In today’s hospitality landscape, there is an exciting blending of chef and bartender roles. This ultimately helps elevate both the culinary and bar programs. This new kind of dialogue has encouraged drink-makers across the nation to think more critically about how cocktails complement cuisine, and vice versa. Sama Street has taken this a step further and found a way to put the dishes in the glass.
Sama Street in North Greenpoint is a new (ish) cocktail bar that highlights and showcases Asian ingredients in a thoughtful way. Opened in April 2019, Sama Street is the brainchild of longtime friends Avi Singh and Rishi Rajpal. Partnered with Head Bartender David Muhs, the team has pulled a lot of inspiration from their travels throughout Asia and their obsession with cooking and eating food from their experiences. Their shared love for Asia and desire to add to Asian-inspired cocktail culture is the foundation for the concept.
It is the goal at Sama Street to incorporate that experience of being transported to a part of Asia into every cocktail. Incorporating flavors like pandan, sesame and fish sauce into cocktails help create not only a conversation starter but a true education on the delicate balance of Asian flavors. The team at Sama Street approach their product with complexity yet balance, and it is this balance that is paramount in the creation of all memorable cocktails. Finding balance is equally appropriate at Sama Street because the true meaning of the word Sama in Sanskrit means equal or even.
Balance is key when it comes to the cocktails at Sama Street, whether it is a creative take on a savory dish or a classic with a twist, all ingredients and flavors must be represented and in harmony. “We wanted to make drinks that were familiar yet pushed our guests to try new interesting things,” Avi and Rishi tell thirsty.
The strengthened link between then kitchen and bar is apparent in bartenders following the lead of chefs and syncing their ingredients to what is being used for the season. Head Bartender David Muhs gets his inspiration from different things, an exciting new ingredient, a newly discovered spirit, or a dish that he tries from his many trips to Elmhurst. David imagines he’s cooking a new dish, marinating on an idea for days at a time, editing in his mind as he goes, obsessing over it until he’s finally ready to combine the ingredients in a glass.
Sama Street stands out for its savory cocktails, and Head Bartender David Muhs has found inventive ways to put a boozy spin on popular Eastern dishes. This is most evident in the “Soups and Savories” category of Sama Street’s menu with cocktails like the Major Tom being a spin on a Thai Tom Kha Soup. The “secret” ingredient here is a fish sauce, pickled cherry tomato. It adds the perfect amount of salt and umami and the vinegar and tomato added complexity to the acid in the drink.
David has always been obsessed with the flavor combination of mezcal and celery, but it wasn’t until he had a Japanese dish of celery sticks covered in sesame oil and furikake that he was able to find the perfect marriage of this common flavor profile. Sama Street’s Kung Fu Furi combines tequila, lemon, Genmai tea, and when added together with salt, sesame and nori, the celery and mezcal is brought into a truly harmonious flavor profile. The result is a drink just as addictive as eating those celery sticks.
Another great gastronomic cocktail on the Sama Street menu, Same Same but Different is inspired by a trip to Hanoi where David experienced the dish Cha Ca La Vong for the first time. It’s a dish that consists of fish cooked in turmeric oil, mint, dill, lime and fish sauce served over vermicelli noodles. When he got to the bottom of the bowl he drank the sauce and knew that it had to be a cocktail. He wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish this at first, but after finding Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit he knew he had his base. He wanted to go “tiki” with this drink so he added coconut cream to round it all out and sweeten it up a bit.
Sometimes Head Bartender David Muhs uses classic cocktails as a jumping-off point, a classic formula with new flavors; at Sama, he knew he wanted a play on a Penicillin so he started experimenting with ingredients he loves. The Eastern Medicine uses galangal instead of the usual ginger to achieve a more floral note and swaps the lemon for yuzu. Muhs knew he needed a smoky element to replicate the peated scotch, and after remembering that black cardamom has a smoky character he decided to use a black cardamom spray, which gives the nose an enticing smoky aroma. And just for fun, Sama Street adds a Japanese yuzu gummy candy.
The philosophy behind the bar program at Sama Street focuses on the full sensory experience, leading with your eyes first, your nose second and taste last. They use classic cocktails as a base, a classic formula with new flavors, and some unexpected concoctions come together like cooking a new dish, marinating on an idea for days at a time, editing the recipe as they go, obsessing over it until it’s finally ready to combine the ingredients in a glass. And when it comes to the visual, Sama Street proudly boasts a collection of exceptional vintage glassware. Equally as important as the vessel, all of the garnishes are thoughtful and necessary sensory elements to the cocktail. While taste is paramount in creating a cocktail, the sense of smell is the biggest sensory recall and can transport you to a certain time and space.
Sama Street details
988 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn 11222; 929-276-3140; @samastreetbk; firstname.lastname@example.org
Open: Mon-Thurs 5pm – 12am; Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 1pm-2am; Sun 1pm – 12am
Happy Hours: Mon – Fri 5-7 pm
Late Night Happy Hours: Sun – Thurs 10pm-12am; Fri & Sat 12-2am
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