At Fish & Game in Hudson, New York, co-owner Zak Pelaccio and his partners set out to create a restaurant focused on seasonal ingredients, celebrating the local farms and resources increasingly available in upstate NY. While they knew from the beginning that a great bar program would be a part of their mission, how the restaurant’s vision would translate into a cocktail menu was up for debate. Head bartender Kat Dunn, having worked with Zak at Fatty Crab in New York City, made the move up to the Hudson Valley to help build a menu that now blends an incredible mix of flavors, creative processes, and most importantly, good use of time, at Fish & Game.

One of the more requested drinks that has endured on this menu is the Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire cocktail, combining Del Maguey Vida mezcal, chili-infused Aperol, a smoky maple syrup, lime juice and an incredible mixture of ground fresh sumac and dried persian lime. Dusting several dashes of a dried spice mixture onto a freshly shaken, orange-hued citrus cocktail may seem unconventional, but the intended goal of aromatic subtlety and pops of flavor are what helps make this drink memorable. More incredibly, though this cocktail can be made in a short few moments at the bar, it takes days of behind-the-scenes prep to forge the components for almost every original drink on the menu, in this case: smoking the house-made maple syrup over an open fire; making a simple but time-tested 12-hour chili infusion in Aperol that provides just the right amount of burn; and creating grounds of fresh sumac berries from the owner’s farm, with dried Persian lime bits to impart even more of a smoky tinge.

Dunn explains that there is “a lot that goes behind the scenes, but they don’t want it to seem that way,” underscoring the importance of the balance between time, flavor and service for the restaurant’s bar program. It works, and though many point to the innovation and ambition coming from the kitchen to define Fish & Game, it’s clear that the freedom afforded by limiting open hours for the restaurant to several days a week, as well as a boundless variety of ever-changing ingredients, allows for incredibly well-crafted, imaginative cocktails. A trend in many fine dining restaurants these days, they’re increasingly setting the bar for what can be achieved in creating serious cocktails and using new flavor combinations, pushing the boundaries of what can be done behind the scenes to the benefit of their patrons.