It’s entirely possible that I’d had a stressful morning when I first grabbed lunch at Salt & Grinder, but one of the things I loved most about Frank Bonanno’s new Highland Square deli was the jarred cocktails. “Why, yes, I’ll have a noontime, weekday cocktail,” I thought aloud.
Behind the register at the line-out-the-door sandwich joint is a paper menu of “Jar Cocktails” such as a John Daly, an old fashioned, a margarita, or vodka-pineapple lemonade (pictured). Pre-batched cocktails are all the rage, and Bonanno’s beverage director, Adam Hodak, is clever to offer a trend from the world of haute cocktails in a deli that doesn’t have the physical space (nor need) for a full bar program.
“We were sitting down at Frank and Jacqueline’s house talking about the menu and concept,” Hodak remembers. “Frank happened to be drinking wine from his preferred vessel, a Mason jar, and suddenly we had a plan.” The Salt & Grinder barman makes two-gallon batches of each scratch recipe every few days, then pours the cocktail into jars for the fridge. The cashier just adds filtered ice and (when she remembers) a simple garnish like a lemon wedge. Hodak, who oversees the bar programs at all of Bonanno’s establishments—including the swanky subterranean speakeasy Green Russell—took the daytime sandwich concept into consideration when coming up with his recipes. “They couldn’t be as strong as the cocktails at Green Russell because they’re bigger drinks, meant to go with sandwiches and quench your thirst,” Hodak says. “I’m still using fresh-squeezed juices…[and] the same scratch approach as all of the Bonanno restaurants, but these are more suited to, say, an afternoon picnic over a sandwich rather than a dinner starter on a big night out.”
Hodak’s batch cocktails are more popular than the Salt & Grinder team originally anticipated. Apparently I’m not the only one making a habit of, er, stressful mornings.