Fresh Storefronts and Spirits
Peacock Tails Lounge at Cheddar & Rye and Industry East bring a breath of fresh air amidst the pandemic
William Blake wrote “To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour” — a reminder to remain aware of hidden possibilities. In a year of memes asking “Who had boat-sinking killer whales for November?” this is an important mindset, and it can be found without question in the world of professional hospitality.
But to quote Axl Rose, which I am loathe to do but it is apropos, “Where do we go now?” Tables are too far apart to pass the butter, servers are hard to hear through masks, and doors of restaurants and gin joints are still being locked up every day. So where do we go now? Someplace different seems to be the resounding answer, but let’s dive in with some specificity.
Peacock Tails Lounge at Cheddar & Rye in Manchester is our first stop on this quest for The New. Cheddar & Rye opened a few years ago with likely the best collection of brown spirits in New Hampshire. It has a vibe soaked in dark wood and tradition, and a front door just far enough off of Elm Street to maintain the mystique while also bringing in some evening ambulators. Its sister storefront, actually situated on Elm, has had a few identities over the last few years, but also sort of an ongoing identity crisis. Every endeavor was unique, but lacked “stickiness.”
Enter Peacock Tails Lounge. When I was summoned from my couch and PJs (it was wifey night) to their soft opening by co-owner Seth Simonian, I had to circle the block a gazillion (three) times just to park the Lithervan, and then I couldn’t find the door because it had been moved like the proverbial carrot. But I walked in to find a beautifully lit space that in no way reminded me of any of its previous incarnations. Co-owners Chaz Mitchell, who I knew from commercial real estate explorations, and Liu Vaine, who I knew because everyone knows Liu, were circulating the room telling tales and pouring drinks. My friends Marcia and Megan were sitting at the bar, as was Seth, and I felt immediate comfort and desire to hang out for a while, despite the fact that 15 minutes earlier I had been in Al Bundy mode with my mind on my mattress and my mattress on my mind. My habanero Margarita was perfect and simple and on point, as was the sequel, and then, with a smile, I drove into the moonset to unite my mattress and my mind once again.
Seeking the Philosopher’s Stone: Jeremy Hart and Dan Haggerty are prominent figures in my craft cocktail mythos — they introduced me to many flavors I would now group as my favorites. When I think of my first shot of Fernet, my first Luxardo cherry, my first The Last Word cocktail — these two guys are in all of those mental photographs. So, instead of driving home, wander with me just a few hundred feet down Hanover Street to Industry East.
Jeremy is the kind of bartender who will create a drink for you based on his memory of what you enjoyed in the past, and what he has that is new. This is the Philosopher’s Stone for the flavor-seeker, and he plans to continue this time-consuming and mostly lost art in an even more intimate setting than the last time he made you a drink. With only 18 seats, attention to detail will be paramount. Dan is one of the warmest humans you could ever meet, wonderful at assessing needs unsaid, silent in passing unless the situation dictates that he should sit down at your table to discuss shoes and ships and sealing wax. He is the very model of a server’s server. The menu will be elevated bar food, from flatbread pizza and local charcuterie to gorgonzola treats and braised duck popovers. They are hoping to have the doors open by the time you read this.
A Phoenix is rising on South Willow Street across town from the ashes of the artist formerly known as the British Beer Company. With an outside shell known as The Flight Center Manchester, and a speakeasy inside called The Lost Luggage, this one-two punch of a concept is looking to “give Manchester something different than what they have right now,” says Seth.
The FCM side will offer 36 rotating craft beer taps, similar to their Bedford location. The menu will have standards like burgers and hand-tossed pizza, but will also offer specialties such as prosciutto risotto and pad Thai. If you should lose your luggage and meander to the other side, you will be greeted by a bar specializing in New Hampshire spirits and you. Yes, you. Although there will be a menu of classic and house-designed cocktails, the experience, which is key, will center around your preferences and dislikes, based upon your conversation with your bartender.
In a time when so many interactions are being dumbed down to transactions, this is a breath of fresh air. With a team that knows craft-casual, but is also on top of their speakeasy game, it is sure to be a pleasant flight, so look for their takeoff in early spring 2021.
Until we meet again, at a bar or in my backyard, keep your glass full.