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Eric Hay's cocktails

Two years ago, Eric Hay was working as a bartender and wine steward at Wildfire when he got a call from his close friend Brad Bolt. “Hey, I came up...

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Two years ago, Eric Hay was working as a bartender and wine steward at Wildfire when he got a call from his close friend Brad Bolt. “Hey, I came up with you guys, we’re all from the same company. And we’re the best of friends. But I’ve now worked at the Violet Hour and learned the real way of cocktails,” Hay recalls Bolt (whom he’d worked with at Francesca’s) saying. “Do you want to help me open a bar? You’re going to have to forget everything you’ve ever learned.”

Two years ago, Eric Hay was working as a bartender and wine steward at Wildfire when he got a call from his close friend Brad Bolt. “Hey, I came up with you guys, we’re all from the same company. And we’re the best of friends. But I’ve now worked at the Violet Hour and learned the real way of cocktails,” Hay recalls Bolt (whom he’d worked with at Francesca’s) saying. “Do you want to help me open a bar? You’re going to have to forget everything you’ve ever learned.”

Hay was game for the challenge and started spending a few nights a week at Bolt’s Bar DeVille, where he cut his “craft-cocktail teeth.” While he continues to work Wednesdays and Thursdays at the West Town bar, in 2009 Hay started his own company, a craft-cocktail catering outfit called Black Balloon Inc., and five months ago, he took over the beverage program at Duchamp. He’s recently rolled out a fall cocktail menu with drinks like the High Plains Drifter (“At a certain point I had this idea that I was going to name all my cocktails on the menu after old Westerns,” Hay says), the Bonfire of the Vanities (“I got off the track of it all being Western themed”) and the Judge (“a great fall cocktail”).

The Judge (pictured) is equal parts Bulleit bourbon and Dalmore Single Malt Scotch (an “entry-level Scotch,” according to Hay), plus Carpano Antica (an “antique-formula sweet vermouth, a little sexier, a little more brisk and defined”), Punt e Mes (“beautiful sweet vermouth, slightly more bittersweet”), Lillet Blanc (fortified white wine), dashes of Fee’s Old Fashion bitters (which have clove and cinnamon notes) and Angostura bitters (“the classic bitters offering”). It’s stirred, strained into a coup glass, softened a bit with lemon oil and garnished with a Luxardo maraschino cherry.

Not one to pass up an opportunity, Hay (along with Matty Eggleston) will also be designing the cocktails for Bangers & Lace (an upcoming bar that’s a joint project between the Duchamp and Bar DeVille owners). But this time, he won’t be forgetting everything he’s learned. Try the Judge cocktail at Duchamp (2118 N Damen Ave, 773-235-6434).

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