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December 21, 2023

Christmas Spirits: New Cocktails At Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

by Joe Bonadio

Looking around the city, it has become apparent in the quality of the light: the change has begun. The temperatures have begun to dip, and the sun sets just a bit earlier every day. Alas, our lovely Indian Summer has taken its leave, and the time has come to pull our warm clothes out of the back of the closet.

With Thanksgiving already in the rear view, the holiday season is well underway––and just in time for the holidays, there’s a new cocktail lineup at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Since its earliest days, Tony’s has emphasized its cocktail program, incorporating small-batch craft liqueurs, seasonal produce and housemade elixirs. As a result, along with a celebrated wine list courtesy of Jules Gregg, regulars have gotten used to enjoying their pizza and pasta alongside some of the best cocktails in the city.

The Bellissimo Spritz combines Barr Hill gin, limoncello, King Floyd bitters and prosecco. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

The Bellissimo Spritz combines Barr Hill gin, limoncello, King Floyd bitters and prosecco. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

When Nick Lawlor took over as Bar Manager in March of this year, the young mixologist didn’t waste any time revamping the bar menu. Nick introduced his first collection of signature cocktails in April, and since then he’s consistently worked to elevate the Tony’s bar program. Last week, he took the time to mix up a few of his newest creations for yours truly.

It’s always fun to taste cocktails with Nick––but I’ve learned to get all my work done beforehand. Beyond some very loud guitar playing, I’m generally not going to get much work done after sampling a half-dozen strong drinks. So I woke up early, put in a harried half-day, and ambled into Tony’s a few minutes before 1:00 PM to meet Nick.

The barkeep started me off with his Bellissimo Spritz, a beguiling blend of Barr Hill Gin, limoncello and King Floyd Bitters. “They make their bitters up in Novato. It’s a peach and ginger bitters, so it kind of gets you on that back note,” Nick explains. “Barr Hill is an artisanal gin out of Vermont, and they do a lot of sustainability practices, and they use honey to ferment. There’s also a little dehydrated pear in the glass, which I like because it looks almost like a leaf. And with the prosecco, the sweetness is still there, so you don’t lose the pear and the ginger.”

This cocktail is easy drinking like you would expect from a spritz, but still packs a punch due to the gin. It’s festive, bright, and right up my alley.

The Fly For A Chai Guy is Nick's inventive spin on a clarified whiskey sour, and it's a winner. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

The Fly For A Chai Guy is Nick’s inventive spin on a clarified whiskey sour, and it’s a winner. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Being a dedicated fan of reposado tequila, Nick’s next creation immediately piqued my interest. “This one is our tequila-based cocktail, the Il Lampone del Frisco. We use a tarragon-infused reposado tequila, Lo Siento, a new tequila that has been getting a lot of traction,” he tells me. “We use a raspberry syrup, and just lemon and agave. So it’s really simple, with a little bit of sugar on the rim.

“I always describe tarragon as a cross between mint and rosemary,” Nick elaborates. “So it’s really unique, with a great depth of flavor.”

I have to agree: raspberry and tarragon is easily one of the most novel combinations I’ve come across in the glass, and with a tart herbal kick that marries wickedly with the reposado, this one is another keeper.

As you might understand, my mood was steadily improving at this point, so we forged onward. After a few more deft moves behind the bar, Nick presented me with his take on a clarified Whiskey Sour, which he has dubbed the Fly For A Chai Guy.

“We use a Woodford Reserve that we infuse with chai, lemon and maple syrup,” Nick tells me. “There’s cointreau, and we let all that sit with the tea. Then we add whole milk to it, and the milk reacts with the lemon and curdles. We then run that through a fine cheesecloth, which clears it up. So it’s a stirred cocktail, and there’s just a float of Angostura bitters on top.”

Nick Lawlor took over as Bar Manager at Tony's Pizza Napoletana in March of this year. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Nick Lawlor took over as Bar Manager at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in March of this year. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Not being overly fond of chai, I didn’t really know what to expect––and was pleasantly surprised. While it looks like a shaken cocktail, as Nick explained, the Chai Guy drinks more like an Old Fashioned. With a tannic bite and a lush mouthfeel, it managed to win this Non-Chai-Guy over.

We then moved on to the Slice Of Pie, a très seasonal combination of Tito’s Vodka infused with cinnamon and clove, and mixed with apple spice liqueur, lemon and agave. Much like the Chai Guy, it was not quite what I expected. This one was admittedly a touch sweet for my taste, but still surprisingly quaffable.

Thanks again to Nick for taking the time to taste me through the new roster, and make sure to slide by to sample his new lineup. Also, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to try the new pizzas coming out of the kitchen. Six brand-new pies created by six of Tony’s longest-running pizza chefs––and they’re available now.

 

The Seven Ovens Blog appears in this space regularly, exploring the many stories behind Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Tony Gemignani’s award-winning restaurant group.