Kevin Danilo does a good job keeping his chin up as work continues inside the 5,300-square-foot space in Brickell that will in a few months open as Batch Gastropub.
Early on in construction, he and partner Jerry Flynn, who formerly worked for Surfcomber owner Kimpton Hotels, had to spend about $30,000 on sand to level the restaurant floor per code inspectors' orders.
Yet there have been drops of pleasure along with the pain during the opening process.
On the lounge level of Brickell's Hampton Inn and Suites (Batch is on the hotel's ground floor), Danilo pulls a half-dozen small glass jars from a green reusable Publix bag and sets them on the table. Each is about one-third full of an amber-brown liquid -- barrel-aged old-fashioned. The recipe, so far, includes bourbon, an orange liqueur called Creole Shrubb, dehydrated orange peels, maraschino cherry liqueur, and Angostura bitters.
It's all sealed inside an American oak barrel, which is where the fun begins.
"The barrel softens up the whiskey or bourbon," Danilo says. "You're also able to take some cordials, marry them, and barrel-age them."
One jar is the "control," from a just-mixed old-fashioned. The next is filled after the drink has aged two weeks, four weeks, and so on until it reaches two months.
"Six weeks is considered ideal for barrel aging," Danilo says as he pours little shots on a Friday at 1 p.m. There's also homemade root beer and tonic water, for patrons who might want something lighter or nonalcoholic.
The fresh batch and two-week-old one are raw. There's a sting of alcohol and the concentrated sweetness of orange and cherry. The two-month-old is far smoother but also has the mellow scent of a lumber yard.
The six-week drink is Goldilocks -- just right. We mix it with the two-month-old, and Danilo jots down a note on his iPhone to pull a drink at seven weeks and see if it's anything similar.
The plan is to be open in mid-fall. On a recent weekday inside the stuffy concrete space, a crew lays hardwood flooring.
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The two didn't plan on doing a full buildout, but it gives them the chance (with significant expense) to take a risk and do it their way. Batch will offer an indoor/outdoor bar, and the front half of the restaurant will be booze-oriented. That means high-top and communal tables, with lots of TV screens. The back will be primarily for traditional dining.
"We want it to be comfortable," Danilo says. "We want to make sure what we're building is what people want."
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