Spirit Cruises January 2023 Leaderboard

Sasha Petraske, Man Who Pioneered Modern Cocktail Renaissance, Dies at Age 42

by Emily Lee on Aug 26, 2015 in Culture

The craft cocktail world lost an idol today. Sasha Petraske, the man who pioneered a renaissance of interest in pre-Prohibition era cocktail culture, passed away at his home in Hudson, New York. He was 42 years.

In 1999, Petraske opened Milk & Honey on New York's Lower East Side. The speakeasy-style cocktail den quickly went on the radar for its top-quality booze and elaborate garnishes. If bespoke cocktails weren’t enough to lure customers to the door, the mystique surrounding the tiny bar sure was. Eager New Yorkers needed to acquire a secret phone number to secure a reservation behind 134 Eldridge Street's discrete door.
 
His influence can be seen in countless details now common to cocktail bars around the world, including hidden entrances, a focus on classic cocktails and formal attire worn by bartenders. He also championed the “bartender’s choice” found on many cocktail menus, the use of jiggers to measure out drinks, and even the use of cucumber slices in water glasses.
 
But Petraske’s role as a cocktail innovator and legendary proprietor had a circuitous start. As a teenager, he attended Stuyvesant High School but dropped out to take a job in a cafe. Soon after, he took a cross-country bicycle trip, lived in San Francisco for a while and joined the Army, serving for three years. Back in New York, he worked at Von, a bar in East Village and began to dream of opening his own—one that would reflect his love of jazz, vintage clothes and old-fashioned decorum.
 
Petraske stumbled upon his break when he saw an ad in The Village Voice for a narrow commercial space priced at $800 a month. He learned that the landlord had been a childhood friend of his and promised to run a well-mannered establishment. Broke but determined, Petraske borrowed money from friends and eventually opened Milk & Honey on Dec. 31, 1999. He adopted many stylistic aspects — rules of etiquette, quiet atmosphere, large ice cubes — from Angel’s Share, a bar he admired in the East Village.
 
Petraske went on to open other similarly styled bars with a number of partners, many of them former Milk & Honey bartenders. These included Little Branch in Greenwich Village; Dutch Kills in Long Island City, Queens; Middle Branch in Midtown Manhattan; the Varnish in Los Angeles; and the Everleigh in Melbourne, Australia. Petraske also opened a roomier version of Milk & Honey in London with Jonathan Downey, a British entrepreneur.
 
According to Robert Simonson of The New York Times, Petraske was a man who “gave many bartenders their careers and their names.” Sam Ross, creator of the Penicillin cocktail, cut his teeth at Milk & Honey under Petraske’s guidance. He now operates Attaboy at 134 Eldridge in place of the original Milk & Honey.
 
Simonson says Petraske always maintained “humility and perspective” – qualities not often found in bartenders. “He was an endearing, necessary anomaly, an anti-business idealist who reinvented bartending as a profession."
 
In 2012, Milk & Honey moved to a larger space on West 23rd Street, but the new location did not last long. The building was sold, and a demolition clause in the lease forced him to vacate. Although Petraske had suffered financial setbacks in recent years, he planned to open a third version of the bar. Petraske had also been planning to open a new bar, Falconer, this fall in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood—a testament to his independence and commitment to the craft cocktail scene.
 
Check out the video below for a little more about Sasha Petraske.

Photo and video via YouTube

 


Tags: Cocktails
Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Philadelphia Distilling Launching Secret Pop-Up Cocktail Garden for Earth Day, April 11-21

Philadelphia Distilling Launching Secret Pop-Up Cocktail Garden for Earth Day, April 11-21

Philadelphia Distilling is transforming their fourth floor space into a secret garden to celebrate Earth Day, ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Apr 9, 2024
Dizengoff: Inside Look at the New Reimagined Restaurant, Bar, & Cocktails

Dizengoff: Inside Look at the New Reimagined Restaurant, Bar, & Cocktails

Last year, Dizengoff and Abe Fisher decided to join forces and embark on an exciting new chapter. After closin...read more ›

by Drink Philly Mar 5, 2024
The Drink Nation Presents: The Home Bar Project

The Drink Nation Presents: The Home Bar Project

Have you ever dreamed of having an amazing home bar, filled with bottles you actually use and the tools you need to execute a fine crafted cocktail? E...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Nov 14, 2014
SPONSORED
Spirit Cruises January 2023 Desktop Bottom Rectangle 1
Behind the Bar: Tom Foy of Butcher Bar

Behind the Bar: Tom Foy of Butcher Bar

In this installment of Behind the Bar, we sit down with bartender Tom Foy of Butcher Bar...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 19, 2024
48 Record Bar: An Inside Look at an Audiophile's Listening Room & Cocktail Bar

48 Record Bar: An Inside Look at an Audiophile's Listening Room & Cocktail Bar

48 Record Bar is the newest addition to the growing Listening Room trend in Philadelphia...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 19, 2024
The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

In a city with new bar openings every week, it can be hard to keep up with the everchanging Philly cocktail landscape. Don't worry, we've got you cove...read more ›

by Drink Philly Dec 14, 2023
Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2023

Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2023

We've got your definitive list of where to drink outside in Philadelphia...read more ›

by Drink Philly May 27, 2023
Pamper Yourself at These Spas with Bars in Philadelphia

Pamper Yourself at These Spas with Bars in Philadelphia

Whether you're going solo or heading out with friends, we've got just the place for your to relax and enjoy a good drink...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Apr 5, 2023
The Best Mocktails, Zero Proof, & Non-Alcoholic Drinks in Philadelphia

The Best Mocktails, Zero Proof, & Non-Alcoholic Drinks in Philadelphia

Not drinking alcohol tonight? These bars and restaurants have you covered with inventive, thoughtful, and down...read more ›

by Michelle Cassidy Jan 11, 2023
Inflation Hits PA Wine & Spirits with 4% Price Increase Across 3,500 Products

Inflation Hits PA Wine & Spirits with 4% Price Increase Across 3,500 Products

The PLCB, announced that a 4% price increase would go into effect on 3,554 of its most popular wine and spirit...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jan 9, 2023
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Home Bar Project Bottom Rectangle 2
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close