Mixing and Mingling

Mixing and Mingling

Starting Sunday, 35 New Haven restaurants will celebrate New Haven Cocktail Week, dropping special mixed drink menus and, for some of them, hosting ticketed seminars and afterparties.

I decided to make my own preparty, by taking a walk around town to see what our local bartenders are stirring up. My first stop was Ordinary, where I hoped to see Tim Cabral, one of the organizers of NHCW. I found him tightening the leg on a barstool and chatting with his team before making some time for me. This year, he noted, Cocktail Week has the most participants since the annual event’s inception in 2018, with newcomers like Harvest, South Bay and RAWA sidling up to the bar.

Cabral is happy to see it, in part because ticket proceeds from Cocktail Week seminars will benefit All Our Kin, a local-turned-larger nonprofit that “trains, supports, and sustains family child care providers,” the website says. Each of the six seminars costs $15 to attend, but even if it was double or triple the price, attendees would be getting a good value. “When I look at organizing the seminars, I use it as an opportunity to really wow anyone who buys a ticket,” Cabral says. “We cap each seminar at 30 people. Last year we did the House of Suntory and it was so fun. For $15, they got three courses of food, three cocktails a taste of the whole portfolio and got to hang for an afterparty. That’s money well spent.”

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This year’s Suntory event at Ordinary is sold out, but, as of this writing, tickets remain for the rest, including an interactive Elijah Craig seminar at Oak Haven taught by one of our hometown boys, Rich Fiorillo. Fiorillo lives in Boston now and brand-manages the entire East Coast for Elijah Craig parent distillery Heaven Hill. Attendees will get to blend their own small-batch bourbon and take it home.

When I asked Cabral which seminars he was looking forward to, he mentioned two. “One of my favorites is the Laphroiag seminar Owl Shop>. Simon comes in from Scotland. He’s so engaging. BAR is doing a fun one with Rabbit Hole, and they’re doing a cornhole tournament afterward. Everyone is doing something fun.” A Campari event at Olives & Oil promises “a deep dive into the mysterious world of Italian bitters” and an “immers in Italian drinking culture,” while a Nelson’s Green Brier workshop at Elm City Social delves into the brand’s Tennessee whiskey. Half the seminars tease the opportunity to taste “mystery,” “limited” or “special” bottles that may be difficult or impossible to try otherwise.

As Ordinary dimmed the lights and upped the music, I slipped out the front door and rounded the corner to fellow Cocktail Week participant Anchor Spa. Bar manager Bianca De Jesus was happy to make me her favorite Cocktail Week creation, the Blushing Beauty ($16), a berry-forward whiskey sour that was ripe with flavor without being too sweet, too sour or too boozy, which is no small feat. “The key is that I muddle fresh strawberries with sage before adding anything else,” De Jesus stage-whispered to me, “and the salinity from the Jefferson’s Ocean gives the drink a backbone.” Drinks with multiple red berries usually end up with a muddied flavor, but the Beauty managed to flow from strawberry to pomegranate to a dry cranberry finish.

Next I headed to Olives & Oil, where I used to work, and where bar manager Carlee Carvalko was getting molecular, engineering a green onion foam (you read that right) for her Garden Party cocktail ($10). Also featuring tangerine-infused Roku gin, orange blossom syrup and lemon juice, the balance between the vegetal notes of the foam and the vibrant citrus flavor beneath it was surprising and tasty.

My final stop brought me farther afield, to the Quinnipiac River and Fair Haven Oyster Co. While waiting for chef Emily Mingrone to find a spare moment during dinner service, bartenders Kevin Peterson and Christian Mutapcic tasted me on the Eastern Exposure ($13), a Cocktail Week whiskey fizz conceived by Peterson and made of Suntory Toki dosed with a beautiful raspberry Szechuan peppercorn shrub (an infused vinegar syrup, not a bush). The drink was bright and refreshing and really highlighted the light-bodied nature of the Japanese whiskey. It was the fanciest highball I’ve had all summer.

When Mingrone arrived, she insisted I also try Mutapcic’s cocktail, The Garden Haiku ($13), a wild and complex combination of Lunazul tequila, Oloroso sherry, muddled Sungold tomatoes, honey, lemon juice and a dash of salt to help it all pop. It’s rare for so many ingredients to sing both individually and together, but it happened here, and it all started with the tomatoes. “We tasted the tomato,” Mingrone says, “and then chose spirits that would complement and enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. So you drink it, and it’s all the best parts of the tomato, the sweetness, the brightness. It’s just great. It’s the perfect summer cocktail for me.”

In addition to specials and seminars, Cocktail Week is also about parties. The week will kick off on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Gioia, the coming-soon Italian spot on Wooster Street, with the annual Spirits Ball and finish on Friday evening, partnering with the Happy Hour in the Plaza series from 4 to 8 in Temple Plaza. DJ Shaki will be spinning vinyl at both events, with the School of Rock AllStars joining on Friday. As for the afterparties following some of the main events, basic details are available here (scroll down), though attending the seminars may be the best way to get fully looped in.

Or, like me, you can try to walk and talk your way into an inside scoop—and maybe, with luck, a few frothy, boozy previews, too.

Written by Anna Konya. Image 1, of the Garden Haiku, photographed by Emily Mingrone. Images 2 and 3, of the

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