Whether it’s food, fashion, or cocktails, New York seems to be at the forefront, and sceny Williamsburg is generally one step ahead of that. Still, the City That Never Sleeps has a well-documented restless relationship with Mexican food and flavors. Enter Aldama.
Located just steps from the Williamsburg Bridge, Aldama seeks to break New York’s trendiest neighborhood from the well-worn stereotype. While the food is not-to-be-missed, it’s the bar program that takes things to another level.
To no surprise, mezcal–the world’s trendiest liquor–leads the way with the frozen Sangre de Mezcal (Ilegal mezcal, blanc vermouth hibiscus, lemon, sal de gusano) being the perfect cocktail for a sweaty summer night in Brooklyn. Tasty Tequila cocktails are also at the ready, while the various rum concoctions prove the bar has more than a general knowledge about Mexican flavors.
We sat down with Partner and Beverage Director Christopher Reyes to get a look inside Brooklyn’s Aldama, learn about what they’re doing behind the bar, and find out what they recommend ordering once you step inside.
Where did you get your start in the drinks world and how did you end up here?
I got my start working at the Black Ant in the East Village eight years ago as a barback. Over the years, I worked my way up to bartender at some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, like Employees Only and Dear Irving. Along the way I met my partner and Executive Chef, Gerardo Alcaraz, and we decided to try our luck at owning our own spot. And Aldama was born!
Aldama is located in Williamsburg. How does Aldama fit into the neighborhood’s modern ecosystem?
Gerardo and I have both lived in Williamsburg for over eight years, so we had a good understanding of what we felt the neighborhood needed. Our restaurant is unpretentious with great vibes, and delicious food with fresh ingredients.
How would you explain Aldama’s philosophy when it comes to cocktails?
Minimal ingredients, fresh and seasonal flavors, all perfectly executed.
What drink would you recommend to someone who enters Aldama for the first time and why?
I would give them the Sangre de Mezcal, our signature frozen cocktail with Sal de gusano, hibiscus, vermouth, mezcal, and lemon.
When it comes to designing a cocktail menu for Aldama, how do you approach creating something new while adhering to the bar’s ethos?
I always ask, is this something I would like to drink? I like to keep it simple, but don’t be lazy; create something that will have people questioning how something so simple can taste so good.
How would you explain your approach to making cocktails? Where do your ideas tend to come from?
My favorite way to draw inspiration is to travel and see what other bars and trends are going around, then simplify and put my own personal spin on it.
Do you like to focus more on local ingredients and products or approach things from a more global view, bringing in flavors and products from all over? Why?
Local flavors all the way. Every once in a while I’ll go with a more global view, but I love to draw from fresh, local ingredients and flavors.
Does sustainability have an impact on the way you approach creating cocktails? And how do you think sustainability will impact the trade moving forward?
I always try to use most, if not all, of the ingredients I’m confronted with when creating a new drink. We certainly aim to decrease our waste production at Aldama.
Do you have a favorite type of spirit to use in cocktails?
I love using blanc vermouth.
When it comes to flavor profiles, do you lean more sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, or umami? How does that flavor preference translate into your drinks?
I lean sweet and sour. Growing up, my favorite fruit was, and still is, a green apple. Most of my drinks are fruit forward and have a sour component.
When you’re not working, what are you drinking?
Cuba Libre with a splash of soda water.
Sangre de Mezcal
- 50 oz Ilegal Mezcal
- 25 oz lemon juice
- 16 oz Vermouth
- 15 oz water
- 35 oz sugar
- 32 oz Hibiscus
Glassware: Rocks glass
Method: Large format, prepared in a frozen beverage machine
For more information, head over to Aldama’s official website.