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Celeste
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCeleste

Michael Simon revamps Celeste's drink program

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh
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It hasn’t been open quite a year yet, but Celeste has already undergone several major changes. Last fall, opening bartenders Sterling Field and Freddie Sarkis left (Sarkis is now brand ambassador for Beefeater and Plymouth Gins), then Michael Simon (who we last saw at Charcoal Bar) took over and has been in the process of revamping or creating a different cocktail list for each floor. 

The list for the first floor recently debuted, while the second floor menu is slated for February, the third floor is slated for March and the fourth floor roof will open in April or May, dependent on weather.

“Each floor has its own style, concept and menu,” Simon says. “They complement each other perfectly.”

For the first floor, a space that Simon describes as “high energy, high volume,” the challenge was “how can you serve a really refined product and have it be something that’s accessible?”

The result was a menu of approachable drinks that are batched in advance or quick to make. The menu is divided into four categories, starting with house drinks like a seasonal gin and tonic (it’s currently blood orange) and cherry cola, with housemade cola tonic and Jamaican rum. There are also seasonal classics (currently a Toronto, Japanese and Brooklyn) and bottled, carbonated classics, like a take on a Vesper. Simon is making punches on draft, including a non-dairy milk punch with housemade barley milk, chai-infused bourbon and apple brandy, and fancy shots like a miniature Sazerac.

“The menu matches the high-energy, fun atmosphere of the first floor, but adds an air of refinement,” Simon says.

The second floor, which used to offer a couple dozen original cocktails, will become “a temple of classics” in February.

“[Bar manager] Arthur Horocki and I are looking, at minimum, to offer 100 classic drinks, maybe 120,” Simon says. “These won’t be riffs, but they’ll be focused on technique, precision, strength, muscle memory and knowledge. By the end of 2015, it might grow to 150 or 175.”

The third floor will be the “crown jewel” and have a completely different concept and different name, but Simon says it isn’t finalized yet. The roof will also see a reboot, and we can expect to see that open with a new drink list in late spring.

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