With the quietest Cindy Lou Who whisper, bartaco opened its doors in Port Chester just before Christmas. And just before the big day, we swung in to take a look. It’s fabulously beachy, industrial, glamorous, yet still casual. Plus, when summer hits, its giant glass wall will open on the Byram like a triple garage door.
But here’s the thing—bartaco is not all about looks. Though the newest venture by the Barcelona Wine Bar group is supremely stylish, bartaco also packs serious food-world cred. Take its Wine and Beverage Director, Gretchen Thomas—she’s the woman behind all six (and, with an upcoming Atlanta location, soon seven) of Barcelona Wine Bar’s incredible wine programs. She’s one of only about 100 worldwide Level One Master Sommeliers—plus, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, and an importer (and unconscionably young and gorgeous). Here’s what Gretchen had to say about bartaco’s alluring bevs:
“As far as bar selection, I am looking to open and maintain about 30 to 40 tequilas. Our tequilas will be very, very selective and customers can rest assured that I taste-tested every single one. I’m only putting tequilas I consider excellent on the menu.
“Campo Azul is what we are using as our ‘house” tequila.’ Campo Azul is hands down the best one hundred percent agave tequila I have found for the price. It’s such a great value. Also, it is made at its own distillery; it is its own single-brand company, a rarity in the tequila market. We are using the blanco in our house margarita and the reposado in some other cocktails. We are only carrying one hundred percent agave tequilas.
“Another tequila I am loving right now is the Casa Noble reposado. When I did my reposado tastings, this one stood out, incredibly. It manages to not be over-oaked, so you still get the aromas and flavors of the agave with fresh citrus and floral notes, but with the added nuances of caramel and almonds…it’s a beauty at fourteen dollars.
“Last, I am a big fan of all the tequila styles of Siete Leguas. We are carrying the blanco [$13] and the anejo [$15]. I like this tequila producer for a number of reasons. The tequila drinks very clean and pure with gorgeous aromas. I just recently found out that when Patron was originally introduced into the market, it was tequila made by the Siete Leguas distillery that went into the bottle; hence, all the awards and recognition Patron received. Since then, that arrangement has changed, and Patron is made at a much higher-quantity-producing distillery, so the quality has changed but not the price.
“The Casa Noble and the Siete Leguas are two of our highest-end tequilas. Most of our tequilas range from eight to twelve dollars for blancos, nine to twelve dollars for reposados, and eleven to fourteen dollars for anejos. Any tequila can be ordered as a margarita for an up-charge of just seventy-five cents—that’s with freshly squeezed-to-order lime juice, Luxardo Triple Sec [the good stuff], and agave nectar.
“I have worked out the exact combinations of three cocktails so far, our house margarita and two other personal creations…I do use jiggers for measurement, as will the bartenders when the place gets going…I want consistency. I want to get about five more specialty drinks to roll out the opening with. My personal favorite drinks are the ‘Smoky Cholula,’ made with mescal and guava juice, and the ‘Port Chester Reviver,’ made with Bluecoat Gin, mango nectar, lime juice, cucumber, and mint. Honestly, I love all the drinks. I think the ‘Rosita’ will be our most popular drink, made with hibiscus-infused tequila, and it was the hardest one for me to create. That infused tequila was difficult to find the right components to enhance and balance it, but it came out lovely after the tenth recipe tweak!
“The wines are almost all selected, with just a few holes to fill. The list will have about forty wines, ten by the glass. I am focusing on South America mostly. However, it’s most important to me to have wines that go with the food and that are great values (no bottles over sixty dollars on the list at bartaco). There will be a few Rieslings, some various French whites, and some lighter French and Italian reds…purely for their food-pairing ability. I’m leaning more towards the wine regions that are known for producing ‘good country table wines’ like Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, Bandol, Friuli, Alto Adige, et cetera. Since there will be a lot of spice and vinegar used in the menu, I keep that in mind when selecting wines. Of course, I’ll have a few token full-bodied reds.”
We can’t wait to go – but first, we gotta dig out our car.