Editor's note: Whitney Filloon, a trained pastry chef, is also a trained drinker. She'll occasionally write for City of Ate about cocktails and general booziness.
"Tastes like pickles." My shaven-head drinking companion wrinkles his nose slightly and slides my tall glass back across the copper-veneered bar at the People's Last Stand, the cocktail-driven bar in Mockingbird Station. Tall glass jars filled with various liquor infusions adorn the metallic bartop; pineapple tequila, mixed berry vodka and spicy pepper gin, the bartender explains. And no, that isn't carnation-infused vodka in the middle, just a vase of flowers.
"Pickles?!" I take another sip and reluctantly concur. My Thyme Bomb (a pale pink concoction of Ketel One, St. Germain, watermelon-thyme syrup, lemon and soda, garnished with a branch of fresh thyme) does taste faintly of brined cucumbers, but not in a bad way. It's refreshing, herbal and just barely fruity.
I hesitantly take a sip of what I prematurely judge to be his "very manly" Old Fashioned and am pleasantly surprised; it's stout with rye, for sure, but the alcohol is nicely tempered by a smidge of maple syrup, in addition to the bitters and muddled orange rind. Both drinks are served on the rocks, and in this case the rocks are unusually large, perfect cubes -- not your typical ice from a machine, and a clear indicator of the care that The People put into their cocktails.
We gaze at the flat-screen TVs above the bar tuned to Monday Night Football, muted in favor of the hip-hop playing over the speakers. Brown leather bar stools surround bar-height tables, and behind us, a party of eight or so sings Happy Birthday and kindly offer us a piece of cake. We decline, preferring to let the alcohol soak into our bloodstreams unbuffered.
Noticing our mostly empty glasses, our handsome, tattooed bartender offers us another drink. I go with my all-time favorite, the classic French 75, and my male counterpart chooses The Grassy Knoll. The French 75 is served up in a stemless flute and garnished appropriately with a lemon twist; light, bubbly and only ever so slightly boozy from the gin, it's everything it should be, and more reasonably priced than most others in town at $8.
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We're surprised when the Grassy Knoll makes its appearance in a martini glass, vivid pink in color. With a name like that we were expecting something of a greenish hue, but the inspired combination of Tanqueray, Cocchi Americano (an Italian aperitif which, upon inquiry, the bartender kindly offers us a taste of), lemon, bitters, lemongrass syrup and a spritz of absinthe looks downright girly. "This is the kind of drink I'd order for a girl if I was trying to get her drunk without her realizing it," my drinking buddy says. Eye roll. Its taste, on the other hand, is pleasantly unisex, with just a hint of black licorice on the finish.
I make my way to the bathroom as rain streams down the two glass walls, which lend to the wide-open feel of the place. Fail to look closely at the tiny logo among the white filigree patterns on the window and you might miss this only slightly hidden gem, tucked up on the second level of Mockingbird Station across from Trinity Hall and near the Angelika.
In the bathroom, rather than the typical paper towels or annoyingly ineffective hand-dryer, a wall shelf is lined with rows upon rows of proper terrycloth towels for you to dry your hands. A nice, homey touch, along with the magnifying mirror that pulls out from the wall -- just in case you catch a glimpse of a pimple or unibrow in the reflection of your date's eyes while downing drinks at the bar.
The People offer up a list of 16 handcrafted cocktails, split between original concoctions and classics. There's also a decently eclectic beer selection and wines both by the glass and bottle. In addition to libations, there's also a selection of snacks like a cheese plate and guac trio, salads, sandwiches -- including the "Biggie and Tupac" PB&J on ciabatta -- and desserts if you need some eats along with your drinks. Be advised that the classic cocktails, including the aforementioned French 75, mojito, and Pimm's cup, are half price on Wednesday nights. We'll be back for that, no doubt, and to sample that carnation vodka.