The windowed booth overlooking the dining room of Manhattan’s Tailor restaurant looks like the kind of place where a diner would expect to spot a DJ mixing, one hand cupped over his headphones. But the man inside the booth, Eben Freeman, isn’t in charge of the playlist—he’s in charge of the drinks, and the only mixing going on is inside of a cocktail shaker.
Making Freeman a focal point of Tailor seems like an odd choice, given that the restaurant’s chef, Sam Mason, has a following many rock stars would envy. But the booth is the first indication that Tailor approaches cocktails from a new direction. The second is its menu: Freeman’s drinks are as subversive as the salty-sweet, kitchen-lab creations—mustard ice cream, candied olives—that made Mason famous at New York’s temple of molecular gastronomy, WD-50. A glance at the ingredients on the Tailor cocktail menu confirms this: house-smoked cola, walnut-infused Cognac and dry-hopped gin among them.
Freeman credits Mason as the inspiration behind many of his drinks; he often turns an element of one of the chef’s dishes into a cocktail. Take brown-butter rum, for example. "Sam made some brown butter–rum ice cream, gave me a taste and asked, ’Think you can make this into a drink?’ " Among the bag of tricks Freeman packed for Tailor is a process called "fat washing," an ingenious way to flavor spirits that he borrowed from one of Mason’s desserts. By mixing a melted fat with alcohol, chilling the mixture until the fat resolidifies, then skimming it off, Freeman can infuse a spirit without leaving any greasiness behind.