Matthew MacCartney is one of a growing list of sommeliers currently dabbling in cocktails. As the head wine guy at Colicchio & Sons and its bar, the Tap Room, he also designed the list of mixed drinks. Now, guess which one he finds more fun? (The answer might surprise you.)
Tell us about the cocktails at the Tap Room and Colicchio & Sons?
I work the cocktails sort of the same way I work with the wines by the glass program: lighter and crisper to more robust. We have something like the Corpse Reviver, which was nice and crisp with a little fruit juice and the G’Vine gin, then something like the Rhumhattan, which is a rum Manhattan that’s a little heavier.
What sort of drink trends are you excited about these days?
I would say our drinks are more taste-focused than trend-focused. I don’t like things that are too sweet. I want to keep them more on the savory side. Something that makes you want to drink it, then go into a meal afterward. Not something that’s so sweet it makes you shut down and is a meal in itself. Wine is the same way. Some of these thick, rich shirazes and cabernets, you don’t even need fruit with them. I want to stay away from that. I want something with bright acidity and a little bit of dryness to it.
Your background is in wine. How did you get into cocktails?
I started definitely in wine. When I started Colicchio & Sons in March, they had an existing cocktail program, and around spring and summer we started to change it up.
Who do you think is more fun? Wine drinkers or cocktail folk?
I would have to say I have more fun with the wine crowd. Because that is my background, my go-to. Using my culinary skills and my palate, I have a good time creating cocktails and thinking about them and understanding flavors. I am by no means a mixologist.
What is your favorite drink on the menu?
I would have to say the new one, Cinn City, is very good. That is a cinnamon-infused cognac. One of our bartenders came up with it after I asked him to use a Calvados liqueur. You see the cinnamon in the cognac and it works really well together. I like the Harvest Cup as well. That’s the one with the beer and bourbon. It’s good for the season.
When you’re not at your bar, what other bars do you like to frequent?
I like to go to certain wine bars, like Terroir. And in terms of cocktails, Pegu. I have a huge appreciation for the dedicated cocktail bars like Louis 649. I’ve been to Death & Co. and Mayahuel. I think those guys are true artists.
What is your earliest drinking memory?
It was the first time tasting beer at the neighbor’s house at a barbecue. Then, maybe with the same neighbor, sneaking into bars at 14. I probably will never have another Screwdriver or Vodka Cranberry again after those underage drinking nights. I could never imagine ordering one.
What is your best tipping story?
I’m not in the tip pool, so generate them in terms of the wine, but the staff is who benefits. I definitely remember nights where we sell a couple of $1,000 bottles of wine and you have these amazing people that still tip 20 percent on top. That’s fantastic. If you think about it, whether you’re opening a $30 bottle or a $3,000 bottle of wine, it’s still just popping a cork. It’s pretty amazing for the staff on a night like that. About three months ago, we sold a bottle of 1986 Petrus for $3,600. They paid in cash and tipped quite well.
What is your go-to hangover cure?
Berocca is a good one. It’s like Vitamin Water, but it settles you out. It’s an Australian thing. And drink tons of water. Tons of water and neutral food. That’s how I would take care of it. Cocktails, that’s another gig. All that sugar. That can be really tough.
Is there anything coming up at Colicchio & Sons?
A beer dinner with Garrett Oliver [brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery] in February. Also, an Australian dinner with Australian food and wine based on Tom’s trip to south Australia. That’s going to be happening, I believe, in January.
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