A tequila and mezcal bar in the East Village also serves up delicious eats.
By Rayna Katz
When bar patrons in New York City go grab drinks they don’t expect to encounter good food. The bites are generally just an afterthought at most watering holes, meant to be little more than sponges for alcohol.
The polar opposite is taking place at Etérea Cocteleria y Cocina (which translates to Etherial Bar & Kitchen), a tequila and mezcal cocktail bar focused on providing ethical and sustainable agave spirits. The East Village spot is dishing out culinary delights in the form of plant-based Mexican tapas.
A project of Overthrow Hospitality, which runs several bars and restaurants in the East Village—including bitters-focused Amar y Amargo, and the buzzy Death & Co.—Etérea has a combined total of about 50 tequilas and mezcals, “whereas the average bar has well over double that,” said its legendary mixologist, Sother Teague. The spot also keeps about 19 to 22 cocktails in its arsenal, compared to “at least 100” at most bars, he said.
That’s because during the pandemic, Overthrow’s founder, Ravi DeRossi, took a look inward and decided, with respect to all of their places, to “pay attention not just to what we do but who we work with,” Teague said. The company changed its name from DeRossi Global, adopted the ambitious slogan of “Eat, Drink, Start a Revolution,” and, when it came to Etérea, closely examined suppliers.
“We deal with a lot of spirit brands and I vetted them,” said Teague. “We checked if they’re good to their community, made sure they’re not dumping waste into water, paying a fair wage, etc.” He also looks for artisan and unique spirits.
That level of care shines through every aspect of Etérea. The colorful and bright space is decorated in keeping with its name, with decorative umbrellas and flowers hung from the ceiling, while red banquets adorned with fluffy throw pillows create a comfy vibe for up to 50 guests (another 40 can be seated outside). Mexican tile and folk art also are prominent parts of the spot, which is uber selfie-friendly.
Bottles of tequila and mezcal are displayed atop a gold pipe organ, a replica of the same musical instrument DeRossi saw during a research trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Among the cleverly named cocktails, such as “Panic at HIbisco” and “Corn Cob Pipe,” the Yellow Pineapple cocktail was fruity and exotic while a new to the menu cocktail, the Mezcal Swizzle, dazzled in appearance and strength.
Diners can start with guacamole, which features a super fresh taste and a handful of nearly plate-sized, round tortilla chips. Tasty zucchini tacos delivered a surprising mixture of fried smoked cheese, barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
Corn is a superstar in several dishes, including the popular corn ribs elote, a pile of semi-softened, coiled cobs of corn coated with smoked paprika and a crumbled cheese that diner Heidi Schnier described as “really yummy,” adding, “I loved the dish; delicious.” Though not visible, corn also is central to Etérea’s dessert offering: corn pudding. The velvety-smooth dish, mixed with blackberries, airy rosemary meringues that look like coconut flakes, and an ingredient that’s never wrong—candied pecans—the desert is a revelation that’ll remain in memory after leaving the bar.
A standout dish was the zucchini cake, a delicious and thick take on a zucchini fritter topped with a Mexican version of ricotta cheese, called requeson. Also of note was the tostadas, a dish of two large and crispy tostadas heaped with a zesty mix of marinated tomato, chipotle and an ingredient called “sweet drops.”
Service at the restaurant is on top of guests’ needs without being obtrusive. When a diner dropped her drink after the glass became frosty (full disclosure: it was this writer), the server thoroughly cleaned the table while the bartender brought over another glass of the beverage.
Executive chef Xila Caudillo comes to Etérea after working at “four or five” of Overthrow’s other spots, most recently as a line cook, where she served up Mexican eats for the staff that were a hit. The promotion is in keeping with part of Overthrow’s ‘revolution,’ which calls for the company to elevate employees and treat them well, while also being mindful of providing opportunities for women.
The mindset isn’t just ethically sound, it’s a good business decision, said Teague. “People want to spend their dollars in a way that makes them feel good.” Speaking for his patrons, he added, “If I’m going to go out and have a drink, at least I know I’m spending money in an ethical way. It makes you feel better about your dereliction.”
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