Cocktails Upstairs

by Melody Kettle

UpstairsMontclair is a restaurant town, but more specifically it is a BYOB restaurant town. There are over 80 restaurants and eateries in Montclair, and only one dozen liquor licenses. 

According to Mayor Jerry Fried, “NJ State law limits liquor licenses to one per 3000 residents, thus Montclair has only 12. Exemptions include those on State property (like the NJTransit stations) and also 100+ bed hotels.  Nothing can be done locally except lobbying for changing State law. It would be particularly helpful if we could somehow use Glen Ridge's "extra" licenses. Or add several hundred new residents to get the 13th.”

Of the twelve liquor licenses only ten are active and trade as Egan & Sons, Halcyon, Tierney’s, Just Jakes, South Park Street (V Bar), Dlv Lounge, The Office, Richie Cecere’s (yes, they are still pouring), Trumpets, The Wellmont, and new bar in town, Upstairs.  The Charlie Brown’s of Montclair, Inc. license is inactive, as well as a license owned by Dick Grabowsky, LLC. 

So when the Patch writers, along with our newly returned editor, Shelley Emling, decided to gather for cocktails, selecting a place to meet was not too difficult. We decided to try Montclair’s newest bar restaurant, Upstairs, located above Dai Kichi, 608 Valley Road, Montclair. 

Upstairs is hip and ultra-chic, with an open kitchen and fabulous lighting. The cocktails exhibit a collaboration between the kitchen and the bar, many of the mixed drinks contain house made simple syrups flavored with seasonal ingredients like citrus or mint. The artisanal cocktails are accompanied by very inventive, quirky names, like the heavy hitting Smoking Corpse ($11), which is a Gin cocktail with Chartreuse, Citrus, and smoke.

For something a little lighter, the refreshing Charo ($11) made with cucumber infused vodka, enriched with the seasonal flavors of jalapeno and mint that really wakes up the palate. 

MadhatterThen, there’s my favorite, the Madhatter ($11). The Madhatter, a play on the name of the cocktail “Manhattan,” is made with Makers Mark Bourbon, and contains Orange Bitters and pecan simple syrup. The subtle notes of vanilla and caramel enhance the rich bourbon, while the orange keeps it fresh and bright.  It is rich, smooth and one, honestly, does the trick.

Upstairs offers wine by the glass and the bottle.  I recommend the 2007 Bommarito Cab, Shelley Emling’s favorite is the 2008 Rioja, and Scott Hirshberg, general manager of Upstairs, recommends the 2008 Petalos Mencia Bierzo.  Upstairs also carries beers ranging from $4 -$7, with one beer a Belgian Triple Ale, Maredsous Tripel, priced at $8. 

Click here to see Upstairs' bartender, Joe Landolfi, mix up a Madhatter!

So what’s your favorite bar in Montclair? Do you think the town would benefit from a 13th liquor license?