When you visit the new Swine Southern Table & Bar, you’ll want to head upstairs first. That’s where bar manager Robert Ferrara will be, mixing what could be some of the finest cocktails Coral Gables has ever tasted.
On your way to the bar you’ll pass authentic Southern-style accessories adorning the walls and a huge wooden barrel nestled between two tables. The latter is not just for show; it’s filled with one of Ferrara’s signature cocktails. He batched Kappa Pisco, Dolin Blanc and Mandarine Napoleon in an old Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel to age the cocktail for six to eight weeks – softening it and giving it more depth with the residual smokiness, vanilla and caramel notes from the barrel. This is just one trick up his sleeve.
Ferrara’s broad cocktail list includes an array of about 15 classics, twists on classics, and new creations. There’s also more premium bourbon and rye than there’s space for bottles on the back bar. The impressive selection includes the revered Macallan 25 and the top-rated line from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery (Hello, Pappy), which happen to be Ferrara’s favorites.
“There’s nothing like this in the area,” Ferrara said. “I worked for one of the best chefs [Andrew Carmellini] in the country at The Dutch in the W South Beach. It took a lot for me to leave that and come here.”
THE COCKTAIL MENU IS INTENSE
His passion for the new spot is palpable. Sit at his bar and take a good look at each specialty drink on the menu. The delicately balanced “Swine Old Fashioned” with bacon-washed Old Overholt Rye, maple syrup, and homemade “Swine” bitters is a standout and an evergreen item on the menu.
“The hint of bacon is not overpowering. It’s not too dry either, which is great because if I wanted something dry, I’d just order bourbon on the rocks,” said Hillary Choo, a prized Miami mixologist, who tasted the menu before the opening.
What will change every month or so is the “Southern Tribute,” a section on the menu where you’ll find superstar bartenders from across the country ponying up their favorite recipes for the love of Swine.
First up: the legendary “Penicillin,” a scotch-based cocktail created by Sam Ross of the famed Milk & Honey and Attaboy (opening soon) in New York City.
“Sam was generous enough to tell us exactly how to make it and we’re going to tell everyone what it is. We’ll educate people, but not in a pompous way,” said Ferrara.
The cocktail is a must-try for its charming blend of Great King Scotch, fresh ginger, lemon, and local honey. The clincher is the Laphroaig 10-year spray that coats the inside of the glass before anything else happens. It’s wildly peaty (think smoke and moss) on the nose, which will seduce any scotch lover.
For a more graceful take on the classic Sazerac, ask for the “Georgia Peach,” a cocktail with peach-infused Jim Beam Rye and Southern Style bitters served over a giant cube. The Crème de Peche spray (in lieu of absinthe) is downright delightful.
A rare offering will come in the form of bottle-aged cocktails, a technique Ferrara learned across the pond with Alex Kratena, an award-winning bartender from London. Only a handful of people, including Naren Young of New York City, are using this method in the United States. In contrast to wooden barrels, it takes a lot longer (typically up to one year) to passively manipulate the flavors of a cocktail in glass.
There’s also the added fun of sealing the bottle with hot wax. “It’s just like melting chocolate,” beverage director Allegra Angelo pointed out.
Ferrara will only release 10 bottles a month of the astonishingly luxe “Vieux Carré,” a New Orleans recipe from the late 1930s. This rendition features Bulleit Rye, Paul Beau VS Cognac, Benedictine, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, and Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. It’s stirred and served with a lemon twist over a rock.
“The Trace of Lightning” employs another playful bottling practice. Ferrara serves his aged combo of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Laird’s Apple Jack brandy, sorghum syrup and Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters in mini soda bottles with ice on the side. It’s a bit carbonated after spending all of that time in the glass and very easy to drink.
Ferrara goes on a limb to link rye and rum in the “Good Ritten Sour:” Santa Teresa Añejo, Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye, fresh lemon, basil, and egg white, topped with Rioja drizzle and a decadent Filthy Food Black Cherry. This drink embodies the kind of innovation that could cause the most discerning cocktail geeks to have serious cravings.
“I want this to be the spot where people come when they get off the plane,” said Ferrara.
Galena Mosovich is the lead writer for cocktail culture for Miami.com