After stints running the drinks programs at acclaimed venues like 4th & Swift restaurant in Atlanta and Cure bar in New Orleans, Arkansas-native James Ives found himself deep in the heart of New England in 2012. “My wife got a job as a professor at Dartmouth College,” he explains. “It’s a nice, quiet place.”
While Hanover, New Hampshire, may not be a hotbed of cocktail culture, Ives has cultivated a clientele of sophisticated and adventurous drinkers in the state’s Upper Valley region. “A lot of people are really thirsty for a well-made drink up here,” he says, citing college professors, graduate students, convention attendees and area residents. After revamping the bar program at Carpenter & Main restaurant in Norwich, Vermont, Ives helped open Pine restaurant in March 2013 at Hanover Inn, a historic hotel that recently underwent a $43 million renovation.
Pine’s cocktail menu features nine drinks ($9 to $13). “There’s something for everyone, from lighter, lower-proof aperitif-style drinks to more complex and layered citrus cocktails to spirits-forward bitter and strange variations,” Ives says. “I view the menu as a starting point, so a lot of folks gravitate to one general area within the menu and then we can work to tailor drinks to fit their personal preferences.”
A short description of the taste profile accompanies each cocktail. “I think it’s helpful because a lot of the ingredients that I use are unfamiliar to people who come to the bar,” Ives explains. For example, the Northern Standard, comprising Knob Creek rye whiskey, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and a blend of Fernet Prodotto d’Italia Da Peloni amaro, Punt e Mes vermouth and Angostura bitters, is “full-flavored and silky smooth,” while the Go Getter, made with Wray & Nephew Jamaican rum, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, house-made grapefruit cordial, fresh lime juice and smoked salt, is “bold, herbal and invigorating.”
Other popular concoctions include the Heart of Oak, mixing Herradura Reposado Tequila, Delirio mezcal, house-made orange-clove syrup and house-made pine bitters, and the Long Bright Dark, which features Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Crème Yvette liqueur, house-made blackberry-ginger cordial, fresh lemon juice, orange flower water and black pepper. “I like to challenge people to think differently about what they drink,” Ives says. “The reception has been very positive.”
The drinks list changes every six to eight weeks, with three to five cocktails swapped out at a time. “I try to keep a good balance and not introduce too many things,” Ives notes. “It’s a matter of finding the right pace so it doesn’t feel like the things they like are suddenly gone.” This approach seems to be working: The restaurant fills up almost every night, and weekends are typically high-paced. “We’ve had success in developing and encouraging repeat business,” Ives says. “People up here are looking for good drinks, good food and a good dining experience.”