Bar Mezzana beverage director Ryan Lotz unveiled his team’s bar program this month at the new South End hotspot, which opened on June 1st. The restaurant—located in the multi-use Ink Block development—is a coastal Italian concept (think: daily-changing crudo and handmade pastas) from husband and wife duo Colin and Heather Lynch along with partner Jefferson Macklin. Lotz took a timeout from his busy schedule to talk about how he and principal bartender Jenna Rycroft went about creating new cocktails (and putting Italian spins on some old favorites) to round out the Lynches’ vision.
“The whole program is built to pair with the food,” says Lotz. “We’re trying not to put a drink in front of someone that’s going to be disruptive to their meal.” Take, for example, the “very food-friendly” #SPRITZLIFE section of the cocktail list, a trio of fizzy concoctions set apart from the other nine drinks. Lotz and Rycroft invite guests to pair the Mezzana Spritz, a mix of peach, Campari, soda and moscato, with a light snack. Then there’s the Underboss, which was designed with some of the heartier fare in mind. “That drink has a bitter, herbal thing going on,” says Lotz of the blend of orange liqueur, tonic, French bitters and sparkling wine. Completing the trifecta is a “fruity, but not too sweet,” drink known as the Sophia, which combines cherry, angostura bitters and Lambrusco.
The goal of the Bar Mezzana beverage team (including Lotz, Rycroft, and a slew of other talented folks) is to build “a classic cocktail format with an Italian twist,” but without limiting the program to only Italian ingredients. (Which would be, Lotz points out, near impossible.) Behold the Duchy of Milan, an inspired take on the standard martini with Italy’s own Malfy Gin, dry vermouth, Dimmi Liquore di Milano and celery bitters. Or what Lotz affectionately refers to as “one of the most fun cocktails on the list,” his Amaro di Cocco. “It’s essentially two drinks in one—a rum negroni married to a piña colada,” with Jamaican and blackstrap rum, Campari, pineapple, coconut and sweet vermouth.
Any guest favorites right out of the gate? “The Black Monk Julep has been by far the lead,” says Lotz. The bitter berry version of a traditional julep is built with bonded bourbon, Amaro Averna, blackberry and mint. A close second? Rycroft’s ’I’iwi Bird. Named for the Hawaiian honeycreeper, the avian-inspired tropical cocktail features Privateer Tiki Gin, aperol, passionfruit and lime.
There are 18 seats at the bar at Bar Mezzana and twelve cocktails on the list. The team has made it easy and enticing to work your way through them all, providing helpful descriptors to unpack the flavor profile of lesser-known components, instead of simply listing the ingredients. The 1491, for instance, might intimidate the cocktail newcomer (or even the seasoned spirits lover, for that matter) with its six different components. But the “frothy, herbal, & a little smoky” tasting notes paint a better picture than the rote list of Macchu Pisco, del Maguey mezcal, elderflower, bianco vermouth, lemon and egg white.
The restaurant, currently open Tuesday through Sunday, will be open seven days a week starting August 1st—keep an eye out for a different brunch cocktail menu coming soon and swing by to grab a glass.