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Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Last updated: 10:44am

Espresso Art launches boutique bar, 'drinking library'



Espresso Art has always been a calm, comfortable, artsy place for academic types to chat, study or enjoy their favorite stimulants. With the addition of booze to the menu, the café is sure to attract even more of a crowd.

Not that academic types have an unquenchable thirst for the devil’s water, but it’s hard to resist the inviting atmosphere and ancient Greek-styled décor. The entrance from the front of the room is designed to look like a Doric temple and the bar itself, located within Espresso Art Cafe, is named the Castalian Spring, after the springs at Delphi, where Greeks sought divine inspiration from the waters and the oracle.

Kellner Brown, a classics senior, did all the woodwork by hand. As it turns out, every piece of the cocktail bar has a hundred-year story to tell.

“Everything in this room is built out of the floorboards of my old home,” said Brown. “I can look at all of these pieces of fir, and I know what part of the house they were in, because I recognize some of the different burns.”

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His home was built in 1880. After acquiring the wood and sitting on it for several years, he used it to craft everything — the bookcases, the starburst-patterned countertop and the bar entrance.

Just as you wouldn’t come to the Castalian Spring expecting another dive bar, don’t expect to order a cheap Bud or Miller.

“We’re not going to serve regular beer or wine,” said Danny Mannheim, who owns Espresso Art, “just high-end liquor.”

Bartender Sylvie Sebastien crafted some fantastic drinks. Her Sazarac, a light-red mixture of rye, absinthe, cognac and bitters, only made my mouth water for more. She followed up with a warm medicinal brew called a Hot Toddy, a head-clearing blend of chamomile tea, Jameson whiskey, lemon juice and honey.

Brown, meanwhile, offered up a specialty called a Dark and Stormy that he said was getting popular around the bar. The rum, ginger beer and lemon over ice served in a copper cup instantly cooled my palate and somehow made me nostalgic for a time I never even lived in.

The rest of the collection, an assortment of high-dollar beers, wine and spirits, was a testament to Mannheim’s claim. With absinthe and ouzo in its arsenal, it’s clear that the Castalian Spring is serious about its drinks.

It’s certainly not your typical college bar. The music is low, there aren’t any TVs blaring in the background, the drinks are made to perfection and the bartenders are educated enough to hold an intelligent conversation.

Rather than going to the bar to get stupid, patrons can come here to get smart.

“This is a place, kind of a drinking library, where people can come and study, and discuss sophisticated collegiate topics,” Brown said. “It’s not a football bar, it’s a place where you go and have intellectual conversations over a nice quality drink, learn something from your friends, learn something about the alcohol, become educated with customs that we don’t really get down here that much.”

Brown said none of the hundreds of books on the shelves are decorative, and that every single one is a must-read.

In addition to more books, Brown plans to add more inscriptions and menus, plus a door to separate the front and back and actual water from the Castalian Spring at Delphi. There will also be smoothies available when the temperatures go up in the spring.


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