Few Western New York restaurants offer online videos of how their cocktails are made. Even fewer point out their ice’s origins. Hutch’s Restaurant on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo does both for its list of well-crafted classics.
Hutch’s has put a lot of care into its cocktail program, and it shows, not only on the menu but in the execution. The brick-walled bar room is large, a classic wooden rail with a wine-bottle chandelier that got my crafty side salivating. The only missed note was the music; we heard Britney Spears and Bon Jovi sprinkled in with Rat Pack standards. Not exactly a mood-setter.
Hutch’s uses all fresh ingredients, which is becoming a welcome trend, as well as the Kold Draft ice system, which makes crystal-clear cubes. Do they make a difference? Probably not, but they look pretty and sometimes, that’s all the difference you need.
The menu is nothing new, but at Hutch’s, that’s the idea. Each drink’s vintage is listed next to its name, giving guests the impression that they’re tasting a libation with history. And they are: The Sazerac dates from 1830, the aptly named Old Fashioned from 1880 and the Whiskey Sour from 1862. Hutch’s team has some signatures too, including the Nameless, conceived in 2010, we’re told, the Gimme A Day, 2014, and the Ryes and Shine, also a 2014 creation.
The Ryes and Shine is more than a cutesy name, we discovered. A blend of muddled cucumber, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup with rye, it tastes like summer, with a hint of spice. Hutch’s uses Old Overholt Rye, an old standard that blends in well, but still offers a zesty kick that pokes through even the strongest ingredients.
The drink tasted exactly the way I expected it to: Fresh, a little tart and with that tongue-tingling spice from the whisky, without its characteristic bite. It wasn’t earthshattering, it wasn’t complex and it wasn’t particularly creative. It was a well-made drink that didn’t pretend to be anything but the sum of its parts. Someone new to brown liquors might try this one as an introduction; it’s smooth and easy, but tastes like a rye drink should. Not to mention, it went great with the complementary cheese straws. We ate so many, I almost expected to see them on my bill.
Many people discount restaurant bars unless they’re planning to stay for a meal, but Hutch’s airy barroom is one of several local eatery bars that’s as good a place as any to stop just for cocktail hour. At Hutch’s, what you read is what you get. It can be comforting to see simple, time-tested tipples made well, which is precisely what Hutch’s bar program is putting out. If you’re in the market to taste a well-made favorite, want to sample a Whiskey Sour without the mix or try your taste buds at one of its signatures, Hutch’s isn’t a bad bet.
Ryes and Shine, $11; Hutch’s Restaurant; 1375 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo; 885-0074; www.hutchsrestaurant.com.
Lizz Schumer is a Buffalo writer and editor who covers cocktails, food and whimsy for a variety of publications. She is the author of "Buffalo Steel" and can be found @eschumer or www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.