The State Street Eating House + Cocktails’ waitstaff is clothed in variations of blue gingham shirts, aside from bartender Billy Weber, who wears a retro short-sleeved button-down with a vest and bow tie.
Weber squeezes fresh lemons, as The Chords shoop-shoop in the background about how “life could be a dream, sweetheart.”
At any moment, Don Draper could walk into the bar and, true to form, would be served a cocktail straight out of the 1950s. State Street makes high-caliber craft cocktails just as history would call for — there’s no cranberry juice concentrate, Smirnoff or Red Bull involved.
And because State Street’s focus is post-World War II, it knows all about the “bar cart.” The portable, well-stocked bar has been making a resurgence, and it has proved to be a summer essential for any trend-setting host or hostess.
Part “Mad-Man,” part boozey-connoisseur Chef/Proprietor Christian Hershman sits down at the bar to discuss craft cocktails and summer bar carts with lead bartender Billy Weber — he, too, is donning a bow tie.
You can always measure the quality of an establishment (or bar cart) based on a few things.
“Certainly, the selection of alcohol on their back bar,” Hershman says.
You won’t find a visible array of Bombay Sapphire or Jack Daniels at State Street (although, it does keep it under the bar for the people that prefer only those brands).
Weber nods his head in agreement that top-shelf selection is a priority before chiming in: “If you go into a mechanic shop and there’s stuff lying everywhere, it makes you a little nervous,” he says. “Where are all these extra parts from?”
A real craft bar keeps it clean and simple. The serious craft-cocktail bartender will pay close attention to detail, carefully honing the drink via trial and error, using the right amount of ice, shaking it the perfect number of times and paying attention to measurements. (Of course, you can use these tips for your own bar cart.)
Although a knowledgeable and personable bartender with a well-honed palate is necessary for a quality establishment, he’s not necessary for your bar-cart.
“But I’ll tell you the secret,” Hershman says. “The half-one-two.”
It’s as if a magician has just given away all the tricks. This is the standard formula used for most craft drinks — there should be a half-ounce simple syrup, one ounce of acid (typically lemon juice) and two ounces of booze.
Now, ice is another factor. Hershman lives in Bradenton nearby Metro Manatee Ice House, where he picks up blocks of ice for the restaurant, which they pick down to fit into scotch glasses and drinks like Tom Collinses. State Street also invested in a shaved ice machine, a Flaker ice machine that produces crushed ice.
Because ice is important to craft drinks, Hershman recommends at least tracking down a block of ice for the bar cart that you could cover with a few towels (and don’t forget the ice pick). He also says you could try your hand at finding a handheld ice shaver at a thrift or second-hand store.
But if you remember anything for your bar cart, Hershman says, “Keep it simple.” If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, stick to the basics. When in doubt, use the old half-one-two trick.
Let your guests have fun creating their own drinks, and perhaps prepare a few for those who might be intimidated by the process. Be sure to keep some wine and beer on hand. And here’s one last piece of advice the two “Mad Men” suggest: You can never go wrong with a good gin and tonic.
LIKE THEY USED TO MAKE
To help guests who want to participate in the creative and crafty fun, you can have a few recipe cards on hand. Here are a couple State Street uses:
2 oz. vodka
½ oz. lime juice
Pour it into a copper glass, cover with shaved ice and top it off with a ginger beer.
2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1 cup
½ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
Shake the ingredients with ice (25 times at least), and strain into a glass with shaved ice, garnish with cucumber and top it off with ginger beer.
STOCKING THE PARTY
Here’s a State Street-recommended shopping list for stocking your bar-cart party:
Eventually State Street hopes to distribute some of these spirits, but these can be found online and at most liquor stores.
Spirits and other alcohol:
Karlson’s Gold vodka | Small’s gin
Pimm’s No. 1 cup
Kronan Swedish Punsch
Breuckelen 77 whiskey | Aperol
Red: Bennett Lane “Maximus” (Napa)
White: Four Graces pinot gris
State Street makes most of its mixers in-house, but if you’re not feeling up to the creative challenge of preparing your own, any brand of the following will do just fine.
Tonic water | Soda water
Ginger beer | Simple syrup
Bitters (orange or other citrus)
Fresh fruit | Fresh herbs | Cucumber
Hershman keeps a bag of tools under his bar. These are great investments for any entertainer.
Mixing glass and shaker
Knife and cutting board
Mason jars are great for all-purpose containers, because they are very “in” right now. Koop glasses and small rocks glasses are a must, but you can get a few copper cups, too, to really out-do your bar-cart.
Stem and glassware:
Small rocks glass
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