The Lambs Club's Lily Cho Talks Training With Sasha Petraske, the Ubiquitous Prohibition Theme, and the Life of a Cocktail
The Lambs Club is now up and running with its cocktail list curated by Sasha Petraske and priced at a ballsy $18 per drink. Bar manager Lily Cho reveals just what it's like to develop a beverage program with the Cocktail Kid himself.
Tell me about the cocktail program at the Lambs Club.
Our cocktail program is being spearheaded by Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey, Little Branch, and White Star. He's one of the innovators; very well regarded and well respected in the cocktail community -- I would say, not just in New York, but globally. We've been given an incredible opportunity here at the Lambs Club, with all of our resources, to do the same cocktails that he offers at his bars. So, a lot of things inspired by Prohibition-era cocktail programs, old-school cocktails like you'll see in The Savoy Cocktail Book.
What was it like working with Sasha?
He is incredibly generous. He's incredibly detail-oriented; the training is very rigorous. The bartenders go through a lot of just pouring, learning to measure properly before they can even begin to make cocktails. It's a lot of repetition -- it's weeks of training. Then, we get to the point where we do shaken cocktails, stirred cocktails. It's a lot of technique and learning to respect the ingredients.
As the bar manager, do you ever get behind the bar yourself?
I do sometimes. I don't consider myself a great bartender, but I had to go through the training with Sasha. The thing with me is that I'm very slow. With his program you sometimes have to wait a long time. I can make a really great cocktail, but if I were behind there, you'd have to wait even longer. So, I'm much better at just organizing and managing than being the bartender.
What was the hardest part of the training for you?
I would say the most interesting and difficult part is doing "round building." Sometimes you go to a bar, order a round of drinks, and the drinks come out as they're ready. The way that Sasha wants his cocktails served is that everything comes out simultaneously. It's part of his philosophy: that drinks have a life and as you add ice and stir and shake, you add water to it. And that as the ice melts, the life of the cocktail, well, isn't as lively, you could say. So, we try to build all the drinks at the same time, so that they can come out all together and everyone is enjoying the drinks at their very best possible state.
How will the Lambs Club differ from the ubiquitous Prohibition era-themed bars?
It's not so much about setting us apart. It's more about being part of a community. Yes, there are a lot of places that have embraced the whole idea of the Prohibition era. I think one thing we do have is this gorgeous space, which may make it feel more authentic. It adds to the ambiance.
Are you hoping to attract a downtown crowd?
I think it's going to be a mix. As you know, Sasha is such a draw. I would imagine that people from downtown will want to come here to enjoy his cocktail program in such an elegant space -- that's really a treat. But also being in this neighborhood, we are going to have that Midtown/uptown vibe as well. So, I'm hoping to achieve a nice balance.
What do you think will be the house specialty?
Maybe the Lambs Cup! There actually was an original Lambs Club cocktail made with gin, vermouth, and Benedictine. But the new one is a secret recipe for now. What do you think will be the next big thing in the cocktail scene?
Drinking and food have always gone hand in hand. When you look at what's going on in the food world, trying to be local, organic, and sustainable, that's definitely made its way into cocktails. Using fresh juices, things that are in season, organic spirits, things like that.
What's missing from bars these days?
If anything, I would say some places still using sodas and juices out of the gun or bad ice ... poor-quality spirits. But I frequent places that have it all for me.
What bars do you like to go to when you're not at your own?
I do frequent Sasha's places. I find myself at Little Branch quite often. I've been to White Star. I've been to Please Don't Tell. One place I miss is Angel's Share. I used to go there a lot.
Do you have a favorite movie or TV bartender? Are you more of a Sam from Cheers kind of girl or would you be more into Tom Cruise in Cocktail?
I'm definitely not a Cheers kinda girl. I don't know if Sam is really my type. I don't know if Tom Cruise is really my type, either. I guess my favorite movie bartender would have to be from The Shining.
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