On the first night that Canard opened its doors to paying customers — an invite-only crowd of mostly fellow Treadsack employees and sympathetic friends — Leslie Ross couldn't quite believe where she was standing and what she was doing.
"Holy shit," she said as she poured a cocktail. "I'm bartending at my bar."
Canard may have missed its anticipated opening date of February 29 by a couple of weeks, but in this case, a dream deferred is not a dream denied. The bar will open to the public Friday night.
Less a few adjustments to the lighting and finalizing some of the decorations, Canard as it exists as of Tuesday night is remarkably faithful to the vision Ross articulated for it when she revealed the project in January. The space only looks to seat about 50 people comfortably: making it an intimate destination that, like nearby tiki bar Lei Low, will draw an audience that seeks out its particular charms.
Located next to Treadsack's Thai restaurant Foreign Correspondents — the two concepts share bathrooms and are separated by a curtain — the bar has a totally different feel than the restaurant thanks to its dark green walls, lush purple banquettes, and gold accents. One sure sign that Canard is truly Ross's bar: an entire shelf of the back bar is devoted to her beloved Chartreuse. The rest of the shelves aren't quite full yet, but the selection does include a few hard to find Scotches as well as spirits like passion fruit vodka that will undoubtedly cause some consternation among cocktail nerds.
At opening, the menu consists of 10 house cocktails priced at $12, eight classics priced at $10, and four optics priced at $10 per ounce. A handful of bottled beers, four house wines by the glass, and eight bottles of sparking wine (all under $100) round out the offerings.
House cocktails both reflect the meticulous preparation that allowed Ross to compete successfully in national cocktail competitions and benefit from access to Foreign Correspondents' kitchen to aid in preparing ingredients. For example, the "Hemingway Goes to Hebrides" includes a riff on horchata that's made with cantaloupe seeds, and the "Girl With a Pearl Earring" includes Genever infused with strawberry tops and pink peppercorns. It all sounds like a little baroque, but the layered, balanced flavors make them entirely too easy to drink quickly.
On the other hand, the Optics feature combinations of three or four spirits and are more intense and alcohol forward. One of these is named the "Kelpie Cocktail" after a Scottish myth about a horse that appears out of lochs and drags children into the water. The drink's combination of Scotch, Green Chartreuse, and Sherry may not be quite that dangerous, but the smoky, aromatic punch definitely makes a strong impression.
After 2015's torrid pace of openings, the beginning of 2016 was bound to be a bit of a letdown as the city caught its collective breath. Two-and-a-half months in, the first really exciting new concept of 2016 has arrived. Who's ready for a drink?