“I’m spending more money than I ever have before on printer paper,” Todd Andrews jokingly tells me. That’s because Annicka (544 Manhattan Ave.), the recently re-opened farm brewery restaurant on a quiet edge of McCarren Park, where Andrews is both management consultant and head chef, has a drinks menu that changes almost every week. But, as far as expenses go, that paper seems to be well worth it.
A unique permit helps to explain Annicka’s frequently modified booze offerings. Ed Raven, Annicka’s owner, also owns Greenpoint Beer & Ale (7 N 15th St.), about a half mile away on Greenpoint’s West side, where he operates under a New York State farm brewery license. This allows him, as a local brewer, to serve his and other New York State produced and labeled beer, wine, cider, and spirits by the glass, at up to five retail locations without another permit. This encourages quite a bit of experimentation at Annicka, where Andrews and his team “have really run with it”, excitedly exploring what’s out there. So far he’s only had one table ask for something off menu that he couldn’t provide; his search for a New York State Sambuca continues.
He classifies the current cocktail menu as Brooklyn reinterpretations of classic cocktails, citing the most popular drink as The Carried Away, a playfully named mixed of Barking Irons brandy, lemon, egg white, and (yep) caraway. But he’s personally most excited about their version of the Negroni, which appears pinker in color because of the Forthave spirits in it.
Andrews hopes his guests are also enthusiastic about the sense of discovery and the chance to learn something new. He aims to surprise with alternative versions of well-known brands: “Sorry, I don’t have Beefeater, but what about these six other gins?” And there’s another perk that comes with forging relationships with smaller producers: “one of the best things about working with these wineries, breweries, and distilleries is that they haven’t dealt with big distributors,” leaving them open to partnerships on a more intimate scale. Accordingly, Andrews and his team will soon debut a series of special events, including a beer release celebration with Red Hook’s Van Brunt Stillhouse, and liquor dinners on Monday nights.
When Annicka originally debuted in May, its New American food menu was also focused on hyperlocal sourcing. But that led to excessive spending, and the restaurant was operating in a financially unsustainable way for months before Raven brought Andrews in to diagnose roadblocks in his business. Though the old kitchen staff had positive relationships with local farms and suppliers, the new team had to cut costs somewhere. When it reopened after a 10-day shutdown in September, Annicka unveiled a similar concept to its original, still offering “farm to table food with New York vibes,” but the sourcing has largely been from more broadline purveyors. Andrews “would love to get back to working with farmers as time goes on,” once spending is a bit more under control.
For now, the local focus is on the drinks, whose menu will change two-to-three times in the next few weeks. Andrews admits that these libation modifications make it harder for the food “to have an identity when changing” so regularly, but he hopes to keep the food up-to-date as best he can, changing his edible offerings two to three times seasonally. The food menu underwent its most recent revamp last week, and daily specials will also keep things fresh.
But it’s hard to imagine anything feeling stale anytime soon: “Every day I get a new idea or one of my guys gets a new idea. And if it’s just a matter of reprinting, that’s living the dream.”