157 Second Ave., nr. 10th St.; 212-539-1900
If you’ve seen what Wylie Dufresne does at his crazy-food temple wd-50, you’d expect nothing short of a science-fair entry from Kevin Denton, bar director at both wd-50 and Dufresne’s new gastropub, Alder. But while the well-balanced cocktails ($12) here are certainly unique, often toying with surprising ingredients like puckery-tart zereshk berries, they are, at their heart, clean, simple riffs on the classics, with just the tiniest molecular-gastronomic reminders of where you are. Case in point: the terrific Applethy, a basic concoction that blends vodka and green-apple juice with horseradish for savory bite, then adds a slice of Campari-compressed green apple for a hint of bitterness. Three of the cocktails are on tap (which means they can also be served in half-sizes, for $6), and three can be made booze-free, including the Love Oolong Time ($8), which incorporates five-spice Chinese powder, oolong tea, and grapefruit juice and tastes so good even a seasoned drinker won’t miss the tequila that usually accompanies it. As for the space and service: wood-accented and friendly, respectively—both to-the-point reflections of the drinks list. A bar for the Everyman, with a subtle nod to the geeks.