The sun beams into the tall front windows of Hydraulic Hearth, shining on the wooden bar and hardwood floors while glistening off the bar back displaying the selection of spirits.
Large tomato cans on shelves against one wall look like an art installation. Exposed brick and metal lend an industrial feeling to the bar and restaurant, known for its wood-fired pizzas that are prepared in an open kitchen.
Outside on the patio, it's a different scene. Guests can sit at colorful tables and chairs or play yard games like shuffleboard. High-rise wooden outdoor booths allow people to watch while they order a frozen beverage from the outdoor bar.
When Hydraulic Hearth bar manager Adam Rath was developing a new summer cocktail menu, he wanted to create something different for those two distinct bars. The seasonal menu is in addition to a weekly cocktail he adds throughout the year that is "whatever part of cocktail culture I want to highlight. It can be everything from a Morning Glory, a late-19th century cocktail, all the way to a Cosmo."
For summer drinks on the bright patio, Rath looked to keep everyone cool. One is a rotating frozen cocktail like a pina colada or Aperol spritz; the other is a weekly staple, the Frosé, a frozen rose wine.
Indoors, Rath and the team are slinging a menu of seasonal winners including the Green Julius, now its third best seller, the Rose Grone and the Hydrangea (each $10).
A unique aspect of the tropical cocktail Green Julius is its key ingredient: absinthe.
“Not only is absinthe often not used, but very seldom is it the only liquor used,” explained Rath. “My buddy bet me that I couldn’t make a cocktail where the only liquor was absinthe, and that’s how the Green Julius was created.”
With absinthe typically being around 60% alcohol, adding some light and bright flavors do the drink some good. Rath cut through the sting using cream of coconut, fresh mint, sweet orange citrus and a homemade vanilla simple syrup. It is the perfect summery, creamy tiki drink with tropical hints and herbs to sip on at the bar.
[Related: Angelica Tea Room's tiki transformation]
Rose Grone, a tequila-based drink, gets its sweet strawberry flavor from the Liquore alla Fragola, an Italian strawberry liqueur. The drink is combined with grenadine and Salers aperitif, an herbaceous and citrus spirit with hints of anise.
"I want drinks people enjoy and I want drinks that play with your expectations," Rath said. The Hydrangea, for example, changes not only how it is flavored but how it looks.
The Hydrangea has the wow factor with smell, taste and visuals. The gin drink comes out a deep purple/blue with floating tiny roses and a hollowed-out lemon half containing lemon juice. When you add the lemon juice and swirl the drink around, it changes to a bright purple/pink color thanks to the butterfly tea ingredient.
[Photos: Smiles at Cocktail City 2017 in Hydraulic Hearth]
The floral flavor mixed with the smooth Chareau Aloe Liqueur add slight hints of light menthol and cucumber and chamomile gives you that lift in the back of your throat.
“Everything is scratch-made, even our bitters, so our Old Fashioned is my pride and joy,” Rath said. “It took me three years to make the homemade bitters with heavy hints of cinnamon and subtle cherry. The recipe is hidden away in a secret book and no one has the bitters recipe except for me.”
If you’re looking for delicious wood-fired pizzas and seasonal cocktails where you can taste the details and passion that goes into them, look no further than Hydraulic Hearth.
716 Swan St. (248-2216)
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
Atmosphere: A rustic restaurant and bar serving delicious wood-fired pizzas and appetizers along with beer and specialty cocktails.
Parking: Street parking and a lot across the street you can park in at night.
Don’t forget to: Play some of the yard games on the back patio and check out the live music.