New York's Most Exciting Cocktail Bar: Overstory

New York's Most Exciting Cocktail Bar: Overstory
Courtesy of Overstory

While I was sipping a Terroir Old Fashioned on a recent Wednesday night in the presence of a pink tuxedo-clad bartender, I asked the gentleman next to me what had brought him to Overstory in the first place.

The two climbed onto the bar's expansive terrace, where he watched New York, its bridges and streets like brightly lit blood vessels, coursing below, as they drank their Monkey 47 martinis.

Overstory is a new sky-high bar in the city located on the 64th floor of 70 Pine Street, just above James Kent's new tasting menu restaurant, Saga. Union Square Hospitality offers Aprés at One Vanderbilt in Midtown, Peak on the 101st floor of 30 Hudson, and Panorama Room on Roosevelt Island.

Views were not the only reason Overstory was built. The elegant, intimate, rose-hued bar has attracted bartenders, the spirits industry elite, and the booze media. After spending an evening at Overstory with Del Maguey mezcal partner Steve Olson, he sent a quick email to his global team.

Courtesy of Overstory

On the menu, the 212 cocktail lists whiskey, vermouth, cocoa nib, amaro, and black pear. Inoculated with koji, cocoa nibs are fermented and then infused with whiskey; By simply holding the fruit at a warm temperature for an extended period of time, until it is completely caramelized, Ginsberg's team produces black pear by adapting the same technique used to make black garlic.

When Ginsberg was a child, his uncle owned restaurants in New England and he idolized him as a kid. When he was a surly teenager, he worked for free and then for $100 bills at an Italian restaurant that wasn't exactly above board. However, Ginsberg found new jobs as a busboy, food runner and server after the owner was investigated for fraud.

At Johnson and Wales in Providence, he enrolled in culinary labs to become a chef, but 7 am culinary labs quickly dissuaded him of that idea. It was during school breaks that Ginsberg would sneak into PDT, Pegu Club, Milk & Honey and Little Branch with a fake ID. Instead, he became fascinated with spirits and cocktail classes. As a barbacker at The Dorrance, an at-the-time Providence restaurant with a serious bar program, he eventually begged for an unpaid gig.

The Dawson, a high-volume bar, restaurant, and club whose drinks were designed for speed and fun, was Ginsberg's first choice after graduating.

Back in 2015, I met Ginsberg there, looking rather serious and wearing a long floral tie. Even though I sampled a lot of drinks that night, I can still remember Ginsberg's original infused with raw chicken or turkey. In a vessel reminiscent of the clay pots used to make traditional mezcal, he served “Buried Alive” with tequila, pork jerky-infused mezcal, Gran Classico, lemon, peach and bee pollen.

Courtesy of Overstory

There was a great bar program at Dawson's, much better than what was expected for such a high volume spot. The team was one of the first to use batching and kegging before it became a common practice in the industry. The bar manager Clint Rogers and Ginsberg designed conceptual menus and commissioned custom glassware for the 230-seat space, including outdoor seating during the summer months.

Ginsberg started thinking about New York after three years of building contacts and confidence.

“The universe was working its magic, and I got a call about an opportunity at Dead Rabbit,” says Ginsberg.

The Dead Rabbit bar earned the No. 1 spot on World's 50 Best Bars within six months of arriving. Likewise, their next project, BlackTail bar, won the Best New Cocktail Bar award the following year. They then traveled internationally, attended seminars, formed partnerships and landed high-paying gigs.

He missed restaurants, and the rich amount of inspiration he could find in a walk-in. Enter James Kent and Jeff Katz, who have a multi-year vision for 70 Pine Street, the former home of AIG. Their dining experience would begin with a bustling ground floor restaurant called Crown Shy, then progress to a fine dining restaurant with a tasting menu called Saga, and a cocktail bar called Overstory that would be the crown jewel of the restaurant.

After being asked that he would help shape the program, Ginsberg joined Jonathan Lind's bar on the condition that he would assist in the process. During months of research and development, all of Ginsberg's training started falling into place.

As his menu evolved, his cocktails became lighter, their structure changed, and they complemented food better. Despite not feeling “all that confident” about his initial cocktail list at Crown Shy, Ginsberg still offers his first drink for the restaurant, the Captain Kidd plantain Old Fashioned. He wanted to serve sessionable, iconic drinks.

Those visions are further crystallized in the Overstory menu, the product of a development process that was unexpectedly long, considering it was developed during the COVID era.

Courtesy of Overstory

In order to achieve clarity in a cocktail, one must use a tremendous amount of technique, which is why he ferments, infuses, and centrifugates the ingredients to achieve that clarity. In his vodka soda Easy Money, which is exceptionally refreshing, he uses coconut fat as a wash. However, Ginsberg prefers that guests order another Montego Slay rather than contemplate the effects of the fermented mango-husky cherry syrup that contains New England IPA yeast.

If you're curious about how long the Gyokura Martini is infused with green tea for the drinks-like-expensive-water, Ginsberg's bar staff will be happy to give you the information, and it's possible to do both of them. The Terroir Old Fashioned, one of my favorite cocktails of all year, will also give you the backstory on all the ingredients that go into it. This is a delicious cocktail made up of reposado tequila infused with palo santo, vin jaune, yellow Chartreuse, caramelized agave candy (similar to dalgona candy from "Squid Games"), and salt harvested from Fort Tilden in Queens.

Degroff says that beyond the cocktail list, there is an extraordinary spirits selection, which includes high-end and rare spirits including vintage Chartreuse, rye finished in barrels of rhum agricole, and Sunchoke Spirit, a mezcal-inspired spirit made from sunchokes.

Furthermore, Ginsberg has also established a reputation for hospitality, which is something he has been cultivating since his days at the Dorrance Hotel, where he started out as a bartender and then learned to make drinks as a second career.

Guests may expect to experience incredible drinks, executed near perfect every time, and a more personal experience with bartenders when they visit this world-class bar. “And, of course, there is a breathtaking view as well.” Ginsberg adds.

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