“I try to draw as much inspiration as I can from the flavors used in the kitchen,” shares Channing Centeno, Bar Creative at Bushwick’s newest arrival, Otis (and a kitchen connoisseur himself). And with the chef stationed at his counter less than 10 feet from Centeno’s post behind the 16-seat bar, “it’s only natural that we’d work closely together.”
Brooklyn’s food and drink landscape has long been evolving, and wife-and-husband duo Michelle Lobo and Chef Scott Hawley’s first restaurant venture has proven a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The plates are strong, with the bar program mirroring its distinctiveness and rotating ingredients as Chef and Centeno simultaneously pursue respective perfection, seasonality serving as a muse for both. The drink menu might be seen as a complement to the kitchen, but with each visit, I find that Centeno’s creativity is increasingly fostering a bar program that’s becoming a main attraction in and of itself.
“I like to build drinks around great syrups. I learned how to make this strawberry syrup from Manny Hernandez over at Service Bar in D.C. while I was prepping for a tiki pop-up in their kitchen,” says Centeno of the syrup that inspired the Strawball’r, a crowd favorite on the current drink list at Otis. “I really loved the idea of not adding any heat to a berry syrup. The typical way to make a berry syrup is to cook the berries down with sugar and water, but that technique gives off a stewed berry flavor––not that that flavor is bad by any means, but I wanted to mimic the taste you get when you bite into a raw fresh strawberry at the farmer’s market on a Saturday afternoon in mid-July. I love that you can take a simple ingredient and highlight so many different flavors just based on the amount of temperature and time you put into it.”
Should you find yourself in the area, pull up an industrial-chic barstool and order Centeno’s tequila-based strawberry cocktail before paying the eatery’s chef a visit at the counter or in the dining room. In the meantime, make the Strawball’r at home with the full recipe below.
1.75 oz Altos Blanco tequila
.5 oz St-Germain
1 oz Strawberry oleo saccharum*
.5 oz Fresh lime juice
2 oz Q Soda
Dehydrated lime wheel
Strawberry black pepper fruit roll-up**
Preparation: Whip shake all ingredients besides soda (shake with two cubes — just enough to wake the drink up without too much dilution). Strain into highball, top with soda, and then add ice. Garnish with dehydrated lime wheel and strawberry black pepper fruit roll-up.
*Strawberry Oleo Saccharum:
750g quartered strawberries
750g cold water
Preparation: Combine quartered strawberries and sugar in a medium-sized Cambro and let sit for 24hrs in a refrigerator. Remove strawberries from Cambro and set aside for fruit roll-up. Blend the sugar and strawberry juice left in the Cambro with cold water in a Vitamix or high-powered blender until fully incorporated.
**Strawberry fruit roll up:
Sugar-soaked strawberries from oleo saccharum recipe
1.5 tbsp Vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp Cracked black pepper
1 oz Water
Preparation: Take all ingredients and blend in Vitamix or high-powered blender. Strain the liquid out of the purée with chinos; spread purée in a thin even layer on wax or parchment paper and dehydrate at 140° for 5 hrs. once dried, cut into 2x.5 inch strips and shape into roll.
Photo credit: Channing Centeno