Last Call: Wassail - Spirited, 5/1/17
"The menu has a heavy focus on hard ciders, a mix of locally made and international, including quite a few served on tap. In addition to cider (including sweet cider and ice cider), apple spirits—eau de vie, brandy, pommeau—and cocktails using all of the above round out the list. Beer and wine are available as well. Wassail is also a full restaurant, and its lauded comfort-food menu, heavy on the veg, has made it a late-night industry favorite." - Kara Newman
"At Wassail, and a few other bars across the country, barkeeps like (Dan) Pucci are doing what they can to reposition the drink. Their thesis? Cider is special in its own way. It’s an agricultural product that, when done well, can express more than just the “apple” flavors people have come to associate with Yankee Candles. It’s a culmination of fruit and fermentation, with near-endless possibilities in the realm of flavor and aroma." - Kevin Koczwara
Appease your after-dinner drinks craving with a visit to local cider hotspot Wassail. This is NYC’s first and only cider bar, and no doubt it will shift your [cider] paradigm. Plus, the food is exceptional if you’re looking for a late-night snack. - Dana deLaski
Let’s be clear. This isn't the sweet drink your kids pound from foam cups after an apple-picking excursion, but the crisp, complex, alcoholic beverage made from pressed apples that Europeans were quaffing long before us. - Janet Rausa Fuller
"Most people think of cider in the fall when apples are dropping from trees, but there are plenty of reasons why we New Yorkers should think of it as a versatile, year-round beverage, especially around the New Year. Relative to Champagne, fine ciders are more affordable—around $18 to $25 a bottle—lower in alcohol and made by small, family-run orchards, unlike commercial Champagne brands that buy their fruit." - Sabine Hrechdakian
"But while I do love a glass of the sweet stuff, cold or hot, mulled with spices or all on its own, there is another type of apple cider that's also worth seeking out. I'm talking about the dry, alcoholic kind of cider. And there are some really good versions of it coming from upstate New York." - Geraldine Campbell
"With its glacially scoured, mineral-rich soil, temperate climate and serpentine lakes (some of the longest and deepest in the country), the Finger Lakes region has bragging rights in the terroir department. But ideal soil, climate and topography alone don’t make great cider: It’s this unique community drawn closer by isolated gorges and impassable bodies of water that give the mute forces of terroir expression in the glass." - Sabine Hrechdakian
"Wassail’s Cider Director Dan Pucci describes New York’s cider culture by saying, “It hasn't yet developed the cultural baggage of beer or wine, so those trying it for the first time can be a lot more open.” - Joe Stanek
"This week on The Farm Report, host Erin Fairbanks is joined by Charles Rosen of Ironbound Farm and Sabine Hrechdakian of Wassail to talk cider! Tune in to hear them touch on restoration agriculture, stewardship, apple varieties, and more!" - Erin Fairbanks
"An area in flux, the once grungy Lower Manhattan neighbourhood is quickly becoming the best place to eat, drink and be merry in New York. Richard Martin, editorial director of ‘Food Republic’, guides us around the neighbourhood." - Markus Hippi
The Lower East Side is a bar hopper’s paradise, thanks to the sheer volume and diversity of bars in the downtown neighborhood. European suds connoisseurs can find solace at craft beer bars, martini lovers can sidle up to some of the city’s best cocktail bars, and even cider drinkers have a niche spot devoted to their poison of choice. From wine bars to whiskey haunts, these are the best Lower East Side bars in NYC." - Christina Izzo
"Cider is having a moment, but not in the transient food-trend sense. The product's place in the beverage world is still largely to be determined, so the buzz is more like a coming out party for something that's just getting started — and at the center of it all, thrilled to be playing a role in the ever-changing conversation, is Pucci, the hype man cider is lucky to have." - Kendra Vaculin
What are the most exciting places to drink well and eat well in NYC? That’s a question our staff gets all the time. So we decided to make our list public. These are the restaurants and bars we recommend to visiting winemakers and sommeliers, to fellow wine writers and our wine-obsessed friends. We return to these places, always knowing that we'll find something new and delicious, whether it’s a producer we’ve never encountered or a classic bottle in prime shape. Here are our favorite New York bars and restaurants right now.
