Lower Manhattan’s Seaport District has been experiencing a revival.
The gorgeous NYC neighborhood has always been a beautiful place to visit, but it wasn’t much of a food and drink destination. That’s all changed, with the development of Pier 17 leading the way. The massive space hosts a slew of arts and cultural events, including a summer concert series. It’s also home to a number of restaurants and bars that are helmed by some of the best chefs in the country, including the elegant, intimate space R17. Here, craft cocktails and inventive New American small plates delight the senses as you overlook the Brooklyn Bridge. To learn more about the cocktail program at R17, we caught up with beverage director David Orellana to chat about this extra-special space.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in the industry and how Pier 17 and R17 differ from your previous roles?
I have been working in the hospitality industry in NYC for nearly two decades. Most of my experience has been as a sommelier and beverage director—I’ve worked at Scarpetta, Maialino, Zuma, and Quality Italian, to name a few. In previous roles, I was heavily focused on creating and developing extensive wine lists by collaborating directly with our chefs and wine producers around the world. As beverage director of Pier 17, my role is very dynamic, as I work very closely with my bar team. I am very approachable and open to new creative ideas when developing the cocktail program, and I feel that our success should be celebrated as a collective effort. This industry is about people, and to me, teamwork is essential to provide honest and convivial hospitality.
Talk to us about the cocktail menu.
The cocktail menu is crafted to be a highly elevated, yet approachable, list of flavorful libations. We love and enjoy classic and legendary pre-Prohibition cocktails; they are our foundation and inspiration. We play with classic formulas and find creative ways to add unique components to enhance our drinks, which are presented in ascending order of ABV—from a seasonal Spritz to our high-proof whiskey Manhattan. These unique combinations allow the guests to navigate their options of flavor while maintaining the ability to set expectations for their stay.
What do you feel sets R17 apart from other bars in the Seaport District?
Our goal at R17 is to comfortably provide one-of-a-kind experiences, which require one-of-a-kind ingredients. We meticulously look for the best possible ingredients available in the market to ensure the highest quality is given to our guests. Specialized spirits, fresh juices, and house-made syrups are all components that lead to memorable sips. Another crucial factor in R17 is our bartenders. We are constantly training on careful and precise execution of a fine-tuned recipe, which at the end allows for unique components to shine in a well-balanced, new light.
What are some of the most popular cocktails and dishes served at R17?
A couple of the most popular cocktails are The Edmont (Jim Beam Rye, Laphroaig 10-Year Scotch, Blanc Vermouth, honey, and lavender) and the Nomikai Sour (Roku Gin, yuzu juice, sugar cane, shiso, and sea salt).
We have so many great dishes, but one of the most popular is the Hamachi, which is dressed with mushrooms and chive oil. The Crispy Potato with pickles and black truffle mayo is also a must-try.
R17 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4–11 p.m. Check out its rooftop patio, which opens on May 24.