Benjamin Goldberg palms a large ice ball, tosses it upwards and smiles mischievously as the clear sphere returns to the upstart restaurateur’s big right hand.
“It takes five minutes to make one ice ball,” says the co-owner of the newly opened cocktail bar The Patterson House. “This is a perfect sphere, with the mold made in Japan. Only a dozen places in the country have this mold.”
As Goldberg offers an overview of this unusual creative process involving frozen water, one is naturally spurred to mentally visualize images of a violent ice-ball fight, spurred by rowdy Patterson House patrons juiced up on timeless cocktail favorites such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
No worries. Goldberg and his team, including brother and co-owner Max, are well respected for overseeing efficiently and safely run Nashville nightspots (including former Goldberg Gulch institutions City Hall and Bar Twenty3) via their Strategic Hospitality LLC. Employees at current Goldberg beer and burger joint Paradise Park skillfully are able to keep packed crowds orderly, so doing likewise at a small, classy joint such as The Patterson House (bar seating will be monitored) should be no problem.
Located in an historic former residence at the corner of 17th Avenue South and Division Street in Midtown, The Patterson House offers a vibe and drink menu that suggests a throwback to the pre-Prohibition era when tempting cocktails and stimulating conversation highlighted a cosmopolitan American nightlife. Of note, all menu items are $11 or less, with each offering diners a chance to eschew silverware and opt, instead, for fingers.
As noted, a key characteristic that will differentiate Patterson House from its Nashville nightlife brethren is ice.
“We know it sounds crazy, but ice can completely change the way a drink tastes,” Goldberg said. “Our business partners [Toby Maloney and Jason Cott] have been passionate about this style of a bar program for over 10 years and have made the comparison: Ice to a bartender is like a stove to a chef.”
Goldberg explained that Patterson House bartenders will utilize in various manners eight types of twice-filtered ice.
“Having the wrong type of ice can dramatically change what someone might like,” he said. “When you use ice you might find at home, it immediately changes your drink because some of the ice will melt instantly when added to the cocktail.
Lest one think The Patterson House is “all ice and no spice,” Goldberg said the team has fashioned a 15-item food menu, overseen by chef Josh Habiger and including black-eyed pea hummus, meatloaf sliders and truffled deviled eggs.
A Nashville entrepreneur since his teen years, Goldberg hit on The Patterson House idea during a trip to Chicago more than a year ago. In the Windy City, he discovered The Violet Hour.
“It was an amazing experience,” Goldberg recalled. “The food, drinks, atmosphere and service were out of this world. The cocktails were the best I had ever had, and the staff was so knowledgeable and excited to talk about different things I found myself getting exciting and really wanting to learn as much as possible about the different cocktails and foods they featured. The more I learned the more I became interested and the more I wanted to bring this to Nashville.”
As noted, the Brothers Goldberg have aligned themselves with Toby Maloney and Jason Cott of New York City-based Alchemy Consulting. Patterson House offers Maloney’s Juliet & Romeo, which GQ magazine named one of the “20 Best Cocktails in America” for 2008.
Alchemy worked on The Violet Hour, which Gourmet magazine described as “the most exciting cocktail bar in the country.” Alchemy also consults Diageo, the world’s largest liquor conglomerate and known for brands such as Ketel One, Jose Cuervo and Tanqueray.
The consulting company’s experience includes having created the cocktail programs at Bradstreet Craftshouse in Minneapolis and New York’s The Rusty Knot. Prior to his work at Alchemy, Maloney worked as the head bartender at New York hot spots Milk & Honey, The Pegu Club and Freemans.
A Patterson House highlight is the 30-stool, 68-foot-long bar — a beast of a drinking table that allows patrons a perfect vantage point from which to revel in the precision necessary to craft sophisticated libations. Dark wood and leather banquettes provide intimacy for an alternative. In addition, The Patterson House showcases an inviting outdoor space.
“The food and cocktails are designed to hit all five senses, and the only way to do that is to get as many people as possible as close as possible to the action,” Goldberg said of the bar. “We are going to put the finishing touches on many items directly in front of the guest.”
The Patterson House moniker unfolded quite naturally, as the place is named in honor of former Tennessee Gov. Malcolm R. Patterson, who vetoed the return of statewide prohibition in 1909. The governor contended prohibition should be decided at the local level rather than by the state. The Legislature overruled Patterson’s veto.
“We decided The Patterson House is a nice nod to the stance he took on prohibition 100 years ago,” Goldberg said.
Massive bar and deceased governor aside, The Patterson House cocktail menu defines this newly unveiled nightlife showpiece. That drink menu features more than 50 different cocktail recipes, 30 original and 20 classic offerings that remain beloved. House-made syrups and bitters add to the zest, with the distinctive ice serving simply as icing on the cake, er, booze.
Max Goldberg said Nashville “deserves a place like this.”
“Our drinks are all going to take a few extra moments to prepare,” Goldberg said. “But I really do think it will be well worth the wait.”
The Patterson House
1711 Division St.