First Call: Vessel

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Locale: Vessel, 1312 5th Ave., 652-0521. Airy and modern, complete with a lime-green staircase, and a reputation as an 'it' place for the discerning drinker.

Guide: Jim Romdall. Jim took over at Vessel in May after the departure of popular mixologist Jamie Boudreau, who left, in his words, because of money and ownership issues. Romdall acknowledges that Boudreau's shoes have been hard to fill, but he seems to be slipping into them just fine. He's confident, but earnest. "Listen," he says with a smile, "I don't want to be the guy who ruins Vessel."

Romdall appears to have stuck to the strengths of this shi-shi bar and built upon them. Since talking over, he's doubled the drink menu to include more classics and originals, all carefully concocted in a way that befits a place that boasts "liquid elegance."

Beverage: After asking a few questions about my preferences, (yes I like whiskey), Romdall made me the Esquire, created in honor of the magazine of the same name that included Vessel on its annual best bars list in May. The Esquire-- made from rye, Amer Picon (a bitter made in France from oranges), Cynar (an Italian bitter made from artichoke and other herbs) and Yellow Chartreuse-- was one of Romdall's first additions to Vessel's menu. He finishes it by searing orange zest over the top to give it a slightly smoldering flavor. It was delightfully complex and tasty, though it made me wish there was a nip in the air and snow in the forecast instead of sun streaming through Vessel's two-story windows.

A must: Pulled pork sliders, $5 before 6 p.m. A surprisingly good mix with a good, strong drink.

 
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