"Served by the bottle, on tap or by the glass, the drinks at Wassail are unexampled in taste and as unique as the apples from which they came. Diners pair their sips with whimsical vegetable dishes that range from tasty bar snacks like curried fried sunchokes with lemon aioli to larger dinner plates like farro risotto with a poached egg and oyster mushrooms." - Sylvie Morgan Brown
Where does a pagan ritual from England’s apple-growing region find a home in Manhattan’s Lower East Side? Only at Wassail, a cider-focused haunt that’s rooted in the idea of harvest, now blossoming in sleek digs on Orchard Street. - Erika Rietz
"Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a bar that employs New York City’s first pommelier—the cider equivalent to a sommelier." - Alyson Sheppard
"Pegging it to the hard cider revival and craft distilling boom in general, some in the booze industry are even placing bets that aged apple brandies are poised to fill demand for brown spirits should rumblings of bourbon, Japanese whisky, and single-malt Scotch shortages come to head. “People realize they can distill with whatever they have their hands on,” says Daniel Pucci, cider director at New York’s Wassail. For many regions in the U.S., particularly New York state, Virginia, and pockets of the Pacific Northwest, that means local apples in abundance." - Kara Newman
"Switch things up from the usual routine of beers or cocktails with a night at the city's only cider bar. (There's wine, beer, and booze, too, so don't worry.) Discover varieties of cider you never knew existed, split some jalapeño fritters, and indulge in some of the city's most unexpectedly delicious desserts. The food is all vegetarian, too, so this is a great spot if you want to keep your evening meat-free."
"In a dining climate as exhilaratingly precarious as New York City’s, restaurants live and die by their ability to stand out in such a massively competitive market. Here are the openings that held our attention the most this year." - Zachary Feldman
"You can tell when restaurateurs’ choices are based on cold market calculus and when they’re driven by passion. If the passions are good ones, they can become contagious. Wassail is a Lower East Side restaurant that is deeply devoted to hard cider. After circling back again and again since it opened early this spring, I’ve fallen under cider’s spell, and Wassail’s, too." - Pete Wells
"Hard cider is having its craft beer moment—think nuanced bottles that are worlds apart from the saccharine stuff that once gave the drink a bad rap—right down to a surge in bars that specialize in it. Seattle’s Capitol Cider has 20 cider taps and more than 100 bottles on its list. San Francisco gastropub Upcider stocks a deep selection of California bottles. New York’s Wassail rounds out the cider (and fresh apple juice) on tap with apple-based cocktails." - Brad Thomas Parsons
"The cider revolution is officially here. But what if the only Pippin you know is the former Bulls forward, and you’re pretty sure a Jonagold is an L.A. food critic? Wassail’s Dan Pucci is here for you. After the success of their Astoria spot the Queens Kickshaw, co-owners Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim went all-in on cider and brought in Pucci to hunt down the best ciders in the world." - Justin Bolois
".. From those 16 black taps flow the beverages that are the heart of the place, draft apple ciders that, through their wonderfully woodsy flavors, conjure up the trees that produced the fruit with every sip. Some are lightly carbonated, some are still; some are sweet, some sour or even semi-skanky". - Robert Seitsema
"If you're going to charge nearly $20 for a vegetable puck, you'd better make sure it tastes good. At Wassail, the city's first dedicated cider bar — which opened this past spring — chef Joseph Buenconsejo's quinoa, farro, miso, and smoked-mushroom "burger" packs an incomprehensible amount of flavor between its brioche buns. I was reminded of Minetta Tavern's fabled Black Label beef blend, so surprisingly intense was the first bite." - Zachary Feldman
"Cider has the same building blocks as wine: astringency from skins, acidity and sweetness from juice, and body (and sometimes bubbles) from fermentation. Like wine grapes, apple varieties number in the hundreds, and there's a style of cider for every kind of wine drinker. And of course, apples are the ambassadors of fall, which means they have a remarkable capacity to pair well with virtually everything else on the Thanksgiving table." - Craig Cavallo
"Cider is undeniably having a moment in America, one that bears resemblance to the state of California wine a century ago. Jon Bonné on the current cider revival, and the guy who has become a symbol of where it might lead." - Jon Bonné
"At $17, this is the Black Label burger of veggie burgers. And like its beefy counterpart, it’s worth every penny. Grains (quinoa, farro) and umami (smoked mushrooms, miso) give chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s patty a rich earthiness. Served on a brioche bun, it comes draped in melted provolone and smoked cheddar. A barrage of condiments — raw tomato and red onion, upland cress, mustard-yuzu aioli, and both smoked-paprika-pickled and smoked-and-caramelized onions — up the ante with bursts of spice and piquancy. As for the value, it does come with nicely crisp jalapeño tater tots. Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, who own the vegetable-friendly Lower East Side cider bar, offer the burger during brunch and weeknight happy hour only." - Zachary Feldman
"Over the years, cider has been bequeathed a long list of unfortunate epithets, from “old man beverage” to “beer’s effeminate cousin,” considered by many as G-rated sweet stuff. Perhaps because of its impossibly unhip connotation, it is seeing a renaissance among a generation of drinkers on a quest for authenticity—the very idea of it conjuring images of a pastoral paradise."
