“I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar—that’s wonderful.”
—Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
For the last year or so, I’ve been spending my Saturday nights at my old haunt, Bar Olivino. I used to manage the wine store two doors down, and when the chance came up to work behind the bar, I took up the offer. I’ve been a barista before, but never a bartender. I saw it as an opportunity to keep my toe in the wine retail buzz and keep tabs on what customers loved to drink. Plus, I already knew all the regulars, and I got the chance to pour wines I love and don’t see come through the office. Sign me up.
With whitewashed exposed brick, zinc bar top, high ceilings, Bar Olivino is a nondescript little wine spot in the burgeoning Clinton Hill ‘hood of Brooklyn. A month ago, the bar underwent a soft face-lift of new shelves and lighting in anticipation of its shiny, brand-new full liquor license.
I have mad respect for bartenders and mixologists of high-volume venues like Pouring Ribbons and Booker + Dax. At Bar Olivino, I have the incredible luxury of playing with tinctures and tonics, upping my cocktail game with my regulars looking on. Unlike those purebred cocktail bars, B. Olivino feels like my living room, if it were stocked with top shelf, small production boozes.
Jura Brooklyn, Suze, Redemption… We’re rocking awesome pours. It’s like having a palette of the deepest hues, beckoning for a glass. And I’m up for the challenge. As I work on my Boston shaker arm and free pour, expect some cocktails making their way up on this piece. To wit, my Manhattan is on-point; check out my Steller story here! (Also below.)
Kid in a candy store? You bet.
Olivino’s Classic Manhattan Recipe
3 oz Redemption Rye Whiskey
1/2 oz Vya Sweet Vermouth
1-2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
Luxardo cherries, for garnish
Build the drink in a glass. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the cherries. Serves 1.