You could tell during Sternewirth's opening that the bar housed inside a former brewery is begging for stories to tell. Mirroring the rest of Hotel Emma, Sternewirth contains an almost-absurd amount of seating, and when filled with warm bodies, the space definitely goes from 0-100 pretty quickly.
That'll ring truer as its latest menu wins more people over. The classics aren't going anywhere — you'll still find La Babia Margarita ($10), based on Kit Goldsbury's own recipe, and The Three Emmas ($14), named after the trio of Emmas that brewery owner Otto Koehler, uh, dabbled in.
But the menu has taken a decidedly springy turn, and it's worth exploring. A bar buddy and I stopped by on a recent Wednesday evening for a quick taste. We were met with a bustling Sternewirth, every leather couch, chair and table dotted with either a hotel guest or a cocktail fan. New additions to the bar's layout include tall, but teensy end tables paired with tall bar stools, and the now-open upstairs wine area which offers a bird's eye view of the bar and intimate seating for pairs.
A sucker for anything with egg whites in it, I ordered the Caribbean Fizz ($12) with Sugar Island coconut rum, egg white, lemon, lime, cream, simple syrup, vanilla and orange flower water. Though all the notes were present, the lime was a hair too tart and overpowered the drink, if slightly. But if you're a fan of the Ramos Gin Fizz, you'll want to take in this creamy concoction.
The rest of the menu takes a decidedly tiki turn with the addition of the Two Tikis to Paradise ($14) with Aviation gin, averna, Trader Vic macadamia liqueur, lemon, pineapple and Bittermen's tiki bitters, the Three Islands ($12) with Rhum J.M., Wray & Nephew, Flor de Caña dark rum, lime, simple, coconut milk, pineapple and allspice dram or the Pineapple Finesse ($15) with tequila, Aperol, Krogstad aquavit, tepache pineapple liqueur, lime honey and cava.
I resisted tiki temptations and instead listened to one of the bartenders who recommended the Bidi Bidi Plum Plum ($14). Because the ingredient lists skews into uncommon territory, the Selena-centric libation is not ordered often, but cocktail buffs should give it a shot. Served over ice in a rocks glass and topped with a gorgeous orchid, the Bidi Bidi Plum Plum is complex and cool. Blending cachaca (distilled sugarcane, essentially), Dolin dry vermouth, and the citrus-based Nardini Acqua di Cedro liqueur with plum bitters, the drink is refreshing and surprisingly light considering the amount of spirits in it.
You'll have to push your way to the bar if you head there any later than 7 p.m., but this playful new menu at Sternewirth will certainly be worth drawing a little side eye.