The Rooster Bar at Nostrana’s is an impressive sight, with a high bar for casual dining trattoria style, backed by a ceiling high bookshelf-like wall of spirits. It’s entertaining just to peruse the impressive selection (hint: along with the usual suspects you’ll also find a range of Italian specialties that will tingle your taste buds); and eventually you find yourself wondering how in the world the bartenders manage to reach the Mt. Everest of vital elixirs along the top of the wall.
On this night we see only some amazing athletic stretches by the taller and more nimble of the staff to the middle regions, but there has to be a very tall ladder lurking somewhere nearby.
Good ingredients are necessary, of course. But the key ingredient is the bartender that puts those ingredients together, and that key ingredient at Nostrana’s is Doug Derrick, Bar Manager. Don’t let his unlined and youthful face fool you: Doug has been around long enough to have gained a hotel management degree, attend university in Groningen, Holland, and study fly fishing in Alaska (how’s that for an educational course of study!) before settling in at Nostrana.
Doug is also, and still, enormously excited about what he does; it shows in his attitude, his manner, his eagerness to tell you about the cocktails and history and techniques, and his cocktail list on display.
One of Doug’s projects for the past year has been his constantly rotating Negroni Special. This must be the most singularly Negroni-focused place in the world, for Doug has taken it upon himself to feature a different variation on a Negroni each month (and if you monitor the Nostrana website, you’ll eventually get to taste all twelve Negroni at an annual grand gala). This month it is a Boulevardier variation.
The classic Manhattan, however, was our choice of the night. A Manhattan is an interesting drink, and you can often define a bar’s style by the type of Manhattan it makes. Nostrana’s fits in the big, buxom and plush category, rich and viscous and full of flavor. Woodford Reserve Bourbon was the whiskey, so there was a bold rye component, along with a sweet black-cherry color and flavor and the vermouth adding complexity to the total. Lurking at the bottom (thankfully with a long pick attached) was a plump marinated black cherry, sweet and fat.
Doug wanted to show off his newest toy….er, cocktail apparatus…that he had seen at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, a Perlini Perlage System, carbonation/cocktail mixer that allows him to mix a cocktail and then carbonate it through an ingenious double chamber pressurized device. (See slideshow for details.)
With the device he made one of the featured drinks of the evening, a “Rickey the Hard Way” (a cute double play on words), a simple gin and lime base with much higher carbonation than achievable with a seltzer bottle. Thanks to that high carbonation from the Perlini, this rickey has an entirely different taste and feel…a “hard” rickey, if you will, made the hard way.
By all means go to Nostrana for the excellent food. Go for the wine as well, for Nicholas has created a truly impressive selection of primarily Italian wines that would grace the grandest temple to vino in Italy. But make sure you sample a cocktail from the Rooster Bar, or a brisk, palate stimulating aperitivo from their great selection. Or check out the latest interpretation of Negroni. The bar is as much a destination place as the restaurant—and by the number of people flocking here of an evening, it’s a pretty good destination all around.