Elsa, a Cocktail Bar With Elegance and Humility
NEW YORK—Scott Schneider doesn’t like to call himself a mixologist.
The general manager at Elsa’s creates a good portion of the gorgeous drinks menu, and he also abides by the principle that no good ever comes out of unnecessary boosts to the ego.
“Customers refer to us as mixologists and that’s totally cool,” Schneider said. “But if you refer to yourself as a mixologist it sounds kinda lame, and you’re probably taking yourself way too seriously.”
That sentiment is a reflection of the ambience of Elsa. It’s a sophisticated—yet accessible—bar in the East Village, with breathtakingly beautiful drinks.
The “Swan Dive” cocktail is an elegant piece of art. It’s a deft fusion of fresh herb gin, St. Germain and Aperol, paired nicely with Elsa’s Rose Hip Grenadine, citrus bitters, absinthe, and a dash of soda ($13).
A herb leaf gently dips into the drink on an angle that resembles a diving swan, a flourish to highlight its name. Burgundy pomegranates float alongside, reminiscent of flowers on a pond.
The architecture of a good drink is similar to the creation of fine cuisine.
“I get my inspiration for making drinks from going to restaurants and trying new and interesting food,” Schneider said. “I have such a huge appreciation for chefs and what they do.”
“I love great food and sometimes I will try something new that has a flavor combination that I’ve never had before and then I will go to work and try to recreate that in a cocktail somehow,” he said.
Elsa’s many drinks include interesting mixes of alcohol paired with basil, lime, ginger, egg whites, and cucumber, among other eclectic ingredients .
“The best part of working that way is that by the time I’m done fiddling with a cocktail and it is ready for the menu it will have evolved into something completely different that I had originally intended,” he said.
A must-try at Elsa is the “Perfume-V,” a rather daring, feminine combination of rose petal tequila and elderflower combined with crème de Violette, orange flower water, egg whites, and lemon ($14). The light, floral ingredients provide a smooth balance to the tequila, for an altogether unique, refreshing experience.
Other drinks of notoriety include “Triumph on Striebel Road,” which pairs vodka and ginger together with star anise syrup, cynar, lemon and Peychoud’s Bitters ($12). “Red Means Run” is also stellar; a savory bourbon and rhubarb-rosewater reduction effort, with cucumber, Aperol, lime and rhubarb bitters ($12).
Schneider prefers his drinks stirred.
“There’s something about stirring a drink until it becomes as cold as possible with the perfect amount of water dilution that is very satisfying to me,” Schneider said.
He is currently experimenting with barrel-aged Manhattans.
“We have been serving them at Elsa for over a year now and I’m working on putting them on draft for our new bar, Ramona,” he said. Ramona opens in Brooklyn in November.
“Places do cocktails on tap all over, but I think it would be really great to have one that has been sitting in a charred oak barrel for a month on draft so you can just pour it cold right into the glass,” he said.
Schneider is also fond of bottling cocktails.
“It’s an awesome idea. I think it really only works with boozy stirred drinks because anything else would settle too much,” he said. “But an individually bottled Negroni sounds pretty great to me.”
Ramona, the second bar for the family-owned and operated business, will be more spacious than Elsa.
“The space is much larger than Elsa so there will be room to expand our menu, which is what I am most excited for,” Schneider said.
More room equals more people, more drinks, more food—and a frozen drink machine for frozen versions of Elsa classics.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
This cocktail is a long time Elsa favorite ($13).
2 oz hibiscus vodka
1 ½ lemons
¾ Elsa’s Rose Hip Grenadine
Dash of simple syrup
Shake well, strain your cocktail over ice into a mason jar, and top it with soda. Don’t forget to add the finishing touch: garnish it with 1 sprig of mint and a lemon wheel.
Perhaps what makes this drink so enticing is Elsa’s Rose Hip Grenadine. Elsa has started their own line of cocktail products that are sold onsite and online.
Elsa’s Rose Hip Grenadine is made from pomegranate juice, organic pure cane sugar, orange blossom water, organic rose hips and organic rose petals.
You can buy an 8-ounce bottle of it for $12 to add that special edge to your own cocktails.
217 E. 3rd St. (near Avenue B)