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Low-Proof Cocktails

The Wild Son’s light libations.

Dinner and drinks can become a wicked formula. The problem—if you can call it one—is mathematical: one strong drink is rosy, but three or four might knock you to the floor.

New York’s new The Wild Son restaurant serves a rather refreshing solution. Nestled just beneath the High Line, the sophisticated nook has introduced a menu of subtle, low alcohol by volume (ABV) cocktails made to be enjoyed alongside dinner, marrying a meal’s flavours without outmatching them.

Fortified wines, aperitifs, and digestifs, which mostly fluctuate just above and below 15 per cent ABV, have long played supporting roles at dinner service. But at The Wild Son, they’re the base for a new breed of beverages, ones that swim with lighter notes of bianco vermouth and fino sherry. Consumed in succession, these ingredients aren’t hard enough to make you lose your balance. In fact, they’re just enough to keep you on your toes.

The availability of such libations is welcome in the Meatpacking District, where star-strewn clubs pour drinks ranging in intensity from blackout to knockout. The Wild Son provides a pleasant contrast, too, to high-proof cocktails never meant to be paired with multiple courses. Food, generally, isn’t memorable when it’s blanched, drowned, or overpowered by spirits. The Manhattan hardly mixes with meatballs, nor does the Sazerac swirl with spaghetti. Surely, you’d like to remember what you ate.

Thankfully, low-proof doesn’t mean less pop. To understand, sip on their Old Medicine. The cocktail’s star ingredient, port, has long been known as the post-dinner drink of choice for a more grandfatherly generation. Yet here, the fortified wine is made zesty and spirited with the additions of lemon and ginger, and a hint of medicinal peat tincture. It brings the vintage nightcap into the early evening’s glow, adding a layer of complimentary spice to The Wild Son’s earthy dishes.

In the same way, the charred Tuscan kale, delicately spiced with fermented chilies and slicked with coconut oil and breadcrumbs, doesn’t need to battle with booze. Instead, it mingles with, for example, the Golden Shrub, a slightly bitter cocktail of Cocchi Americano that’s rounded out with a ruby-red Cappelletti, both Italian aperitifs.

The point, evermore clear, is that while a few Old Fashioneds may clash with kale and erase conversations, new-fashioned cocktails made with light libations will unite the table.

And yes, they just might floor you.

The Wild Son, 53 Little West 12th Street, New York, NY, 212 727-7900