When Leonardo DiCaprio played the buttery-smooth, Vanderbilt-wealthy, Leo-handsome Jay Gatsby, we all lost it. We wanted to be Daisy or Gatsby, wear ridiculous strands of pearls and go around calling people “old sport.”
I can’t guarantee the staff at The Cellar at Duckworth’s will appreciate you calling them “old sport,” unless maybe you tip like Gatsby. I can, however, guarantee you’ll feel transported to the prohibition era after you descend the unassuming stairs at Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse in uptown, slide the large entry door aside and are greeted by staff in bow ties and suspenders. I sat down with bar manager and mixologist Ron Oleksa and general manager Charles Read to learn more about how this little slice of heaven and its enchanting elixirs and bodacious beer selection came to be.
The concept for this speakeasy-style restaurant and bar was no accident, quite the opposite actually. Setting out to create something truly unique, experts in their respective fields met weekly to ensure The Cellar was something fresh while still being classic. On a research trip to New York, they painstakingly explored every nook and cranny of the cocktail scene in The Big Apple. Tough job, fellas.
They came back with inspiration and even more fervor for the foundation they were laying for The Cellar. Their commitment to hand-crafted, made-to-order cocktails is unparalleled and everything is fresh — absolutely no mixes. One of the most popular drinks they serve, The East Village, is a homage to their trip and a nod at the traditional Manhattan cocktail. My personal favorite is the Asian Pear, but I encourage you to explore their impressive hand-crafted cocktail menu yourself.
If beer is more your speed, buckle your seatbelt for a flooring selection of rare beers housed in the stunning beer cellar. Kept perpetually at 58-beer-optimizing-degrees, Read takes good care of his babies. Currently the beer cellar holds 261 bottles, but there are plans to eventually expand the selection to a staggering 1,100.
If you’re like me and want to read every item on the menu before making your selection, I suggest taking a deep breath and letting that go when ordering a beer here. Better yet, ask your waiter what they suggest. These people are highly-trained professionals that will not only recommend a beer I’m sure you’ll love, but will make sure it’s served in the right glass at the right temperature.
For dinner with my boyfriend after our interview, Read suggested the Sierra Nevada Narwhal or Alagash Curieux (which was phenom).
Although Oleksa’s “thing” is undeniably craft cocktails and Read’s is beer, the wine list at The Cellar is not an afterthought. Neither is the food — my favorite is the truffle mac and cheese.
Go. Enjoy. And be sure to ask questions. You’d be surprised how much there is to know about cocktails and beer, and you can’t find a better place or kinder, more knowledgeable people to educate you.
Photos: Little Photography, Nicole Brantley