixology, we might as well,” he said.