New Havenites no longer have to commute to New York City for a decent cocktail.
Since the 2007 opening of 116 Crown, a lounge that specializes in creative cocktails, many other restaurants and bars in the city have followed 116’s lead and developed their own niche cocktail menus. Today, over ten establishments offer some form of craft cocktails on their menus. According to New Haven economic development administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, the city’s increasing downtown population has helped drive the growth in New Haven’s cocktail market.
“When you have more and more people who live in downtown and are walking to a restaurant … Obviously if you’re not driving, you can drink a little bit more,” Nemerson said.
Though the increase in cocktail bars is new to New Haven, the cocktail is rooted in the city’s history. Jerry Thomas, America’s “father of mixology” learned to bartend during the mid-1800s in The Tontine, a hotel at the site currently occupied by the Richard C. Lee Federal Courthouse on Church Street, according to Taste of New Haven Owner Colin Caplan. He said after leaving Elm City, Thomas opened bars and worked as a bartender throughout the country.
Perhaps one of the most prominent New Haven bars currently is 116 Crown, which Nemerson said he believes is considered “one of the great bars” in the Northeast.
“I’m pretty proud that we started that,” said Danielle Ginnetti, who co-owns 116 Crown with her husband John Ginnetti.
Timothy Cabral, one of the co-owners of Ordinary, a fine-cheese, charcuterie and spirits lounge, agreed that the Ginnettis had a major influence on starting up the city’s newfound cocktail scene.
Ordinary opened over three-and-a-half years ago, replacing the bar Richter’s Cafe at 990 Chapel St. Cabral said Ordinary changes its cocktail menu every season, as well as other menu products frequently.
Education is the focus at Ordinary, according to Cabral. Whether they are holding mixing and tasting classes for customers or attending bar institutes themselves, Cabral and his co-owners aim to cultivate a diverse group of customers in an attempt to shed the “pretentious” label cocktail joints sometime carry, he said.
“Whether they’re coming out of work with a suit or jeans, everyone is welcome,” Cabral said.
And the number of cocktail providers continues to increase: for example, House of Naan, located on Howe St., will host its grand opening on Oct. 14. When it opens, the restaurant will offer Indian-based cocktails, which include additions such as turmeric, cloves and cinnamon among other spices and syrups.
According to House of Naan Owner Harry Singh, most Indian bars do not carry cocktails, so House of Naan will be one of the first in Connecticut to do so. Singh also plans to serve Indian dishes, chicken sandwiches and lamb burgers.
Jerry Thomas created The Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1862, the first mixed-drink book published in the United States.