Brian Hawthorne is one of the owners of the Wayland (700 East 9th Street, 212-777-7022), where he tends bar and sometimes performs late-night impromptu concerts for his customers. We asked him about one of our favorite drinks on the menu — a margarita made with kale juice — spring cocktails, and his musical talents.
How did you get your start in the bartending business?
After college I went to Argentina for a year, and when I came back to New York, I had no money and not a great idea of what I wanted to do. So I started bartending. That was before I knew anything about craft cocktails; I always loved cooking, but I didn’t know there was so much of a food element in making drinks, too, and I ended up really liking it. My first gig was at Ofrenda, and there Jason Mendenhall [another owner of the Wayland] started teaching me about fresh juices and ingredients. I moved on to the Summit later and got to work with Greg Seider and learn about super off-the-wall-creative cocktails and how to make them quickly. Then I started my own thing.
What’s the idea behind the cocktail menu at the Wayland?
It’s a culinarily-focused, seasonal menu. We try to work fruit, vegetables — whatever is in season — into the cocktails. We use things from the kitchen, which is right behind the bar, so that there’s a great connection between the cocktails and the food. Then we like to do as much as we can homemade — so bitters, jams, syrups, and sodas. For winter we made our own apple-spice bitters for our moonshine cocktail. We do our own orange bitters, cherry jam, apple-jalapeño jam, and right now we have a hibiscus and peppercorn syrup that we’re using. For our cola cocktail, we make the cola ourselves with the gun, and add it to Fernet-Branca.
Your spring menu will be up soon I hear. What are you most excited about serving for the season?
We’re going to have our first pisco cocktail, which is inspired by a mango lassi that I had at Dual Specialty Store on First Avenue. They have tons of spices and dried herbs, and they also sell these fresh mango lassis with mango, cardamom, and rose water, which are awesome. We’re going to do a drink with fresh mango and cardamom syrup, pisco, Dimmi Liquore, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and a bit of soda.
Are you keeping the kale margarita on the menu?
That’s going to stay because it’s delicious. The first hot day we had last week, people were ready to murder it. That one might be a year-round cocktail. The couple of times I’ve come here just to hang out and have a cocktail, that’s what I’ve gotten.
Why do you think people like kale juice in cocktails so much?
The first thing you see is the vibrant green color. And the juice just adds a richness that’s nice because cocktails are usually sweet, sour, bitter, and alcoholic, but putting in a vegetable adds a savory component. Then you’ve got the salt. So the drink has a really complex flavor because you hit all the areas of taste. And people like the idea of having something nutritious in their cocktails.
What else can we look forward to at The Wayland?
A big part of what we do is live music. The drinks are just one aspect of the bar, they go together with the food and the music to make a place where we would all want to hang out. So far we’ve had jazz, soul, indie rock, and blues rock performances. We’re going to add bluegrass onto that. We have a live music calendar on our website and Facebook page so people know when there’s going to be music. But we also do impromptu concerts where either members of the staff or musicians hanging out after their gigs will just set up and play.
Do you play an instrument?
I play bass and guitar, so sometimes I do jazz duos with a friend from music school. We had a loud crowd around 2:30 one morning and Angela, one of the bartenders here who’s a singer, was getting tired of bartending so she just stepped out, and I grabbed my bass, and we played music for like 20 minutes. Everyone started listening attentively and in the end, no one cared that they hadn’t gotten a drink for a while. Then we got back behind the bar and went on working. So it’s a cool vibe, different from just making drinks the whole night, when you can just stop and add some music to it.