As headed up by Chris Shepherd, Underbelly has always been known both as a culinary haven and for being “consistently inconsistent." Food and an extensive wine menu were part of the experience, but until very recently, the adage about the restaurant was “Make dinner reservations at Underbelly, but go for drinks at Anvil.” But with the appointment of spirits director Westin Galleymore, Shepherd is trying to do away with that bad buzz.
As you walk up to it, it's clear that the beautifully stocked back bar has nary a single wasted space. On the new cocktail menu there are 10 options: including classics like an Old Fashioned and Mai Tai, and original creations, like the curiously outlandish White Shirt & Rubber Boots and Missionary’s Downfall. When asked which drink he recommended Galleymore started with the Daiquiri, a concisee mix of El Dorado three-year white rum, lime and sugar—simple and to the point.
When was it decided that Underbelly would have cocktails? “When we opened One Fifth, we started with liquor," Galleymore explained. "Chris and Kevin [Floyd, Shepherd's business partner] are huge bourbon drinkers, and they got really excited for the opportunity to build a back bar." They told him that they would love to get a cocktail program started at both Underbelly and Hay Merchant.
Galleymore confirmed that the cocktails will be “hyper-seasonal,”in an effort to keep up with the kitchen. “We want to provide the same experience you get with the food, with cocktails. Cocktails are more food-driven," he says. "For instance, the Beach Umbrella is like a funky banana shandy. It’s pretty light and goes great with seafood dishes. Same with White Shirt & Rubber Boots, named after a local wine producer, Lewis Dixon.”
We ended the day sipping a Missionary’s Downfall, keeping it rum-centric with El Dorado three-year-white rum, Mathilde peach liqueur, lime, mint and honey, a combination by turns sweet, boozy and with a fond aftertaste of gummy bears. Innovation is the name of the game, and Galleymore isn’t resting on his laurels with the first iteration of the cocktail menu. Instead, he’s working to improve and refine cocktails. “We respect the classics. Since we have four classics that will constantly be rotating, it’s something I want to instill in this staff. We need to respect the classics, they’re important and it’s what you build new cocktails off of,” he says.
We're just looking forward to tasting what's next.