Bacchanal has kicked off a cocktail program with a solid little list of summer-ready sippers. Bartender Dean Barbee's behind the stick, set up just outside the garden.
Wine and gin rule the day, for now; we spotted the potent Irma La Douce (Hendrick's and Green Chartreuse) and a Pimm's Royale (like the traditional Cup, with sparkling wine standing in for the soda).
I reached first for the Bywater 75, which strays from the original by enlisting Bols Genever (distilled juniper berries blended with malt wine) instead of straight gin. It plays well with the flowery St. Germain and the prosecco (using it instead of champagne keeps the drink, like others on the Bacchanal list, to $9).
It's very crisp and sweetly earthy, and stays true to its namesake, the 75-mm field gun that will knock you on your ass.
Even so, I was also eager to try the Viceroy, a drink I'd first read about in Jason Wilson's Boozehound (an excellent drinker's memoir). Don't let the minty nose fool you - this is the mojito's sour seductive cousin. The Viceroy is based on pisco, the kicky young grape brandy that's softened here with nearly an equal amount of citrus Lillet Blanc. It's a touch bitter, and refreshing.
We took our cocktails under starlight, Spanish guitars, piquillo peppers tumbled with crab and corn, and luscious pulled pork shoulder (these last, courtesy of Bacchanal's chef Joaquin Rodas). Tonight's music comes from the venue's mainstays, the Gypsy Swing Club guitarists.