Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Butterfly to Feature Eben Freeman's Greatest Hits

One of the most heartbreaking circumstances of a life sipping cocktails is finding one you love, and then having the mixologist pick up and move to a new job or new city, or having the bar close up. Suddenly, the balm you uncovered is removed and you're left mourning.

Eben Freeman has worked the bars of a great number of place over the last two decades, including Eleven Madison Park, WD-50 and Tailor. At present, he managed the beverage programs at all of Michael White's restaurants, but he is not actually behind any particular bar.

With the arrival of White's new Wisconsin-themed restaurant this summer, it will be possible to drink up all the Freeman you want in one location. The Tribeca eatery will have a special cocktail list of many of the drinks Freeman has created at his other jobs, including his famous smoked Coke highball, The Waylon, on tap.

I wrote up his plans for Diner's Journal. Read:
Bartender Will Bring His Busy Past to The Butterfly
The bar program at The Butterfly — the new Michael White restaurant scheduled to open in TriBeCa this summer — will be part Wisconsin, part Eben Freeman.
Reporting about the plans on Friday, Diner’s Journal noted that Mr. Freeman is “head of bar operations and innovation” at Mr. White’s Altamarea Group. But before holding that position he tended bars at a number of significant New York restaurants and taverns, including Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50and Sam Mason’s Tailor. After The Butterfly opens and settles into a groove, he would like to offer a separate cocktail menu that would comprise a sort of Freeman’s greatest hits.
“We’ll start out without it,” he said in an interview on Monday. “But as soon as we’re comfortable, I’d like to have all the drinks I’ve done in my career in a book behind the bar.”
That book may include: a rum punch he created 20 years ago at Caribe, a West Village restaurant where he got his start; forgotten classics like The Millionaire and American Beauty that he introduced to diners at Eleven Madison Park; The Royal Blush, a blend of vodka, sparking wine and cherry purée that was a popular favorite at WD-50 (“When you add the wine, the drink changes color from pink to red”); The Crumble, a rum drink that was an early example of the now-common technique of fat-washing spirits; and The Waylon, the bourbon and smoked Coke drink made famous at Tailor. “I would like to serve The Waylon on draft,” Mr. Freeman said.
With The Butterfly, Mr. White intends to evoke the supper clubs of his native Wisconsin. (The name comes from The Butterfly Club, a restaurant Mr. White worked at in Beloit, Wis.) The regular cocktail list is still in development. But, even at this early stage, it is certain to bear a couple of Badger State touches.
Mr. Freeman has been collaborating with the owners of Lakefront Brewery, a Milwaukee-based craft brewer. Their first creation, Birra Morini — a light lager made with herbs, including oregano, instead of hops — is already being poured at Mr. White’s Osteria Morini. The debut of a second brew, called Fernet Stout, will most likely coincide with the opening of The Butterfly.
“I thought of making an amaro stout, a licorice stout,” Mr. Freeman said. “Then I thought, Fernet being such a huge thing among mixologists, it would be stupid to call it amaro stout. I should just call it Fernet stout.” The beer is brewed with star anise, fennel seed, clove, saffron, orange peel, and lemon verbena.
And, of course, the menu will boast a brandy old-fashioned, the brandy spin on the classic cocktail that is peculiar to Wisconsin and all but the state’s official drink.
“I’d love to do a grasshopper and all those stodgy drinks, but do them well,” said Mr. Freeman.

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