Flamed berries, a switchel-soaked snowball and a stack of Fernet Branca challenge coins (tokens the amaro maker gives to experienced mixologists) marked last week's launch of Max Messier's cocktail menu at Root Squared. Chef Phillip Lopez's Square Root (1800 Magazine St., 504-309-7800; www.squarerootnola.com) and its upstairs lounge, Root Squared, opened April 23. The restaurant is an offshoot of Lopez's Root (200 Julia St., 504-252-9480; www.rootnola.com).
At the preview, Messier rolled out seven smart cocktails using aromatized wines, vermouth, shrubs, cordials and tea concentrates. His variations on classics included a smoky Cuba libre smudged with mezcal, Mexican Coke and a lime-jalapeno cordial and a bourbon-based Manhattan made edgy with bitter liqueur and green peppercorn.
The Root Squared bar will regularly feature up to a dozen specialty cocktails, $12 each; happy hour specials include $5-$8 select cocktails and runs 5 p.m.-7 p.m. daily. Dining at Square Root is by reservation only and features a $150 multi-course tasting menu; add $45 for cocktails, $65 for wine pairings.