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What to Drink at Petruce et al., Now Open at 11th and Walnut

There’s been plenty said already about the brothers Justin and Jonathan Petruce and the highly anticipated restaurant that they soft-opened earlier this week with longtime friend Tim Kweeder at 1121 Walnut Street.

We’ve heard all about the custom-built, wood-fired oven, the Argentinian grill, the bread service, rustic roasts, and the Fishtown farm from which the restaurant will source its produce.

Still not much about the drinking side of things has been talked about. Well, not much more than the fact that natural wine wiz Kweeder, and bartender extraordinaire George Costa are both on board as the restaurant’s management team.

Kweeder earned his front of the house stripes at BYOB Little Fish and later at a. kitchen, while moonlighting at New Jersey’s Moore Brothers. Costa, of course, helped establish Southwark as one of the city’s best cocktail spots long before the pre-, post- and Prohibition-era cocktail craze kicked in

Drink Philly recently caught up with the two to learn more about what the Petruce et al. drink situation is shaping up like.

“As far as, like, a concept or theme goes, there really isn’t one,” Costa told us. “We’re simply focusing on quality ingredients and everything being made well.”

That means if there’s anything they can make in-house, they will. And anything they can’t do themselves, they will source from small, artisan producers. That said, Costa concedes that things like bitters and certain cordials he plans to use may take a few weeks (months in the case of the bitters) before they actually show up on his bar.

“I should’ve said we’re going to do as much stuff as we can in house — as long as it’s logistically possible,” Costa said with a laugh. “We’re also going to squeeze all our juices to order, but if I start finding myself with guests two deep at the bar, I may have to squeeze some ahead of time.”

The opening cocktail list will feature about ten drinks, which Costa said will be a mix of good, old school classics, and some that showcase a few of his own, original ideas. Nothing too crazy. The emphasis will be on good ingredients, straightforward clean flavors and top-notch service. He added that exotic ingredients will come into play here and there, as will some new techniques.

“We’re going to have some stuff that’s been around for a hundred years, a couple of new things we came up with,” he explained. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or use modern techniques just for the sake of showing them off. The bottom line is they’re just really good drinks made with great products.”

The introductory list will offer drinks like Pancho’s Lament, made with Rival Bros. cold brewed coffee, tequila, agave, and mole bitters. Another, Pilar, is Costa’s riff on a Hemingway. It takes its name from the legendary black-hulled Wheeler Papa used to take fishing in the waters of the Key West-Havana-Bimini triangle. He makes it with El Dorado Rum white rum, violet liquer, lime juice and pineapple.

Classics include a Pink Lady, Turf Club and a Flip. He said he has at least 30 more drinks up his sleeve that he plans to periodically update the list with — not seasonally, he insists, only when he feels like it.

Still what he’s most rarin’ to go with are his milk punches. The Colonial-era concoction comes together with spiced and sweetened brandy and fresh citrus juice that’s added to raw milk, making it curdle. The curds are then carefully strained out, and what’s left keeps some of the milk’s creamy mouthfeel, but none of its flavor.

“It’s really cool, and I’m excited to make them,” he told us. “I already have five or six different variations that I want to serve.”

The one the restaurant is opening with is based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe.

The wine list will be modest, offering guests roughly six red selections and six white. Kweeder, who sits on the board of Philly Wine Week, said that since he’s dealing with small producers, selections will rotate frequently simply due to the limited supplies available. It’s tricky, but he says it’s worth it.

“These are wines without makeup; wines of character,” he said. “You know, kind of like Bob Dylan. So simple and yet so moving with just, like, an acoustic guitar, voice and harmonica. So many commercial-grade wines are manipulated beyond belief, they’re like today’s popular music with its synthesizers, programmed beats and autotuned vocals.”  

Petruce et al., 1121 Walnut Street, (267) 225-8232

Photo: Drink Philly


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