Judging by the Cosmopolitans and Martinis coming from the bar, you’d never guess that Emporio doesn’t have a liquor license. This Italian Restaurant, located in New York’s SOHO district, is down the street from a church. Proximity to the holy spot precludes them from serving the hard stuff; they can only dish out beer and wine to their patrons.
So, what’s with the cocktails? Emporio has a great cocktail program that uses creativity to get around the laws. Their list is based around Soju, a Korean liquor that is traditionally made from rice. This clear alcohol makes an excellent base for cocktails. It’s a little sweeter than vodka, but it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference when it’s used in a libation with multiple ingredients.
The best part about Soju? It’s classified as wine, which means that Emporio can serve it and still be in compliance with state liquor laws.
They get the most out of their base by working with infusions. The chocolate martini is so luscious because the Soju has been infused with bars of chocolate. Their Earl Grey tea martini contains tea infused Soju mixed with lime and honey. A Lychee martini proves that the liquor can be substituted in pretty much any drink that traditionally uses Vodka as a base.
Soju is only 40 proof, so you can enjoy a few of these drinks without having to worry about stumbling out of the restaurant. Good, as you don’t want to look tipsy when you walk back past that church.
Emporio is located at 231 Mott Street if you want to stop by and check out their list.
James Mulcahy writes about spirits and New York nightlife at NYBarfly.com.