It’s All In The Details: A Chat With Heather Ash of Beloved

Photos by Austin McAllister
Photos by Austin McAllister

Beloved is an one-size-fits-all kind of joint, a place where you can bring friends, lovers and Tinder dates, no matter what their preference. Your friend who loves Aquavit can happily meet your cheapskate roommate who only drinks ‘Gansett at this place, because it’s a cocktail bar that’s refreshingly stripped of any pretentiousness.  Opened in 2012, Beloved has become a staple in Greenpoint for dance parties, birthday parties and happy-hour hangs that last long into the night. They have a solid rotating list of craft beers, but the star of the show is their cocktail menu, curated by Heather Ash, who helped open the space with her husband. We sat down with her to talk about cocktail trends, seasonal things, and what makes Beloved so special.

How’d you fall into this field? How long have you been doing this?
Oh, a long, long time ago. Probably about like, 15 years ago, I was a young punk-rock kid and moseyed into a bar on MacDougal Street, and they were like, “Yeah you’re cute, get behind the bar.” I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was like, “Totally, I can do this.” I was 19 working at Tower Records, and I showed up and the guy that was supposed to train me was drunk/hungover from the night before and was just like, “Yeah, cool, so this is how you take money and put it in the register, I gotta go.” There were a bunch of old dudes [sitting at the bar] telling me “This is how you make a scotch and soda.”

So you got training on the job, by the customer?
Yeah. I stuck with it. It was just what I was good at. I’m good at talking to people, and, of course, I love making cocktails — the craft of the cocktail, and all that — but the business side and the social side, and just all of it, and all the details. It kinda took to me. I think especially, like, getting older, coming back and seeing the details is what I freak out about.


Where’d you work before here? Or did you open the bar?
Yeah, my husband and I did the original consulting here, so we’ve been on and off managing here since they opened. But I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve done  a lot of dive bars, but I got my cocktail training with the people from Inoteca Liquori, and then from there I ran a couple restaurants, I worked for Ravi DeRossi at Death & Co, who started Gin Palace, and presently I’m at Milk and Honey.

What inspires the cocktail menu?
There’s definitely the classics that inspire it. It’s also very dependent on what’s being drank in the neighborhood, what people are into, and it also depends on the freshness of what we have around, you know what I mean? Of course we make our own syrups like everybody else does. We have a close relationship with a produce distributor and it’s whatever fresh fruit, whatever’s looking good these days. We’ll come up with something and make a special that goes along with that. One of the things thats been selling like crazy is a salted cucumber gimlet, which I’ve been doing a lot of. It’s really good.

It’s unusual to see a “bartender’s choice” option on the menu, with flavor profiles and liquors. How did that come about?
My husband and I did the original consulting and the original management and all that, but we’ve trained people at a lot of cocktail-focused bars. We have a strong cocktail program here, but we also wanted to be more relaxed, [where] everybody’s hanging out and there are chill vibes, but you can still get a dope-ass cocktail. We got most of our cocktail training at places where there’s a bespoke cocktail program. Like at  Milk and Honey, you walk up and there is no menu. There’s a lot of, “What do you feel like?” You know, we could go stirred, we could go shaken, is there anything you want to add to it, do you want spicy, do you want fresh fruit, do you want herbaceous, and then we’ll try to accommodate as best as we can.

What would you consider a beginner’s cocktail, an intermediate cocktail, and an advanced cocktail?
I don’t know that there are beginner and intermediate cocktails. I think that it depends upon what people are looking for. If they say, “I want a stirred rum drink served up blah blah blah,” we can accommodate that, but I feel that anybody can appreciate any cocktail. To take away the seriousness of it and to make it more approachable, I think, is what makes this place rad.

That is one of my favorite things about this place, because you guys are not pretentious at all! Let’s see — what’s your favorite drink on your menu?
My favorite on the menu is the Clean Shave. It’s got a Campari base, with the gin, the Aquavit — I really like that. I have a super, super dry palate, so the Aquavit and the cayenne pepper just does it for me.


Are there any cocktail trends that you’re fond of and want to do more of?
I think I like the simplicity of cocktails and just finding the balance that’s essential. As far as trends, they’re all well and good, but they don’t last, and nobody wants to stick to drinking the same thing all the time, you know what I mean? There was a huge sherry trend, and every single cocktail you would find in any competition had sherry in it, and shit like that. We do follow trends. We drink a lot of Negronis and a lot of Fernet here, just like any other cocktail place, but you want to switch it up. Like I said, I just think the simplicity of it makes me a lot happier.

Is there anything you don’t like?
Yeah, there are things I think are frivolous. Like, somebody talked to me about what I felt about grilled food cocktails. I didn’t quite understand what they were saying.

What does that even mean? Cocktails with bacon in it?
I think that’s what they were trying to say, but they were using an eggplant thing. If I have to cook for a cocktail, we’re not talking the same language, I don’t think. I think that cocktails should just boil down to the same thing at the end of the day. We all like the standard Manhattan or daiquiri, we all like the same standards — we just vary a little bit.


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