Lorri and I started our Providence / NYC / Washington DC Christmas trip with a return to The Eddy after several years. We had just started our interest in cocktails and stumbled across The Eddy while traveling through Providence. We recalled it as a terrific experience with its memorable U shaped bar, distinctive cocktail menu and surprisingly top notch bar snacks. However, that was hundreds of bars and countless cocktails ago and lately there’s been a trend of formerly stellar bars disintegrating into mediocrity (or worse). Could The Eddy live up to our memories after all of these years?
We arrived to a packed bar on an early Sunday evening (The Eddy is a cozy joint of maybe 12 bar stools) but after 15 minutes almost every seat had cleared out. If there’s ever a hipster minor league version of the X-Men, I want my mutant superpower to be “Able to Open Up Bar Seats With a Wave of My Hand”. Sure, telekinesis, mastery of magnetism, or extreme flatulence on command could all achieve the same end result but I suspect any major league (i.e. actually useful) mutant superpower would burden you with actual responsibilities and little time to cruise high end cocktails.
The menu was SUPER promising:
I started with the Quebec Cocktail, which was essentially a maple/sherry spin on a Toronto (itself a Fernet-ized spin on a Manhattan). I find these city/neighborhood Manhattan spins a mixed bag – often too boozy or too bitter and trying too hard to impress the hardcore stirred & brown crowd. Furthermore, maple is a flavor I love everywhere EXCEPT cocktails – it’s very difficult to get the luscious, almost crystalline richness of fine maple syrup into a cocktail without the entire drink becoming just a fancy pancake condiment.
The Quebec Cocktail beat all of those challenges and delivered a nutty, spicy mix with just the right sweetness and lightness but still enough underlying bitterness to give much needed structure. I suspect the real trick was using the very dry Palo Cortado sherry to cut through and lighten up the thick, dark flavors of maple, fernet and the amaro-ish Nux walnut liqueur (whereas the easy/obvious choice of a PX or Oloroso sherry would have been far too much of the same). Going with Rittenhouse rye was also a good choice – obviously adding proof and spice but also some brightness as well, whereas the more obvious choice would have been to keep with the Canadian theme and go with a Canadian rye, probably one of the darker Alberta ryes.
Lorri went for their Old Fashioned on Tap, a solid representation using Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond (very close to Old Grand Dad 114, our all time favorite for Old Fashioneds).
After consulting with our bartender Jen I went for one of the last two cocktails, both of which looked BONKERS. The Orange Julius Caesar was ostensibly a rum cocktail but featured Bols Yogurt liqueur which we were told was being discontinued … probably because the very concept sounds like a hazing ritual for a particularly sadistic frat.
That said, one of the reasons you go to a place like The Eddy is that you trust them enough to go WAY outside your comfort zone – best case, you’ll find epiphany in a glass; worst case, you WON’T end up in a hospital surrounded by your giggling frat-mates.
So I’m pleased to say that the Orange Julius Caesar was genius in concept and execution – it captured the airy creaminess and orange-y zing of an actual Orange Julius but with added intensity and freshness (frankly I loved Orange Julius, Orange Creamsicles and Orange Push Ups as a kid but I’m pretty sure you’d still die of scurvy or preservative poisoning if that’s all you subsisted on a cross Atlantic sailing trip). The dreaded curdled dairy-ness of the yogurt liqueur was nowhere to be found, as the effect was more akin to a well executed egg white cocktail. I would also guess that the Orange Cream Citrate bitters did a lot to pull the citrusy undertones of the yogurt over the milky/cheesy overtones.
The Orange Cream Citrate was its own revelation – I figured it was some house concoction but Jen informed us that it was a Bittermen’s product, geared towards giving an orange bitter that wasn’t actually bitter. We’ll definitely be grabbing some of this unique product.
We saw a Clement Rhum (an agricole rhum, hence the “h”) and Lorri ordered an agricole daiquiri from Jen. Classic daiquiris (and especially the funkier agricole daiquiris) are notorious for being a test of a bartender’s skill because there are so few ingredients to hide behind so the margin of error is so thin. Too much in one direction and you get a lime lifesaver in liquid form, too much in the other and you get a puckery sour pain in the ass drink.
Jen’s daiquiri was a bullseye – it’s been awhile since we had a beautifully rendered daiquiri and we almost forgot what a pleasure it was. I did notice two things about Jen’s preparation – first, she used Sirop JM as the sweetener. We have an ancient bottle of this stuff in the basement and I never knew what it was or what to do with it – turns out it’s a syrup made from pure cane sugar instead of molasses – just like agricole rhum, so a perfect match.
The second detail I noticed was that Jen had different shakes for different drinks, and for the daiquiri, she sealed / re-sealed the boston shakers three times before and after shakes. At first I thought she just had a bum set of shakers but when she repeated the process again for another daiquiri I began to think it was her standard technique. I’m not sure what effect what the re-sealing has on the final drink, but usually when I notice this level of ritual it’s a sign that there’s considerable experience and meticulousness behind the drink you’re about to get.
Why did we see Jen make another daiquiri so soon? In all of our jockeying to get the photo of that daiquiri, a tragic amount was lost on the bar. Jen noticed this and surprised us with a complimentary half daiquiri! That’s the kind of customer service that gets lifelong fans.
We couldn’t resist a third round and Lorri opted for a Mezcal bartender’s choice from the other bartender Catherine. We were both impressed with her creation and were shocked to hear that it contained Lorri’s kryptonite: sherry! Mezcal, lime, JM Sirop (again) and Manzanilla sherry. It’s probably the first of dozens of sherry drinks that Lorri enjoyed without reservation!
I took on the challenge of the OTHER bonkers cocktail, the Passion of Puebla, a cocktail that violates two rules of mine, “Three Fruits Are Too Many” (mango, passionfruit, lime) and “Keep That !@$%^! Beer Out Of My Cocktail” (Ragged Island IPA).
Did I love it? No, but it was absolutely a worthwhile and unique experience, one that I won’t forget. Rather than coming off as a glorified shandy (beer & lemon/lime), the IPA added a bit of carbonation and enough bitterness to give a foundation for all of the fruit and sweetness. It’s the first time I’ve seen beer used effectively in a cocktail that wasn’t essentially a beer cocktail. It was a high wire act of balancing sweet, sour, bitter, fruit, heat, savory and salt.
It’s rare that you return to an old favorite after many years and find it completely elevated beyond your memory. Our return to the Eddy was proof that a small bar in a small city can maintain and even improve its vision over several years. This night was one of our favorite cocktail experiences of the entire year!