Destination Cocktail: Buffalo Proper’s “Spin The Bottle”

My wife and I travelled to Buffalo last night to see The Phantom of the Opera at Shea’s.

Pre-show drinks consisted of champagne in the lobby, as well as a quick Jameson and Southern Tier IPA.

If this were a theater blog I’d go into more detail about the performance. It was my first time seeing the show in any form, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

There’s a great photo of the Phantom descending a staircase in the Gusto review, which can be found online at this link.

The other half of our night consisted of dinner and drinks at Buffalo Proper.

Buffalo Proper

I’d looked up the bar/restaurant earlier in the week after reading  a write-up by a friend on Buffalo Eats.

It was probably 10 o’clock when we arrived at Buffalo Proper after Phantom. The bar was extremely dark yet still inviting, and a hostess greeted us pretty much as soon as we were in the door.

The crowd was lively and the bar was pretty full and since we were looking for food anyway, the hostess took us to a table upstairs (which afforded us the view pictured above).

Our waitress was Joelle. She ran us through the wine, beer and cocktail options and explained the restaurant’s seasonal focus, locally-sourced ingredients and the intent of all plates to be easily shareable.

I’d downloaded the cocktail menu earlier in the week and had been planning to get something with a shrub or some other special prep that’s normally not available to me unless I make it myself. Instead I opted for the  “Lion’s Tail,” a drink consisting of Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters. My wife got a “New York Sour” made with Old Overholt, fresh lemon juice and a Rioja.

The drinks were everything we’d been hoping for from a bar that brands itself as a craft cocktail joint. And our second round was even better than our first. I chose to “Spin The Bottle” and my wife had the “Audrey Horne.”

We’re not terribly picky people. We don’t have to look hard to find a decent drink — and even most times, we’re easily forgiving of places that shake their Manhattans or use packaged sours mixes or don’t have a cocktail menu at all.

Still, with Buffalo so close to us, it’s practically a crime that we haven’t had more of these upscale cocktail experiences in our nearby Western New York city. That’s on us though, and not because of a lack of desireable options.

I’ve long wanted to make a visit to Vera, but still haven’t found my way there during business hours. Last April my wife and I stood outside the restaurant one Saturday afternoon and ogled the bar’s set-up through its windows. And even though that was almost a year ago, we still haven’t made it back yet. Hopefully this summer. Now that the weather is warming up, we’re more apt to travel.

The same thing happened in Pittsburgh when we passed by Butcher and the Rye. It’s not bad timing on our part. That’s just one of the detriments of working a bar/restaurant job. My days off are Sundays and Mondays, which are the same days that a lot of other bars and restaurants are shut down.

Regardless, we made it up to Buffalo on Sunday and our evening at Buffalo Proper made up for the lack of craft drinks we’ve had in our lives lately. Serving ourselves in our hometown is one thing, but what we got in Buffalo was appreciated — warm service, a well-thought out bar program and a desire to return.

Any of the cocktails on Buffalo Proper’s current list of drinks would be worth making the restaurant a “destination.” If I had to place one above the rest though, it would have to be the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure option of simply naming a type of spirit and leaving the rest up to the bartenders.

They call it the “Spin The Bottle” option and for part of my meal I feared that it might be a “bar only” option. However, even seated in the upstairs dining room, our waitress asked me a couple of quick questions and sent the request down to the bar. What returned was a black-colored bitter amaro drink made in balance with some sort of citrus. Was it Aperol? Was it orange oil? Was it Ramazotti? Was it a shrub? I don’t have any idea, but I loved it and as a result I’ll be heading back as soon as I can to spin the bottle again.