I Can’t Get Into This Celeb-Loved NYC Restaurant, But I Did Get to Try Their Chic Bottled Cocktails — and I’m Giving Them to Everyone I Know
If you’ve never heard of Via Carota, it’s a super-popular Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, frequented by celebrities and food writers alike, and while it’s an absolute mess trying to get a reservation (the next available table for two was at 4:30 p.m. on the first Monday in May, but during the time it took to write this story, those tables were booked), you can experience the trattoria’s famous bar program from the comfort of your own home. That, friends, is because the restaurant recently launched a line of bottled cocktails you can order online, and while ready-to-drink beverages are decidedly not my thing, I was pretty surprised by how good these ended up being. And, while I think it’s always good to learn how to make the classic cocktails — and a fun, abyssal rabbit hole to go down — there’s certainly a time and place for pre-mixed cocktails, especially ones that are made from high-quality ingredients such as those found in Via Carota’s Bourbon Set, Negroni Set, and Martini Set.
All of the bottles are available a la carte on Via Carota’s site, and the sets come with gorgeous rocks glasses (Nick & Nora glasses for the martini set) and branded swizzle sticks. As you can see, I couldn’t resist breaking into the bottles of espresso martini and old fashioned before snagging a photo for this review. (Not pictured: the Negroni and white Negroni bottles, which
my friends and I guzzled before I remembered I had to write this didn’t fit into frame.) By all accounts, these are solid ready-to-drink bottles — something I don’t often hear myself saying — and would be a welcome addition to any home bar. My favorite (surprisingly, because I’m not usually a fan) was the espresso martini: Whatever they’re doing with the ratios and dilution is working because I had to hold myself back from slurping down the entire bottle like an iced coffee. The Negronis were tasty, too, and while whiskey nerds, myself included, might think they went a little heavy on the vermouth in the Manhattan bottle, the bourbon still comes through, and the delicious bottle of old fashioned definitely makes up for it.
The cocktails are pretty low-proof, as well, because they’re pre-diluted, which means you don’t have to worry about stirring them with ice before you serve: Just pour the cold bottles into a chilled glass (add ice if desired) and enjoy. While I wouldn’t call them weak (the old fashioned comes in at a respectable 33.5 percent alcohol by volume) they’re definitely good if you’re trying to take it easy (the martini is just 18 percent ABV). And, while these probably aren’t going to be mainstays on my bar cart, they’re perfect for gifting — especially with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day right around the corner. They’re also a great solution for folks looking to try out classic cocktails for the first time. While I always suggest going to your favorite watering hole and supporting local bartenders and businesses, not every bar will have the bottles or know-how to whip you up, say, a white Negroni or a proper old fashioned. (In fact, you’ll probably get an eye-roll from whoever’s behind the stick if you order those at your local beer-and-shot joint.)
So, that leaves the other option: shelling out for a bunch of bottles to make your own classics at home. While I strongly recommend doing this (I think everyone should have a solid home bar, if not for entertaining, then at least to whip up a stiff one before staring out a rainy window while giving a Mad Men-style monologue), it can get pretty expensive — especially since most of these drinks are “spirit-forward,” (aka boozy and sans fruit juice) so the results are only as good as the liquor they’re made with. So, snagging these ready-to-drink bottles mixed by a restaurant that obviously knows what they’re doing is an easy way to find out what flavors and cocktails you like before spending a ton of money on booze you might only drink once.
So, whether you’re beginning your foray into the cocktail world, looking for a worthy addition to your bar cart, or searching for the perfect gift for the liquor lover in your life, you really can’t go wrong with the Via Carota cocktail sets.