"Now the old guard of artisan and backyard cideries that have always crafted serious juice in (more often than not) bone-dry styles has started to garner the attention it deserves, and up-and-comers are seeking out forgotten and wild apple varieties to add to the diversity of cider expressions available on the market." - Carson Demmond
"Where does it go from here? That's what I ask Dan Pucci, the cider director at Wassail, the Manhattan cider bar (on Orchard Street, no less) that is to cider what the Library of Alexandria was to classical knowledge. Wassail holds one of the most extensive collections of cider in the world, and Pucci tastes it all as it flows past him." - Rowan Jacobsen
"Cider is surely having its moment. Already one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverages in America today, the drink further elevated its stature with the opening of Wassail earlier this year. The elegant bar and vegetarian eatery on the Lower East Side is the city's first space wholly devoted to cider drinks — more than a dozen on tap, and many more on an extensive bottle list."
"The runaway success of dumbed-down ciders has saddled the juice with an unfair reputation for being sophomoric and saccharine. Owners Ben Sandler; his wife, Jennifer Lim; and Sabine Hrechdakian are here to shatter those preconceived notions."
"Here’s what everyone should also know about Wassail: The food represents some of the most elegantly prepared, artistic and flavorful dishes I’ve encountered in a very long time. In addition to creating a Cider Temple, owners Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler along with Executive Chef Joseph Buenconsejo and Pastry Chef Rebecca Eichenbaum have created a culinary touchstone for vegetable driven cuisine." - Tom Wark
"Everyone's buzzing about Wassail's awesome list of 90+ ciders from around the world, but there are a few delectable reasons to check out this Lower East Side gem. Chef Joseph Buenconsejo's vegetable- and grain-focused menu is initially a surprise, but the technique, seasonality, and personality he brings to each dish will sway even the most adamant carnivore."
"Witness peas done three ways-mashed, julienned, sliced in their pods, and plated with creamy ricotta, pea broth, and mini parathas; or a glossy, slow-cooked egg served over salty broccolini and shredded Brussels sprouts with a lemony sorrel Hollandaise. Rebecca Eichenbaum's savory-leaning desserts, like a frozen spruce soufflé topped with buttermilk granita and pistachio crumble, are pure bliss."
"Eyes closed, the dish tastes like a rich, umamified bowl of French onion soup. But there’s not a drop of animal-fortified anything in Chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s plate of spring onions, ramps, morels, pine nuts, and breadcrumbs. The combination is built on a riot of vegetable-based textures and tastes, and it sets the tone at Wassail, a progressive vegetarian restaurant that also happens to be New York City’s first devoted cider bar." - Caroline Hatchett
"Little did Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim know when they opened The Queens Kickshaw in 2011 they’d be bringing the “Apple” back to the proverbial “Big” city. Fast forward four years and the launch of their second restaurant Wassail: a craft cider bar and vegetable-centric restaurant on the Lower East Side’s aptly-named Orchard Street."
"The husband-and-wife team, this time accompanied by savvy Cider Week NYC producer and our seasoned contributor Sabine Hrechdakian, have gained a following and cider celebrity status worthy of a few stars. Wassail is not only the first gastronomic destination in the city to dedicate itself to righting the reputation of the fallen fruit, it’s also an education hub and supper club for aspiring cider enthusiasts and makers to grow the movement together. Now Wassail is not only bustling but its owners are actively involved in growing the cider community across the Northeast." - Ruth Temianka
"It’s already oppressively hot when I leave the Hudson Valley and its picturesque apple orchards one early September morning to go down to New York City to forage for apples. I’m meeting up with Alex Wilson, a transplanted Brit full of rambunctious energy who now makes cider in the Catskills, and Dan Pucci, a coolheaded Catskills-born former sommelier. Dan is also the cider director at Wassail, a restaurant and cider bar on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, where I am a co-owner." - Sabine Hrechdakian
Step up to the Plate (Global) - Monocle, 9/15
"The sleek bar by the entrance is a good vantage point from which to eye up the space's unblemished stainless steel taps that serve New York State's best ciders alongside others from the likes of the Basque Country and Normandy. There are more than 90 drafts and bottles to choose from but it's chef Joseph Buenconsejo's vegetarian menu that threatens to overshadow its fruity ferments."
