Drinkers scanning the cocktail menu at buzzed-about Bowery newcomer Pearl & Ash will find drinks with artful compositions and refined ingredients, such as celery-lime juice and coldbrew-coffee-infused Punt e Mes. What they won’t find is actual booze. The strongest ingredient in a drink called the Area Code is the wine-based digestif Cardamaro; the Murder on the Ebullient Express is built on white port.
While the absence of whiskeys, gins and vodkas on the menu might come as a rude surprise to some patrons looking for a stiff belt, it’s an increasingly common sight. Low-alcohol cocktails built around liqueurs and aromatized wines — whose alcohol contents run from about 60 proof to well under half that strength — are gaining favor at bars and restaurants all over the city.
For instance, the Tippler bar under the Chelsea Market has the Top Cat, which blends fresh strawberries, lemon and orange soda with the bitter Italian digestif Averna. The Modern last May added an “aperitif” section to the cocktail menu, featuring low-impact drinks like the Tres Jolie, made with dry vermouth, Cointreau and the aperitif wine Dubonnet Rouge.
Low-alcohol drinks stand to boost a bar or restaurant’s bottom line because people tend to drink them faster. Aperitif cocktails may cost a few dollars less than high-octane drinks, but a customer who orders three vermouth cocktails instead of two Sidecars is running up a higher tab.