Drink Here Now: The Farmers’ Cabinet

On Wednesday, someone told me that I simply had to go to the newly-opened Farmers’ Cabinet on Walnut — just down and across from Caribou — and try the buffalo short rib. (Yes, I said “rib”. It’s a buffalo. You only need one.) So I dutifully took a seat at the bar that night at around 7 p.m. with a friend.

I should be more specific. We took our seats at the cocktail bar, because, in case you didn’t know, this place has a beer bar on one side, where you’ll find more than eighty bottles and twenty-six taps, and a cocktail bar on the other.

The two bars are separated by some high-top barrel tables and a piano, which last night was manned by the fantastically honky-tonky Drew Nugent, whose likeness and music bear no resemblance to that of Ted and whose presence (I found out when he went on break and the piped in music began) is essential for the old-time vibe they’re going for at the Farmers’ Cabinet.

I had read an earlier report that New York City cocktail expert Damon Dyer was involved in creating the cocktail list, so I knew that the drinks would be solid. And things got even better when I sat down and saw the charming Phoebe Esmon behind the bar, smacking ice in her hand with a metal bar spoon. If her name sounds familiar, it should, because she’s one of the best damn bartenders in this city. She may have served you at Chick’s or Noble, among other places. She’s also the founder of the local United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter. The lady makes a good drink.

And that’s just what she did last night. Her Bespoke Whiskey Sour – made with sugar, lemon, and your choice of six different styles of whiskey – could be the finest version of the drink in the city. I also enjoyed the Copperopolis, which she explained is named after a copper mining town (go figure) in California. It’s a combination of rums, honey, lemon, and bitters. I also managed to get a taste of the delicious and limited quantity Barrel Aged Martinez, which she expects to be out of by last call tonight, so hurry if you want to try it.

Given the constraints of my liver, I decided to refrain from further samplings on this particular occasion, though I am excited to get back there and try the Holland Fog and Turf Club #2, two gin drinks that couldn’t be more different from one another. There’s also the Punch Bowl list to consider.

As for the buffalo short rib, it was Flintstonian in size and flavor, and I also enjoyed the charcuterie quite a bit. The kidney less so, but I think that’s just because I’m not a kidney man.

My only real complaint was the seating. For whatever reason, the hostess tried to stick us in the very back of the dining room even though the party is clearly in the front. (It’s also worth noting that all of the dining room tables are communal, which could be weird depending on who you’re unlucky enough to find in your commune).  She then offered one of the high-top barrel tables, though she warned: “They’re almost impossible to eat at.” Judging by the sight of the people trying to sit at them throughout the night, they’re almost impossible to drink at as well.

My advice: skip the tables, head to the bar, and make sure Phoebe is situated behind it.