The Growler has been a go-to spot for University students for years—a solid beer collection and consistently great food has made this place a staple. Beneath the Growler, however, there is a new cocktail bar that has quietly been churning out some of the city’s best cocktails.
Called the Underdog, its quite brilliant. Walk through the door conveniently labeled ‘underdog’ and you’ll find yourself in an intimate room, a few small tables and mostly seating at the bar. Small groups work best here, preferably a date or maybe that one friend we all have that appreciates the finer things in life (as should you!). This place serves up some killer cocktails and has one of the friendliest teams in the city—nowhere near as pretentious as elsewhere in the city. As with most cocktail bars, there’s no standing here, these people mean business and value ambience, only vinyl’s are played here and no you cant connect your iPod…its almost like you’re not in the city anymore. It’s a nice break after a long day. On my last visit I spoke to Joshua baker, one of the Mixologist’s and all around great guy, here’s what he had to say.
Nik Bharat: So you’re coming up on your one year anniversary, tell us a little about the bar and its conception.
Joshua Baker: Hurricane Sandy flooded this whole place, this was originally just an overflow and event space for the growler. [But] With the success of our friends over at the Dead Rabbit, we realized a cocktail bar could work in the FiDi neighborhood. So we renovated and implemented our cocktail program and changed the name from ‘the pound’ to the underdog.
NB: How do you go about coming up with a new menu? Can you describe some of the steps in the process?
JB: The only thing I would say is it is a team effort in building these concoctions, when you’re creating cocktails in a vacuum you’re only creating cocktails for yourself. Working with a team creates a wide palate range, which allows us to create amazing cocktails.
NB: One of the things that set you guys apart is that you only play records. Tell us a little more about why that is?
JB: This room is over 200 years old, and having the record player really brings an old school ambience of the bar scene.
NB: Sometimes cocktails and cocktail bars can be seen as pretentious and gimmicky…especially among a younger crowd. What would you say to them?
JB: Absolutely it can be perceived that way, I think the main thing is the bartender’s attitude… I would have to say our bartenders here are down to earth and wont judge you on what you drink or don’t drink…. Its not about what’s in your glass but about the time you’re having.
NB: What cocktail do you recommend to first timers?
JB: Our San Francisco milk punch is what I would recommend to first timers, don’t let the term ‘milk’ discourage you, if I didn’t tell you there was milk in it you’d never know, it is a delicious winter time and summer time drink, it stays with the underdog theme and dates back to 1812.
NB: What’s your favorite cocktail and why?
JB: My favorite cocktail is a Sezarec. I’m a big whisky drinker I love whisky and absinthe drinks; this is a classic style cocktail that I really like, because it includes both spirits. Here at the underdog we make it the traditional way, which is one part rye whisky, one part Cognac, Peychauds bitters, Demerrera sugar and Herbsaint. This is the original recipe that dates back to the original Sezarac house in New Orleans.
This article originally appeared in the December 3, 2014 edition of The Pace Press.