Sometimes, the best cocktails are born of the most challenging circumstances. This was driven home yet again a few weeks ago when I had a chance to taste the new Cynar Manhattan at Sbraga, a beautiful, balanced, complex drink that seems to embody everything that head bartender/mixologist Anwar Morgan is doing so well there. Like so many of the city’s top dining destinations, the level of synergy between the bar and the kitchen at Sbraga is deeply considered—perhaps even more so here, as a result of their focus on the tasting menu and accompanying beverage pairings. This particular cocktail, Morgan tells me, is “an exact example of how a drink could be derived from a menu item.” When Chef Kevin Sbraga rolled out the steamed pollock with grilled artichoke and scallion, Morgan and general manager Ben Fileccia knew that finding a perfect wine pairing would be difficult: Artichoke is among the most wine-unfriendly ingredients around. So when Fileccia suggested that Morgan create a cocktail with Cynar, an artichoke-flavored liqueur, the gears started turning. “Once the other components of the dish kind of developed,” Morgan says, “I was able to throw a little lemon juice or citrus element in to pair with the lemon coulis on the dish. So two of the flavors in the dish directly related to two of the contents in the drink.” From there, it was just a matter of fine-tuning.
As delicious as the Cynar Manhattan is at Sbraga, it turns out not to be the exact cock- tail that guests drink with the fish when they order a pairing menu. For that, Morgan says, “They’ll be given a version of this with gin. It’s a little bit more friendly with the dish than the heavier Manhattan. But the Manhattan stayed on the menu just because I’m playing with the concept.” Lucky for us: It’s a concept, and a phenomenal cocktail, that deserves our attention.
440 S Broad St. 215.735.1913. sbraga.com
2 oz. Bulleit rye whiskey
0.5 oz. Cynar artichoke liqueur
0.5 oz. Dolin Rouge
0.5 oz. citrus syrup (blood orange/lemon)
Garnished with a twist of lemon
Philabeverage: Veggie Pairings