It's crushing when a craving for, say, a boozy Manhattan strikes, only to discover dinner will unfold for the next few hours in an establishment that possesses a mere beer and wine license.

Pearl & Ash, the Bowery's stylish new small plates destination, is one of those restaurants sans the strong stuff, but, thankfully, Eben Klemm's drink menu isn't a predictable mash-up of saketinis and sangria.

"The constraint itself becomes the asset," says Klemm. "You don't have to do anything expected. With hard alcohol you can't really avoid putting on the list an old-fashioned variant or a seasonal margarita. Without them, you get to place the drinks within the context of the food and wine."

Freed from the shackles of using traditional bottles, Klemm turns to the obscure apéritifs glistening behind the bar and weaves them into intriguing low-ABV concoctions including Murder on the Ebullient Express. White port's assaulting sweetness is tamed by Cocchi Americano, herbaceous gentian-and-bark-infused French apéritifs Bonal and a hybrid of celery-lime juice. Like all of Klemm's cocktails, this one gracefully straddles bitterness and acidity, making it an appealing companion for chef Richard Kuo's dishes -- particularly, Klemm points out, the diver scallops accompanied by fennel, lily bulb and berbere spice.


Murder on the Ebullient Express:

1 oz. white port
1 oz. Cocchi Americano
½ oz. Bonal
1 oz. celery/lime juice

 

In a shaker, combine white port, Cocchi Americano, Bonal and celery-lime juice. Shake. Strain and garnish with two celery leaves.

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