I stopped by Dram on Sunday night. It wasn't open yet, but the birthday of Thomas Chadwick's wife brought about a reason to have a friends and family gather in the space.
With the an opening date somewhere soonish on the horizon, I could help but ask Thomas about what Dram was going to be like. I don't know if I've ever had anybody explain plans for a drink menu using the words "Venn diagram" before.
You can trace back the ideas and plans for Dram to Thomas' experience with supper clubs and doing a resident pop-up cocktail program at neighborhood dive bar Bushwick Country Club. At the same time there's a method to the controlled chaos. He said he figured that the informal format of rotating guest bartenders (there will be staff, but also expect people to drop in from time to time) will work in a place like New York, where nowadays having cocktail program with some measure of thoughtfulness almost seems like a given and most consumers are pretty educated about what they want.
"It's good for the bartenders because they don't have to learn a menu and customers get what they want."
Beer and wine on the other hand will be "curated." I immensely enjoyed his use of the word curated because it was pretty evocative of how the wine and beer selection would be treated. Cataloged, updated and maintained.
The off-the-cuff and experimental style for cocktails will carry over to food, with a food station that Thomas described as being like an indoor food truck. Guest food persons will come in and serve their fare from a concessions style counter (food paid for at counter, separate from the drink check), and there are plans not only to invite established chefs and cooks, but also possible encourage participation from well-known or passionate non-pros.
It was all starting to sound like a food and drink think tank, if that think tank was like one of those jam band sessions where you all sit around doing your own thing, maybe have some other artistically inclined friends stop by. Some start taking pictures of you guys, maybe others are drawing up poster or mixed tape/CD cover ideas and yet another is recording the sound to try out their new sound equipment...and the whole thing takes place in a setting highly reminescent of a polished version of someone's parents' rec room (with all the wood paneling, and cozy storage units hanging up on the wall filled with not just glasses and booze, but with books and records).
And speaking of records, if I wasn't already beating the jam session analogy to death, they aren't just for decoration. The plan is to have all ambient music supplied by a record player in a corner behind the bar.
I looked at the drink menu for the party, I went ahead and decided to just try the George Washington Punch (Applejack, whiskey, tea, spices, sparkling cider), simply because if there's punch at a party, you're kind of obligated to try it. Yea, I just made that rule up, but it makes sense, doesn't it? It's like going to a birthday party and not singing along to the birthday song.
However, since the evening was basically cocktails made with whatever is behind the bar by whoever was behind the bar, I had to wing it. Mayur Subbarao and Nicholas Jarrett were behind the bar. I asked Nick for something with whiskey and Nick answered, "How about rum?" I was down with this.
The resulting drink (exact measurements thanks to Nick handwriting it on a piece of paper for me) was made with 1/2 oz. St. James Royal Ambre, 1/2 oz. Tariquel Bas-Armagnac, 3/4 oz. Sandeman's Rainwater Madeira, 1/2 oz. Del Capo Amaro and a teaspoon of Luxardo Maraschino. Oddly enough, the whole thing reminded me of pears. To get even more specific, Shingo pears, when you get down to that big close to the core. A kind of fruity, woody thing.
I kept myself to three for the evening and had just one more drink, but I said I'd stop by once again after the place was open to see how this food and beverage jam session works live.