By Lori Simmons Zelenko
Photography by Christopher Soto-Chimelis
Kermit (our favorite frog) says it is not easy being green. Well, you know, some beg to differ. Eric Holloway for one, whose green thumb for mixology has taken him from radishes to roses. It is natural magic the way Eric juggles cocktails with quirky names, made from plucked from the garden ingredients, entertaining us all with down to earth style and boy next door friendliness as the beverage director for GALLOW GREEN, the almost secret rooftop garden of Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel. Eric as he puts it “transmutes” his deeply rooted connection to nature into creating herb-infused cocktails imbibed by the far from crunchy granola crowd that frequents this West Side watering hole.
Growing up gardening on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, eating healthy and living clean came naturally to him then and still does now. So it’s not the most surprising path that he’s chosen, gravitating to GALLOW GREEN where he rejoices in making drinks from garden-grown herbs from the McKittrick’s aeroponic farm, using only the freshest, purest ingredients – from unbleached sugar to dill, sage and even brilliant yellow squash blossoms. Like a rabbit out of a hat, you never know what surprises will emerge to delight and entertain guests imbibing cocktails whose ingredients are literally timeless. With a Punch menu originally curated by spirits historian David Wondrich now restored, some of the libations take authentically from the rich history of Scotland, after all McKittrick itself is originally a Gaelic name from Southwest Scotland long ago (meaning true victory).
The hotel itself, as hard to get into then as Studio 54 in its heyday, flourished in 1939 as one of New York’s City most lavish yet comparatively intimate hotels. Alfred Hitchcock favored the place and named the hotel in Vertigo after the McKittrick.
But today this rooftop hideaway bustles with a youthful crowd sharing communal tables and enjoying traditional Punches served in burnished copper bowls, a GALLOW GREEN signature. Punches came about in the early seventeenth century essentially a predecessor to cocktails, an economical concoction made to serve many with fresh fruit, alcohol, natural sugar and spices. They were introduced to Great Britain by sailors returning from expeditions gathering spices in remote, exotic locations. It is said the Punch concept originated in India, a climate deserving of thirst quenching for sure.
Glasgow, GALLOW GREEN’s zesty rum punch, is based on an authentic recipe that appears in cookery books dating back over 100 years when rum punch was as popular in Scotland as a martini in Manhattan on Friday night. But I’d like to believe this recipe was discovered, as the drunks and storytellers might have it (after all it is through these characters some of favorite cocktails have earned fame), behind the bar at a centuries-old club where Scottish Lords toasted one another with great exuberance. Its’ dual rums, Angostura 1919 from Trinidad and Tobago combined with Smith & Cross Naval Strength from Jamaica, come close to the taste of an early Indonesian spirit, Arrack, a cane distillate perhaps, notoriously over-imbibed by pirates sailing the Mediterranean then but familiar to us now from The Pirates of the Caribbean song, Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum. But legend aside, Eric and his merry crew (no Pirates among them but saviors instead bringing beautiful liquid refreshments to all), remain ever dedicated to what is truly un-polluted, take great care in the preparation of Glasgow, harnessing the rich essence of citrus by muddling the sugar with the peels to pull out the oils, creating a Punch with flavors to savour.
Every cocktail on the GALLOW GREEN cocktail menu has a connection to history, to a time before artificial ingredients when only the fruits of the earth were accessible. And Eric adores each one, joyously revealing his discovery of rare and true ingredients like blueberry balsamic vinegar which is mixed with Pisco Puro, the national spirit of from Peru made from Quebranta grapes (with a sweetly fruity taste) and muddled raspberries in A Balsam of Berry, or the fragrant elixir that Roses from Rye becomes when a splash of rosewater, keeping it floral and light, tops off Rye infused with fresh dill from the rooftop farm.
Artistry abounds in Eric’s dedication to the craft of mixology and so does joy as he speaks of genuinely loving to go to work and finding himself at play, being able to follow his own creative intuition as he hangs out with great people having a good time. Art, he says is everywhere, it surrounds us all empowering us to have fun not only creating but in sharing our passions as we bring others to the table to drink the same wine. So enter the colorful, organic world of GALLOW GREEN where bees buzz and birds chirp and laughter intermingles with the crystal chimes of cocktails. It doesn’t take more than a sip up on this roof to realize that for Eric, if not for Kermit, it is easy being Green.
GALLOW GREEN ROOFTOP GARDEN BAR is located at The McKittrick Hotel. 542 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001. (212) 564-1662
It is open for Sunday Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm and Sunday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Friday to Saturday it is open from 4:00 pm to 1:00 a.m. Reservations desk is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.