The sky is dark and the sidewalks are icy. So rather than muddle through slush to order something expensive on the rocks, winter is the perfect time to take a speakeasy staycation and master your home bar.
Luckily, Frank Giresi recently opened Whiskey & Wine Off 69, a home mixologist’s dream of a shop on the Upper East Side.
Giresi knows well the satisfying feel of lining up big baroque bowls of fruit, tiny vials of bitters and new booze discoveries by the bottle, all to tend bar for friends right at the kitchen table. Having launched Elizabeth & Vine, Nolita’s now-closed go-to for interesting globe-spanning wines back in 1989, and later expanding into the larger Bowery & Vine, the 25-year veteran’s latest shop keeps his focus on unique, handcrafted offerings from New York (think Wölffer’s Long Island cabernet and Catskill Distilling’s gin) and around the world.
Beyond bottles, Giresi also stocks his shop with all the essentials for expertly equipping the home bar, from gilded strainers and recipe books to Japanese ice molds capable of transforming any freezer from ice box into ice program.
“It’s important to have the proper barware and the right ingredients,” Giresi says, adding that the investment quickly pays for itself in money saved on pricey drinks out—and cab rides home.
“At bars all over the city I’ve been taught by passionate bartenders about how the correct mixing glasses, spoons and swizzles are essential to creating a beautiful drink. It’s nice to offer a resource for when people don’t feel like spending $17, $18 on a cocktail; they can do it at home as professionally as possible.”
Complicated molecular tipples aside, it’s relatively easy to be your own bartender, and a good one at that, provided you’re armed with serious gear and the techniques of the trade. To wit, Whiskey & Wine’s monthly workshops bring in local mixologists—and occasional special guests like Rainbow Room legend Dale DeGroff—to teach everything from mastering a Boston shaker to the mindset of muddling that advises we bruise, not abuse. Much of which you’ve probably learned without even knowing it.
“Bar patrons have inadvertently gleaned so much education within the decade or so of craft cocktails,” says Giresi.
In other words, now’s the time to put to use all the peel-flaming and artful garnishing we’ve witnessed in front of the stick and take muddling into our own hands.