Vitaly Sherman believes the restaurant he opened last night in East Williamsburg may be the first in the world to offer vodka on tap.
“When I was talking to my friend about installing the beer system,” said Sherman, who also owns Williamsburg’s Beer Boutique, “We were talking about doing something crazy here.”
And cray-cray is a safe way to describe the six kegs that spout house-flavored vodka at Masha & the Bear.
Sherman insists this isn’t just a gimmick along the lines of ever-trendy tap wine (rest assured, there are two whites and two reds on draft, as well). He says that exposing vodka to air compromises the flavor. “When you open a bottle and pour a shot you’re doing a poor service to about five customers,” he said. That’s why — after infusing Catskill Distilling Company vodka with ingredients like ginger, honey and pepper, and mango – his bartenders feed it into a keg where it’s pressurized for consistency. The vodka can be tossed back as shots (Sherman will happily show you how to down it with pickle slices) or you can order, say, the horseradish vodka in the house bloody mary.
Last night, when we stopped in, the restaurant’s landlord was lifting a glass. “What I do in order not to pay rent is get him drunk and he forgets to collect it,” Sherman quipped.
Sherman came to the U.S. from what was then the Soviet Union, in 1989, and worked a job at McDonald’s before going on to open the Beer Boutique. Rest assured, his chef, a 30-year veteran of Russian and American kitchens, is well above fast-food caliber. “Everything that we do here is made right in the back, in the kitchen,” Sherman said, citing a cognac-laced pate.
The restaurant is still in soft-opening phase, but once it’s operating at full steam in about 10 days, there’ll be a steadily rotating variety of 12 craft beers on tap and seasonal vodkas like cranberry for Thanksgiving and, at some point, beet-flavored “borscht” vodka. Will there be green vodka on St. Patrick’s Day? Don’t be surprised.
Masha & the Bear, 771 Grand St., nr. Bushwick Ave., East Williamsburg