Behind the counter at Genuine Liquorette, a subterranean bodega-inspired cocktail bar by AvroKO in Manhattan’s Little Italy, Eben Freeman stands beside his latest invention, the Cha-Chunker—a repurposed hand-press leather riveting machine that also happens to be the essential component in the bar’s signature drinks. Riffing on the canned cocktail trend of yore, Freeman, one of the country’s most respected bartenders, punches holes in the tops of cans before nestling inverted mini liquor bottles directly inside. A 50-milliliter bottle of Patrón plus grapefruit Pellegrino makes for a highbrow-meets-lowbrow Paloma; flip a mini-Cruzan white rum into a can of Sprite and you’ve got a 21st-century Mojito.
Genuine Liquorette is the latest in Freeman’s string of offbeat innovations that began in earnest over a decade ago. In 2007, he famously smoked Coca-Cola syrup for a riff on a Jack and Coke; he was also among the first to begin fat-washing spirits (he’s best known for his brown-butter-washed rum). At Tailor, which he opened with WD-50 pastry chef Sam Mason, he experimented with absinthe gummy bears, bubble gum-flavored vodka and pumpernickel-infused Scotch. He revisited the latter in 2010 when he served it straight in the Boilermaker at The Butterfly, a Wisconsin-themed supper club that he opened with chef Michael White.
So what does Freeman do when he’s not jellifying Gin and Tonics? Has a cocktail experiment ever gone horribly wrong? Here, Freeman shares the best (and worst) drinks he’s ever had, his preferred hangover regime and the one thing he wishes would disappear from drink lists forever. — Lizzie Munro
What do want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
Krug has never done me wrong.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Beer can with cigarette inside.
First time you ever got drunk:
12 years old, So Co.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I used to be obsessed with Macy’s Herald Square when I was, like, 11 and would wander around the store all day.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail or dive bar?
Bat-shit craziest drink on list or bottle of beer.
Preferred hangover recovery regime:
I do not eat all day, suffer through until the evening, then steak and pint of Guinness followed by a bowel movement and 12 hours of sleep.
One thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
The words “inspired by.”
Your life mantra:
Patience, my son.
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Toots and the Maytals, “From The Roots.”
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Tuna fish, documented previously.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever received:
Wisco sweet Old-Fashioned with olives.
The Harp in London. Amazing beer and a Dickensian alley out back to drink and smoke in.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Christmas Day with my family this year: cooked a standing rib roast and nailed it.
The last text message you sent: