As a longtime beverage professional, Chris Parrott says he finds it difficult to improve upon decades-old classics like the Manhattan, the Sazerac and the Sidecar. At his new Hartford establishment, he plans to highlight just why these cocktails have stood the test of time.
Parrott and business partner Patrick Miceli will officially debut Little River Restoratives at 405 Capitol Avenue Nov. 6, introducing the unique cocktail bar in the space that most memorably served as the La Paloma Sabanera coffeehouse until 2013. The bar's name has historical significance as a reference to an early moniker for the city's Park River.
Parrott said the capital city was "the most logical place" for the new concept, and chose the Capitol Avenue spot because he loves the architecture of the buildings in the city's Frog Hollow neighborhood. "I love the industrial history of it, which ties into the turn of the century, which is kind of our inspiration for our drinks," he said.
Little River Restoratives' libation menu is divided into four distinct categories: cocktails, with drinks centered around vodka, gin, rye and brandy; punches, which balance spirits, citrus, sugar and spice; possets, thickened with egg or cream, and grogs, which the menu describes as "long and cooling drinks, often carbonated and fortified with a kick."
"A lot of the focus is on vintage recipes; [they're] pretty true to the original formulas," Parrott said of his selections. But the menu also features a few new creations, like the refreshing Van Cleef with Campari, mezcal, Aperol, lime, orgeat and celery bitters, and the Low Road with mezcal, gentian liqueur, cucumber, fresh cream and milk, cane sugar and soda. Drinks are priced at $10 to $12; red and white wines by the glass are $8 to $10 and bottled and canned beers range from $2 to $7.
While Little River is a "bar first," Parrott said, its 200-square-foot kitchen also turns out a handful of small plates ($5 to $12): snacks like spiced cured nuts, house-brined pickles, cheese and charcuterie plates, grilled cheese and tomato soup, deviled eggs with blue crab, smoked bluefish pate and Szechuan-inspired mala sesame noodles.
Parrott most recently served as beverage director at Millwright's in Simsbury, where he said chef-owner Tyler Anderson "let me use his bar as classic cocktail training." That's where he met and befriended Miceli, owner of Plainville's 50 West, and the two would talk about ideas for future opportunities. "We both were ready to do something together and this was kind of the perfect fit," Miceli said. "Sometimes it’s all about timing."
Miceli served as general contractor for the buildout, which the team completed in a compressed and often difficult 50 days. "It was a collaborative effort," he said of the design and construction of the 46-seat space, featuring exposed brick, warm maroon walls, custom-designed oak bar, patterned wallpaper and framed industrial-style advertisements that incorporate the bar's name and logo. "Chris and I have very similar aesthetic taste when it comes to design and orientation of a room; we finish each other’s sentences when it comes to that."
Miceli said he's hoping Little River will be "a laidback place where people can come in and hang out and disconnect," noting a deliberate lack of television sets in the room. "I think we're trying to bring conversation back."