AvroKO Hospitality Group, the team behind Public, Saxon + Parole and other downtown favorites (with restaurants in Moscow and Napa Valley), recently hired Eben Freeman as its Beverage Director. Freeman has been an influential figure in the industry for nearly two decades, having opened wd~50 in 2004 and later following pastry chef Sam Mason to Tailor in 2008, where Freeman's subterranean bar became an instant classic and trend-setter, introducing carbonated cocktails, liquor solids, smoking and barrel aging — all moves that have become the norm for bar programs around the world. Wish that bar was still around.

Freeman is also a hell of a nice guy, which — more than bar smarts — is likely the reason so many of his peers showed up for a party at AvroKO’s cozy cocktail bar The Daily on Tuesday night. The lineup reads like the history of New York City bartending between 1998-2010 (we'll note there are plenty of impressive young guns on the scene today, but none were invited to this adults-only gathering). Participants included Sasha Petraske (Milk and Honey), Brian Miller (Pegu Club), Julie Reiner (Clover Club), Toby x 2: Maloney (The Violet Hour) and Cecchini (Long Island Bar), David Wondrich (The Dean), Jim Meehan (PDT) and Eben x 2: Klemm (King Bee) and Freeman (our host)

Each bartender was asked to create their version of the Old Fashioned, which ranged from classic (Wondrich called his powerful drink the Real Old Fashioned with bonded Old Grand-Dad, sugar, water, Angostura and soda) to the esoteric. Bases, eschewing the traditional bourbon, included genever, rum, blended Scotch whisky and Cognac. As each took their place behind the stick, Freeman lovingly introduced them before a classic song was played. Wise Pink Floyd and Funkadelic selections got their spins, while Wondrich made his drink to arguably the most grating song of the last 75 years (which includes the entire Slipknot oeuvre). Here are some photos. 

Jim Meehan toasting Eben Freeman’s liquid adventures.

David Wondrich with assorted party makers.

Toby Cecchini during Freeman’s mini roast.

Sasha Petraske made his Old Fashioned pretty straight with Elijah Craig, sugar, the usual.

The night’s lineup