When Johnny Della Polla first envisioned Kennett, the Queen Village restaurant and bar he just opened with partners Ashley Bohan and Brian Ricci, he wanted to focus on serving locally sourced food and craft beer. The cocktail list, which he enlisted bartenders Phoebe Esmon and Christian Gaal to create, was almost an after thought. Well, until he learned about the building’s shady history. “We knew we needed a cocktail program, but didn’t really have an idea for one,” Della Polla told Grub Street. “When it got out there that we were calling the place Kennett, a guy named Ted Kennett contacted us and told us the whole story about his grandfather Stephen Kennett, who first opened a café here in 1924.”
The Kennett descendant told Della Polla that during prohibition, his grandmother rented boarding rooms upstairs from what was then the Kennett Cafe, and his grandfather made moonshine in the basement.
“When we found out about this, we thought, great, we’ll do our cocktail list based on this,” Della Polla said. “We told Phoebe and Christian, who are both very creative when it comes to making drink menus, and they loved it.”
They came up with a list that’s broken into three sections — Founders, Bootleggers and Reformers — each a quaffable piece of the space’s storied history. Founders puts forth pre-prohibition cocktails, like a Stone Fence, which is made with Old Grandad Bonded Bourbon, lemon, honey syrup and sweet apple cider. Bootleggers pays homage to old man Kennett’s clandestine still by recreating cocktails that snubbed The Noble Experiment, like the Prohibition, which is gin, Lillet, apricot brandy, orange juice and orange bitters. The Reformers are completely original contemporary cocktails, like The Pynchon, which uses rye, dry vermouth, sweet potato shrub and honey.
“We didn’t set out to compete with all the cocktail places in town,” Della Polla said. “We just thought we’d put something out there that’s different.”
Earlier: Kennett Opens Tomorrow