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Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard
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Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard
Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Cocktail Hour: The Market Italian Village

The newly-opened Market can be daunting. It is equal parts grocery, butcher, carryout, and coffee shop that moonlights as a restaurant. It’s at once exciting and intimidating. Of course, it is tempting to gravitate toward the shelves stocked with both Old and New World wines, fine cheeses, chocolates, and charcuterie, or to the well-appointed coffee station, but with bravery comes reward.

I have to admit that despite visiting a handful of times, I had never considered the idea of ordering a cocktail at The Market. It seems somewhat counterintuitive to order a cocktail at a counter (table service is available in the evenings), but there are signs that point to a good cocktail program here. Barrels sit on shelves above high-mark bottles of bourbon and rye whiskey, and Italian aperitivo and liqueur looks at home behind this bar…er, coffee counter.

The cocktails, while not immediately obvious options, are no afterthought. David Becker, general manager of The Market, intended always to focus on the classics. “We didn’t want to do a modern twist on a classic, we wanted to perfectly execute classic cocktails in their original form,” he said. Becker, who spent his early bartending career with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, later moving into Wine and spirits sales with both Heidelberg and North American Spirits, knows his way around a cocktail, and it shows in his representations of these classics. 

The French 75 does exactly what it is meant to do. It showcases the delicate botanicals of Plymouth gin, while maintaining a balance of tart lemon and sweet simple syrup. The prosecco it is topped with provides a clean, dry finish, leaving only bubbles lingering on the tongue. 

The Caipirinha, an admittedly no-frills drink, benefits from the complex flavors found in the Turbinado sugar syrup, especially when matched up against the slightly vegetal funk of the Cachaça, a Brazilian sugar cane spirit, and the brightness of lime. Becker notes, “You want the flavor of that spirit to come through. You need it in there. When the liquor store ran out of Cachaça, we tried to make it with rum, and it just wasn’t the same drink. So now we bought a bunch of it so we can’t run out again.” This is a perfect example of a simple drink that shines; it is no wonder that Cachaça is number three on the list of the most consumed white spirits. 

The Brazilians are on to something here. 

One departure from a strictly classic focus is the use of barrel-aging. A 30-day barrel aged Manhattan, with whole bean coffee infused Old Forrester bourbon, can be found on the list, as well as a classic Negroni that spends just the right amount of time in oak.

I feel like I might be forced to hand over my bartenders guild membership card for admitting this, but here goes nothing: I don’t normally like barrel-aged Negronis. I like Negronis just fine, and barrel-aging is AOK in my book, but combining the two doesn’t always sit well for me. It’s too easy to overshadow the complex dance of flavors with a blast of charred oak, and without proper supervision, the drink can become too comfortable in the barrel, losing all of the bright flavor it once had.

Not so at The Market. This drink shows no sign of succumbing to any of the pitfalls previously described. The flavors of Plymouth gin, Dolin Rouge, and Campari find a perfect cohesion that you cannot achieve without a proper soak. It manages not to lose any of its original character, while adding a perfectly appropriate and downright pleasant hint of oak. This is how you barrel age a Negroni. WhileThe Market seems to be evolving and trying to figure out its identity, the oft-overlooked cocktails have every right to be a part of that personality. 

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