ABC Cocina's Ann Marie De Bello on using the menu to inspire the drinks
With substantial space carved out for drinkers, newly opened ABC Cocina's bar is likely to get as much play as its dining room, and sure enough, when we stopped by last week for an early taste, the cavernous area was packed to capacity with imbibers sipping fresh, bright cocktails and pitchers of sangria.
We caught up with beverage manager Ann Marie De Bello, who came over from sibling restaurant ABC Kitchen, about her focus, her list, and what's proved most popular so far.
Village Voice: What's your background in the beverage industry?
Ann Marie De Bello: I started with ABC Kitchen when it opened three years ago as a runner in the kitchen. I then moved to server, and then I was a somm for a little while. I was a manager at ABC Kitchen for about a year, and I got an opportunity to open up Cocina as the Beverage Manager. Before that, I went to school for hospitality in South Carolina. It's the Jean Georges mentality to believe that the best employees come from within. The company really promotes a learning environment. I've really enjoyed working here -- the managers have always been super helpful and incredibly encouraging of my love for this industry.
Tell me about the beverage program.
When I started with ABC Kitchen, the only thing I really knew was Jean Georges. I knew his background and what he did, and that was fascinating. But I got to really know chef Dan Kluger and his goals and drive for the restaurant. What really impressed me was his relationship with farmers and vendors. He visits Union Square Market three to four times per week, and everyone there knows who chef Dan is. What he's preparing on the menu is a true reflection of the relationships that he has. His philosophy revolves around locavore-forward food, organics and sustainability. To see that come to play on the plate really affected me, and I am very respectful of it. But I've always been very driven to wine and beverage. There's such a buzz about eating local and fresh, and that focus is just starting to come about in the beverage world. That was what I really wanted ABC Cocina's beverage program to reflect. Drinking local. Drinking fresh. Knowing what you're drinking. I really sought out local distilleries in the area, whether they're in Brooklyn or Hudson Valley or New Jersey. And when I couldn't find local (I obviously can't have a local tequila, for instance), I aimed for artisanal or organic. On the margarita section of the cocktail list, all the tequilas are organic.
We noticed a lot of niche producers on your back bar.
Yes. Farmers all have these stories, chef Dan has all these stories, and you hear that and it comes out in the food. I really wanted to have that come out in the beverage. One of the tequila producers is this woman who makes Calle 23. That is super cool in this industry, because it's an industry that's just men. Then this woman comes out of nowhere and says, "I love tequila." She tried to make it in South Africa, but couldn't do it, so she moved to Mexico and started producing. I'm so proud to have it on the list. It's in the ABC Cocina classic margarita.