Before her first interview at the Graduate Roosevelt Island, where she is now beverage director, Estelle Bossy, like many New Yorkers, had never visited the hushed, narrow East River enclave. “But I fell in love with it pretty quickly,” she recalls. “I think all islands hold a strangeness, and Roosevelt Island has its own mystery.”
It’s a mystery, however, that is slowly unraveling thanks to the impressionable duo of beverage programs that Bossy, an alum of Union Square Hospitality Group and the now-shuttered Del Posto, has assembled at the hotel. Curious residents from all five boroughs are streaming into the hotel, eager to “get hit with the grandeur of 360-degree views of water,” as Bossy puts it, from the rooftop Panorama Room.
One of the reasons Bossy was drawn to the job is the opportunity to bring ambitious cocktails to a community that had long been clamoring for them. The hotel sits on the booming Cornell Tech campus, and thanks to the school’s growing presence, the number of locals is on the rise. They are just as pleased to wander into the ground-floor restaurant Anything at All, where the sightlines are equally heady, for a spontaneous cocktail and dinner.
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Reviving Lost Cocktails
Situated on the 18th floor, Panorama Room is especially glamorous, decked out with a marble bar and pink velvet sofas. The swank interior, and the tranquil waters magnified through walls of windows, was the starting point for Bossy’s menu.
“Right away I knew that I wanted the drinks to be fun and celebratory,” she says. “Roosevelt Island has always been right here and so easy to get to, but so many of us overlooked it. I wanted cocktails that were similar, that maybe hadn’t been paid attention to.” One of them is the Dreamweaver, an elevated take on the lychee martini. Her rendition, with lychee-infused gin, white vermouth, lime, maraschino, and cacao, is a bestseller. Swizzles, courtesy of a new pebbled ice machine, are also poised to be a success.
The atmosphere at the book- and plant-filled Anything at All is perfect for those who want something “slower-paced and calmer” than Panorama Room, Bossy points out. Here, the cocktails have a culinary bent. Consider the Paloma Milk Punch (tequila, grapefruit, lime, verbena, lemon salt) or the Long Flight (tequila, turmeric, Caribbean rum, Grand Marnier, lemon, jerk bitters).
They’re also in line with the bar’s green-minded ethos. The program is grounded in “fermenting, dehydrating, and pulverizing any kind of bar or kitchen waste that we can bring into cocktails,” she explains. There are echoes of this mindset at Panorama Room, too. Sunra (a drink that Bossy describes as a dressed-up tequila-soda) pairs tequila, mezcal, and Topo Chico with Electricdust and a salted lime cordial spun from freshly juiced leftovers.
Bossy thrives on cultivating the distinct energies of the two venues, which sometimes attract the same customers, and it’s working, with original libations representing the majority of cocktail sales. “We want to respond to what people want, but upstairs is more high-volume, so I also need to make smart choices so that our bartenders can make drinks for 400 guests,” says Bossy. “[Having] that many people rolling through the space in a night is gratifying.”
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Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.