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Scott Elmquist

Friday, January 17, 2014

First Look

Cocktail restaurant The Rogue Gentlemen opens next Friday.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 4:00 AM

It’s almost show time at The Rogue Gentlemen in Jackson Ward, where a flurry of last-minute maneuverings is in full force. The cocktail restaurant is the project of chef Johnny Maher, whose team is about to find out how the build-it dreams become the run-it realities. After nearly two years of planning, the business opens to the public next week at the corner of N. First and Jackson streets.

Maher’s beloved Fernet Branca, a bitter, aromatic Italian liqueur, is on tap for $5, and a high-end spirits list shows “we’re definitely not skimping on quality,” Maher says. “This bar is our focus. We wanted to have everything framed by the bar,” crafted of antique wood by Steve McKenna, with foods from chef Aaron Hoskins to complement the booze-forward flavors. They’re billing the cuisine modern American, based in French technique, “super simple and approachable farm to table,” Maher says. Items include duck, Spanish mackerel, risotto, short ribs, foie gras torchon and charcuterie, with 5- and 7-course tasting menus and other specialties in large and small-plate formats.

At the concrete bar, with seats for 14, guests will interact with bar manager Eric Fortin, lead bartender Ari Suroosh and Maher as they mix classic and barrel-aged cocktails and variations ($10-13), pour punches on draft, such as the orange royal Zaya rum punch ($8), and a ten-item list of wines ($11-12) and Andre Jacquart barrel-aged brut Champagne by the glass ($13).

Barrels from local Reservoir Distillery are used to age spirits for the premium cocktails, imparting complexity and a mellow finish, Maher says, to drinks such as the Widow’s Kiss, with calvados, yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine. Beverages are served in vintage glassware collected from estate sales and markets over the past several months.

The restaurant’s theme is pre-Prohibition craft libations with house-made bitters, sugars and oils, curated with a chef’s passion for the era and its service standards. The space mixes gilt and brick with tin and concrete, straddling classic and contemporary in a casual room that holds about 32 guests. Maher’s parents are co-owners of the business, which builds upon his career stints at the French Laundry, Aqua and other West Coast culinary hot spots. “I’m incredibly happy,” Maher says, with his team’s efforts to move the city’s food and drink scene into new territory.

The neighborhood is becoming a destination with the openings of Saison, Lucy’s, Max’s on Broad and other businesses and residences in the past couple of years.

The Rogue Gentlemen unveils to the public Friday, Jan. 24 with bar hours from 4 p.m. and dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. The business is closed Tuesdays, and after its Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner and bar hours Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday. 618 N. 1st St. 477-3456. theroguegentlemen.com

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