"Wheat berries don't show up in too many desserts, but they appear in multiple forms in a carrot-themed dish created by pastry chef Rebecca Eichenbaum. She ferments them in water to create a tangy, nutrient-rich probiotic foam. They're puréed with carrot pulp and honey to make a wheat cremeux. And she puffs them to create a crumble for texture. The dessert is finished with carrot sorbet, carrot custard, ice cream that's infused with a wetland grass called sweet-flag, and a carrot-green garnish."
"The dessert requires five days of prep work, and is the kind of dish you might expect to find at a fine-dining restaurant. Instead, Eichenbaum, who is 26, is the lone member of the pastry program at Wassail, a vegetarian cider bar on the Lower East Side." - Sierra Tishgart
"Ciders have a long and storied history, particularly in the Hudson Valley. Though they've been co-opted by too many sweetened alcoholic sodas, the authentic craft varieties refuse to be drowned out. Craft beer drinkers ought to take note. If Wassail is any indicator of where the drink is headed, the future of cider looks unmistakably bright." - Brad Japhe
"Cider = so hot right now. The Lower East Side’s Wassail is at the forefront of the trend, led by its curator, Daniel Pucci. The Catskills native took an interest in cider after a visit to Basque Country in Spain, having worked in upstate wine shops as well as Eataly and Box Kite. He now leads an exciting program at the vegetable-forward restaurant that highlights mostly domestic producers, many from NY state." - Kelly Dobkin
"(Wassail) is the only dedicated cider bar in New York City. It is vegetarian. It is unlikely. It is strange. It is a revelation." - Joshua David Stein
"The 2015 award for “Best Place to Take Your Friend Who is Seriously Skeptical of Vegetarian Food” goes to: Wassail."
"The best part about Wassail’s vegetarian status? It’s not a thing; it just is. The fact that the menu is vegetarian is just one of many excellent reasons to visit this Lower East Side spot.."
"Chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s modern cuisine plays up vegetables and grains and plays off Wassail’s incredible selection of fermented hard cider. Of the 12 ciders on draft, more than half are locally made. Stop by now to try refreshing green strawberry gazpacho ($13), garnished with cucumber granita and green almonds, before local strawberry season passes by."
"Wassail has a dozen hard ciders on draft, five by the glass and more than 80 in bottles, from cider makers in Chile, England, France, Ireland, Spain and the United States."
"The bar (on Orchard Street, appropriately enough) is the bricks-and-mortar affirmation of a fermented-cider revival that has fueled a rapid growth in producers, drinkers and other cider bars.." - Robert Simonson
Where to Eat and Drink: Wassail - The Feiring Line, 4/15
"It’s a very flirty spot with 12 ciders on tap, more by the glass and a staggering 80-bottle apple and pear wine selection.."
"While the bar scene is already fierce, this is also a food destination. We’re in a meat-free zone, with a chef who has no fear of lacto or ovo, who came out of the Jean-Georges and Wayne Nish kitchens—you will not feel deprivation." - Alice Feiring
"In the realm of spirits, cider is the overlooked wallflower; not as crowd-pleasing as beer or as effortlessly cool as the cocktail. But now the underrated sip gets its due at this glowing pocket-sized den on Orchard Street, offering a dozen drafts and nearly 100 bottles of the apple elixir."
