Monday, August 10, 2009

A Visit to Smith and Mills

Smith and Mills had been recommended to me a number of times over the past couple months as a worthy spot to stop and enjoy a cocktail, so, when recently in Tribeca, I decided to drop by.

I was told it was a small space, and small it was. A couple tables to the right, a couple tables to the left, a low ceiling, a bar dead ahead with a few stools. As a Tribeca studio apartment, it would probably go for about $3,000 a month. The space was a former carriage house and the owners have done their ironic best to remind us at every turn of the structures working-glass past. A sliding metal door leads the way to the bathroom, which looks like (was?) an industrial elevator. There are pulleys and old construction lights on the walls. The perhaps too-precious atmosphere was that of an old tool shed crossed with an atmospheric, Old World rathskeller. It has a cellar-like feel that makes you think you're below street level (when, really, the street is two step away).

The menu was as small as the space. A few select wines, a few select beers. Of cocktails, seven or eight were listed, nearly all of them classics: Dark and Stormy, Old Fashioned, Negroni, etc.

If you offer just a handful of cocktails, you do them expertly, right? That was my hope. I ordered a Negroni. I knew they would automatically give it to me served up if I didn't specify, so I specified: on the rocks. I like that drink better that way, and many cocktail historians believe that's how the Negroni was first devised.

This is what my bartender did. He poured the three ingredients into a bar glass, bottles aloft, sans jigger, estimating with his eye. He added ice and stirred for about 30 seconds. Then he took out a rocks glass and dumped the contents of the bar glass, ice and all, into the smaller vessel. A twist and the drink was mine.

Sloppy doesn't begin to describe the execution. The drink was OK, but a bit watery and heavy on the Campari. That's what happens when you don't measure and use diluted mixing ice in your finished product.

I did not order a second drink after this disappointing experience. I'll have to give Smith and Mills another try. I know talented bartenders work there. They just weren't there the night I went.

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