Why is it that the British just make everything seem much more charming than us New Yorkers? Case in point, is the very talented and very charming, Francis Verrall, Beverage Manager at McCarren Hotel & Pool. Not only is he responsible for the spectacular cocktails at this summertime Brooklyn hotspot with one of the dopest pools in NYC, but he is just makes it all sound so much cooler when you chat with him.
Don’t get me wrong, McCarren doesn’t need much help upping it’s game as a true destination and one of the hippest and transporting venues. However, Francis’s charm and keen knack for hospitality would make us want to venture over there, even if it wasn’t a stunning property that makes you feel like you’ve been whisked away to a artsy beachside town. Not only does the accent and constant smile help, but he is an award-winning craft cocktail bartender, who most recently worked at Seamstress.
Drinking With Francis Verrall
Tell us about the very first time that you got properly tipsy and what were you drinking?
Being British, we start pretty young. I remember (sort of) it being beer that wasn’t from the fridge, so it was really warm, it was like drinking treacle (British term for molasses).
What was the gateway drink that made you say “THIS” is a cocktail and inspired you to take it all seriously?
I remember back in the day going to this little hotel cocktail bar with my brother, Luke, in Brighton, UK. It was called Blanch House and we used to have to ring a bell at the front door and pray that they would let us in. It was quite exclusive and this was way before the whole prohibition era theme was taking off. They made a mean Grasshopper and to this day it still evokes such happy memories. I remember watching the cocktail bartenders work and thinking that I would really love to learn more about the craft.
What is your current go-to drink order?
A cold lager and shot of Ilegal Mezcal after a long day at work or a can of Montauk Summer Ale sitting out in the sun.
What is your favorite place to hang out over a drink or 3 in NYC?
Having lived in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhood for the last five years, I like to try and stay local. For great cocktails, you can’t beat spots like Ramona (Greenpoint) and Maison Premiere (Williamsburg). There are so many fantastic places in the neighborhood, it’s hard to always go to the one place.
Coffee or Tea?
I drink coffee most days. SweetLeaf is my local in Greenpoint and they make a great cappuccino. I like to grab a coffee on the way to work from the hatch at Five Leaves and if I am ever in South Williamsburg. I always go to Devocion, amazing place.
How did you get started in the biz?
I started 21 years ago when I was only 15 years old. I worked as a waiter in a hotel and I loved it. I left home at 17 to pursue a career in hospitality and it has been a been a rollercoaster ride ever since. Many highs and lows, but it’s a job that is so rewarding on so many levels.
Where do you take out-of-towners for cocktails for an “Only in NY” experience?
I took my brother to Employees Only for his first ‘Manhattan in Manhattan” experience. It’s always a must visit spot. You can’t beat places like PDT and Death & Co. for the big cocktail experience. The Dead Rabbit is, of course, high on my list for being ‘Best Bar In The World’.
Strictly for the lovers, what is your favorite spot for a romantic date night drink in NYC?
When I ever get to take the missus out (which is very rare) places like Lilia and Antica Pesa (Williamsburg) are super romantic. For a really classy date, you can’t beat Maison Premiere for some champagne and oysters.
Most under the radar impressive bar in NYC that deserves more props?
There are a bunch of bars in Greenpoint that have really great bar programs. Ramona, Esme, Achilles Heel, Alameda to name a few. They have really well thought out menus and along with talented, professional staff. The Greenpoint bar scene is great. I really think it is going to go crazy over the next year or so.
Any recent cocktails or menus in NYC that are blowing your mind right now?
I’m really excited to see what the new program at Blacktail is going to be like. I’m sure Jack (McGarry) and Sean (Muldoon) are going to hit NYC with something huge.
You work at one of the most coveted summertime venues. What’s your favorite day drinking spot in NYC?
In Williamsburg, Extra Fancy has a fantastic new patio area that is great. Belle Shoals outside area is beautiful and very well put together.
What is your favorite Summertime Drink?
You get beat a Jug of Pimms filled with strawberries, mint and cucumber and topped with ginger ale. Amazing!
What is the most popular cocktail on your menu now?
A big selling summer cocktail at the moment by the pool is the Brazilian Mango Cooler (Avua Cachaca, Giffard Banane de Bresil, Mango, Lemon & Cane Sugar). The Oleanders Cocktail (Dorothy parker Gin, Greenhook Beach Plum, Contratto Bitter, Lavender & Blueberry Shrub, Lemon & Cane Sugar) is very popular in the restaurant too.
Favorite post shift late night bar?
Extra Fancy and Belle Shoals are always great options for me especially as you can always get food until the early hours and the chat is always good. You are always bumping into fellow bartenders and brand ambassadors which is always good fun.
What is your hangover remedy?
An English Breakfast.
What is a tip for a customer to get your attention when the bar is 10 deep?
Make eye contact, smile and be patient. Please don’t wave your money at me.
Who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night out?
It has to be Josh Mazza (Belle Shoals/Seamstress) for his fantastic wit and chat. He can keep up with me which is good, ha! Had some pretty epic nights out with that guy.
Special shout to any NYC bartenders or drinks makers out there who you think deserve some special love?
Michael Belasco (The Grey Lady) does great stuff wherever he goes. I always love seeing what he is doing. He is a lot of fun and is very passionate about the craft.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
It has been a long journey and I’m proud to have got this far. I think it is only just getting started for me. I have a lot more to learn and new skills to develop but I’m looking forward to the next few years and what it will bring.
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to or people to thank?
I have worked with some of the best people in the industry since arriving in NYC. There are so many people who have inspired me in this great city. I’m very thankful for all the people that I have worked with over the last 21 years in hospitality, so many great humans.
Any advice for aspiring young guns wanting to break into the industry?
Listen, work hard and always continue to learn. Never think that you know it all, you don’t.
Spill it …. shameless plugs, what are you working on right now?
Working on a summer menu for the restaurant. Trying to focus on using more local spirits/distilleries.
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