On a misty spring day, you can sit along the large windows at Union Hall in Hoboken, New Jersey, and see the New York City highrises revealing themselves above the clouds across the Hudson River. Owner David Macey tells us when the weather is perfect, their outdoor seating overlooking the river is lively, but there’s something serene or otherworldly about gazing upon Manhattan’s veiled skyline on a grey, foggy day.
It’s under these circumstances that we find ourselves at Union Hall, an airy, wood-and-metal ode to union meetinghouses of not too long ago. Just eight months old, this bar and restaurant has already established itself as a prized destination for comfort food, local beer, and cocktails that flirt with the obscure, but not too much as to be inaccessible.
“A few years ago, at previous jobs, we’d have to sneak the lesser-known spirits into our cocktails, and give the drinks funny names so people wouldn’t notice,” David says, cracking an egg and separating the whites into his tin. “But now there is a cocktail scene happening in Hoboken, and more and more you get people recognising the brands nobody would have heard of five, ten years ago.”
Five, ten years ago, when Hoboken was a small blip on the radar of the New York cocktail bar crowd, David was earning his chops moving through Manhattan’s bars, clubs and restaurants. He took any and all positions before he landed as a bartender.
“Pouring a beer is one thing, but I wanted to learn how to make cocktails,” he tells us. He’s already measured Brockmans, lemon juice, and vanilla syrup in the tin, finishing off with a winter berry puree, the recipe of which he later refuses to divulge. “I’d go to Employees Only [in Greenwich Village] after my shifts and just watch those guys work. At one of the bars I worked at, I became the guy that regulars came to and said, ‘just make me something.’ It forced me to learn pretty quickly.”
Nowadays, cocktail culture has spread to this side of the Hudson, and he’s seeing more and more commuters stay in New Jersey for a drink.
“I get a lot of people who say about this place, ‘Oh, this reminds me of such-and-such place in the city,’ or, ‘I normally go to Manhattan on Saturdays, but I’ll just come here instead.’ It’s exactly what we’re going for, and it’s great to hear.”
He shakes his tin without ice, then piles in the ice and shakes again. He double-strains his creation into a chilled coupe in front of us, and doesn’t let us taste before he’s garnished it with what he calls “pixie dust”–edible pink and purple glitter. It’s certainly eye-catching, as well as dangerously easy to drink. David clearly knows how to mix up an expert drink, but he never wants cocktails to be taken too seriously.
Located on the part of the menu labelled “Pompous Potables,” the drink is called “When We Vote, We Win.”
“It’s definitely our most popular ‘Pompous Potable,'” David says. In homage to union culture, the name comes directly from an old electrical union slogan. But there’s added significance: to get on the menu, the guys behind the bar created a flight of three different Brockmans cocktails, and had their customers vote for which they liked best.
“Brockmans is such an approachable spirit, and I would have been happy if any of the three won, but this one is my drink, so I’m happy it made it to the menu.” So are we.
When We Vote, We Win
by David Macey
- 2 oz/60 ml Brockmans Gin
- 1 oz/30 ml vanilla syrup
- 0.5 oz/15 ml lemon juice
- 0.5/15 ml winter berry puree
- 1 egg white
Add all ingredients to shaker. Shake vigourously without ice (dry shake), then fill with ice and shake vigourously again. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with “pixie dust” (edible glitter).
To get your hands on this “Pompous Potable,” head on over to Union Hall in Hoboken, New Jersey. Trust us, it’s worth it.