Percy Rodriguez, the Beverage Director of New York City-based L’Amico and the Vine is ready to reveal its spring time beverage creations. This Missouri-native joined legendary Chef and Restaurateur Laurent Tourondel at L’Amico—the Italian-influenced American restaurant—as Beverage Director in 2015 and continues to reside at the helm today.
A veteran of the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Rodriguez started as a bar-back at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in 2007. In his current role at L’Amico, Rodriguez incorporates microbrew and craft elements into an accessible, yet diverse wine and beverage program. With offerings that complement Tourondel’s signature wood-fired cooking, Rodriguez strives to demonstrate how unique varietals can be familiarized. He is continually educating diners on the diversity of some of the lesser known Italian regional grapes.
Rodriguez sits down with Swig Contributor Kristen Oliveri to speak about all things beverage at L’Amico and the Vine. While his cocktail menu is as seasonal as can be, it is packed with thirst quenching creative beverages. He is also quite proud of the wine list he’s built from scratch that showcases some of his distinct favorite flavors.
Q: How do you begin to put your cocktail list together? What does your process entail specifically?
A: When I begin the process of creating new cocktails, I choose to examine a few different things. First, I look at what’s in season that can be an interesting addition to a cocktail that you might not usually consider. I do a good bit of reading and research from old cocktail books, current cocktail bloggers and writers, and I check in on industry trends via Twitter, Eater, Grub Hub and the like.
It may go without saying, but I also try cocktails from other programs I respect. Once I have an idea of which direction I want to go in, there is a two-week long process of research and development to fine tune the recipes.
Q: How did you become involved with the beverage industry?
A: I started as a host at Joe Bastianich’s Becco for a few weeks until I became a bar-back for Dennis Mullally at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria.
Q: What’s new for this Spring on L’Amico’s menu?
A: Italian Rose. Chablis. Ramps!
I’m playing around with a pickled ramp garnish made into the shape of cocktail onions for a play on a briny Gibson.
Q: Walk me through your wine list. Anything really intriguing on there?
A: I’m proud of all facets of my programs, but I could talk about the wine list I’ve built for L’Amico for days. It’s meant to be complimentary to the incredible cooking of my boss, Chef Laurent, with tons of opportunities for exploration (if that’s the experience a customer wants to have).
I try to focus on the lesser known varietals that Italy has to offer (like Timorasso, Cataratto, Vitovska, Grignolino, Schioppetino), and introduce our patrons to as many different styles as possible (petnat, orange, bio-dynamic). I’m loving the current vintage of the Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle from Ermes Pavese, and I think the Collio Merlot from Frank Toros in Fruili is a seriously fun wine with killer depth.
Q: What are the better spirits to play with when experimenting with new cocktail ideas?
A: You can’t go wrong going with local, craft products, especially in New York City. There are so many purveyors popping up every season that, quite honestly, it’s hard to keep everyone straight. The offerings range from vermouths (Uncouth Vermouth) to gins (Greenhook) and browns (Hudson/Tuthilltown) and so much more. I’m also a big proponent of amaro and I believe if you want to take your cocktails to the next level, invest in a few bottles. Get a Fernet, a Montenegro, and a Cynar, and get to experimenting.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure cocktail?
A: White Russians. I’ll never order one, but will occasionally make one (or five) at home.
Q: What’s your favorite food and wine/cocktail pairing on the menu today?
A: For dessert at L’Amico, order the full cheese plate and get a .375 of the Brachetto d’Acqui from Braida. It’s more frizzante than sparkling, and nowhere close to the sweetness of some moscatos. Plus, the acidity is present enough in this dessert wine that it cuts through the fattiness of the cheese in such a great way that you’ll be ordering another round before you know it.
Q: Can you share with us one of your favorite cocktail recipes?
A: At the Vine, the concept for the cocktail menu is to showcase twists on old classics. I try to challenge myself to make drinks that reference the originals, but take them to the next level in flavor and presentation. I try not take myself too seriously, because at the end of the day, these cocktails still need to have some resemblance of the original. Once I came across this Sour Apple Liqueur by Leopold Bros using New York apples, and I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in for a throwback cocktail.
Here’s the recipe below for my Appletini.
2 oz belvedere
1 oz green apple
.5 oz mint syrup
.5 oz lemon
1 egg white
Dry Shake. Ice, shake. Coupe, float with apple sprouts.