5 Things to Love About URBN’s New Cocktail Menu
From coconut liqueurs to shark mugs, Michele Willard’s cocktails show creativity and class
URBN's new menu includes The Black Hawk (left) and Le Petit Mort. | Photo: Kelly Davis
Back in January, I chatted with Michele Willard, beverage director for URBN Restaurant Group, about her new menu for downtown bar/restaurant Basic. At the time, she was also working on a menu for Basic’s more cocktail-centric sister restaurant URBN, but faced a major setback after someone broke into her car and stole the notebooks in which she’d jotted down years of cocktail ideas.
Willard did her best to reconstruct the cocktail recipes from memory and introduced URBN’s new 13-drink menu last week. She told me she can’t help but wonder if the recipes are the same as what was in her notebooks. But she needn’t worry—there are many things to love about this menu. Here are five to start with:
For fans of coconut, Le Petit Mort—the first cocktail on the menu—is a little slice of heaven. A variation on a gin fizz, it also includes Fino sherry, egg white, lemon, and soda water. The star of the cocktail is Kalani coconut liqueur, made with the milk of Yellow Dwarf coconuts grown in the Yucatan. One of Willard’s favorites on the new menu is the tiki-inspired Staycation (green tea-infused Cachaça, pineapple juice, and orgeat, topped with strawberry-infused Angostura bitters). This perfect warm-weather cocktail features Clement Mahina Coco liqueur from Martinique, which got rave reviews when it arrived in the U.S. in 2015.
Speaking of raved-about liqueurs, this follow-up to Ancho Reyes was a hit at last year’s Tales of the Cocktail and officially introduced to the U.S. market this year. Willard’s menu is the first where I’ve seen it in a cocktail. Kind of like a spicy Green Chartreuse, it lends a nice bit of heat to Whatever Lola Wants (Rhum J.M., coconut liqueur, Ancho Verde, passion fruit, and lime).
Grown-up rum (er, rhum)
For the menu’s rum drinks, Willard chose Rhum J.M., a rhum agricole from Martinique, made with cane sugar instead of molasses. Willard picked J.M. because it’s not too sweet and lends a certain sophistication to cocktails like the Pantera Rosa, which gets its otherworldly pink hue from passion fruit-infused rhum. If you like tropical cocktails, but can do without their usual sweetness, this is your new favorite.
Ever wondered what happens to all the oranges, lemons, and grapefruits whose skins garnish cocktails? Save for The Black Hawk (an amazing Manhattan variation), all of Willard’s cocktails feature garnishes intended to limit waste and add an element of fun, like the peach candy that floats atop The OHHHHHH Ring (mezcal, peach liqueur, Mandarine Napoleon, lemon, soda) and a sprinkling of coconut flakes on Le Petit Mort.
There’s a battalion of ceramic sharks behind the bar at URBN, waiting to hold The Plucked Pigeon, made with spicy tequila, a tamarind purée, pineapple, lime, and tajin.
Bonus: Willard will be the featured bartender at Level 2’s next Craft at the Cove, on April 10, where she’ll be coming up with a menu of all black-and-white cocktails.
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