"The clincher: A shareable tapas-style spread from chef Joseph Buenconsejo. The vegetable-heavy plates are injected with hints of apple: a supple, creamy orb of burrata ($15) is bathed in cooling winesap apple water, made even crisper by thin cucumber ribbons and lemon-infused olive oil; roasted root vegetables come sprinkled with hazelnuts and drizzled with apple saba ($12)." - Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
"The Lower East Side is now home to a different kind of bar. This one serves hard cider. Wassail recently opened on Orchard Street where it will match its fruit-based nectar against neighbors selling more traditional spirits." - Antwan Lewis
"It’s always apple season at this new restaurant and cider bar on Orchard Street, which, despite having a powerful sense of itself, 'isn’t as la-di-da as you’d think,' as a man observed on a recent Monday." - Sarah Larson
"Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, the husband and wife team behind Astoria's popular Queens Kickshaw, just opened the city's very first cider bar on (appropriately enough) Orchard Street. Not only do they have 12 ciders on tap and more in bottles, but also a long list of cocktails based mostly on cider and apple spirits. There's also a complete food menu, which is vegetarian without being in-your-face about it. Dishes range from snacks like Scotch eggs and jalapeno fritters, to larger plates like leeks with spaetzle, green garlic, and truffle butter." - Bess Adler
"Wassail opened this week. It features a dozen ciders on tap and another 80 or so in bottles. They range from the sour, sweet and funky ciders of traditional producers in Europe to crisp and clean offerings from American upstarts. Co-owner Jennifer Lim says she and Sandler, her husband, try to highlight the wildly divergent flavors that cider-makers can coax from fermented apples." - Joel Rose
"How about a comfortable bar that pours over 100 varieties of hard cider — on tap and bottled — and offers a smart, concise menu of bar snacks like jalapeño fritters, Scotch eggs, mushroom escabeche, and a duck egg with barley and Brussels sprouts? It sounds lovely, doesn't it? And that is why you should head to this brand-new LES spot to enjoy exactly that." - Alan Sytsma
"It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of America’s growing cider resurgence. Unlike beer, wine, spirits or even cocktails, hard cider is a fresh new beverage frontier for many Americans to become familiar with and grow to love. And now, in addition to plenty of new producers hitting the maps, we’ve got a new wave of cider bars to help push the movement forward as well."
"The food program looks similarly delightful, with Joseph Buenconsejo (Hotel Americano, The Lion, Aqua) at the helm and Rebecca Eichenbaum rocking the pastries.. There isn’t any meat on the menu, but complex presentations of vegetable dishes that pair well with cider will abound. “We wanted to showcase the pairing qualities of cider, and since the spectrum is so wide, that leaves us a huge palette to work with,” Sandler says." - Emma Janzen
"It's hard to believe that until now, there has been no bar dedicated to cider here in New York City -- the beverage has slowly gained popularity over the last few years, thanks in part to a burgeoning industry right in our backyard. (What else are you going to do with all those New York state apples?) But as of tonight, that niche will be happily filled by Wassail." - Laura Shunk
"Here's a look around Wassail, New York's very first bar dedicated to hard cider, which opens tonight on the Lower East Side." - Marguerite Preston
"They're scrumpy," declares Ben Sandler, describing some of the highly drinkable cider offerings from Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider, just one of the many different varieties and types of cider he and partner Jennifer Lim will offer at their new Lower East Side restaurant Wassail, opening tomorrow." - Nell Casey
"Craft cider is getting its due at Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler's seriously stocked bar on the Lower East Side. They're pouring 80 to 100 ciders of all sorts—aperitifs, pommeau, calvados, ice ciders, you name it—plus working on cider-centric cocktails with Pouring Ribbons' Jade Brown-Godfrey." - Elyse Inamine
"Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler are the husband and wife team behind Queens Kickshaw, the Astoria cafe loved by locals for its grilled cheese and great coffee. It's also known for its impressive cider list, so it makes sense that the duo's next venture, Wassail, will be New York's first dedicated cider bar. Eater talked with Lim and Sandler recently, to hear more about Wassail, which is set to open in the next three or four weeks on the Lower East Side." - Layla Khabiri
"In early March, Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler—the husband-and-wife team behind the Astoria beer-hall–restaurant—will unleash Wassail, the city's first cider bar on the Lower East Side. Aptly located on Orchard Street, the lounge is named for a wintertime drinking ritual to ensure good apple harvests. The menu will feature between 80 and 100 bottles and 13 drafts, plus plates like mushroom escabèche and layered potatoes with fava beans, turnip and gribiche from chef Joseph Buenconsejo (The Lion)." - Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
"Owners Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler plan on offering 80 to 100 ciders by the bottle and the glass, and there will be 13 additional draught lines dedicated to cider. Chef Joseph Buenconsejo will cook dishes like mushroom escabèche and layered potatoes with fava beans, turnip, and gribiche, all intended to pair with the different drinking options." - Sierra Tishgart
"Over the past three and a half years, husband-and-wife duo Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler have built the Queens Kickshaw -- their beer bar, restaurant, and coffeeshop in Astoria -- into a must-visit for this city's cider fiends and cider-curious."
"As they've learned the industry, they've become leaders in the cider movement here in NYC, and they'll cement that position further in the coming months: They've landed a Lower East Side liquor license and lease, and they're planning to use it to open Wassail (162 Orchard St.), the city's first cider restaurant and bar." - Laura Shunk