Oh god… Nobody warned me. Oh, sure, they all had something to say after I crawled back to life. “It’s your fault for inviting “Party Boy” McCrabb to go drinking” chirped one tall baldie. But let me go back to the beginning…
Christopher McCrabb. A lovely man I first met back in August 2014 and now Head Bartender at The Thompson Hotel. Chris and I have had many discussions about obscure liqueurs and the art of the cocktail. So when he asked if he could be next in my Pro Files series, I of course replied with an enthusiastic yes.
Enthusiasm. That’s probably what will strike you about Chris first. He loves his work and will gladly share that passion with anyone who asks. As with Sam Dobie, I asked him to pick 3 bars. He narrowed it down to 6. We made it to 5.
Starting at the northern borders of downtown, we started with a visit to Nick and Casey at Civil Liberties. Known as a “bartenders’ bar”, there’s no menu here.
Founded on the basic principle that no two guests are alike.
Civil Liberties has no cocktail menu. Instead, our guests can rely on the expertise of our highly trained bartenders, to exercise their right to choose what they drink.
Because he makes and thinks about cocktails all day, Chris rarely orders one when he goes out. But at Civil, he enjoys putting his libation needs in someone else’s hands. It’s definitely his favourite bar. Besides the feeling that he knows everyone in there, it’s friendly, comfortable and relaxed.
Next up were not one, but two unscheduled stops – the first being Track & Field, where Chris had a cider and I went with a Negroni. What he likes about this newish spot is that it’s “fun or nothing”. The games (bocce ball, crokinole, shuffleboard) enhances the social side of a night on the town and throws out conventions of where you’d expect a cocktail bartender to go. But there’s “a little of everything for everyone” – from draft beer to wine to some excellent cocktails and whiskies.
We hit Montauk because Chris wouldn’t have it that I’d never been there. Another fun industry bar, it was hand built by former owner/bartender Dustin Keating. The staff here, including current head man Mike Young, makes people feel welcome and taken care of, and are a big reason this place is on his list of favourites. There’s a hospitality here that’s unavoidable and the place carries the running theme of the evening – lack of pretension. Though Chris asserts that Montauk’s hospitality might be secondary to their cocktails, the Little Hat (his – Capo Capo, Lillet, lemon, simple and basil) and Marriage Material (mine – Boodles gin, peach/ginger syrup, lemon, sparkling rosé) were both delightful and crazy easy drinking.
When I asked why he picked Alo for part of the night, Chris replied “Why not?!” Enough said. I’m guessing Shane Mulvany and Christopher Sealy might have something to do with it. We both went with New Orleans cocktails here. Me because the Old Hickory called to the vermouth lover in me. Chris chose the Hurricane as a nod to his impending trip to Tales of The Cocktail (he’s actually in the air as I write this). I not so secretly hope he comes home feeling the way I did after our night out.
While we were in the cab on the way to Alo, Chris had gotten a text inviting him and I to a freshly minted place across from the Thompson. But first, we went back to where it all began for the two of us – Rush Lane. You’ll realize by now that Chris is a “people person”, and that’s why he continues to come to Rush since moving on to his new gig earlier this year. The joint introduced him to people he wouldn’t otherwise know and that’s what makes it special for him. People like our mutual love, Doug Twigger. During his time there, he genuinely felt he was a part of the place and it remains a very personal space for him. It feels right here. For myself, there’s no bar I’d rather have thrown up at. (Love you, Zak!) Needless to say, Rush was where I cried “uncle” and called it a night, but I’m already looking forward to the next instalment.