Combining local arts, culture and camaraderie around a cocktail is the mission of Produce Bar Co., and the reason local legends Carlos Villarreal and Johnny Garcia introduced craft beer and wine-based cocktails inside the Produce Art Gallery. Well-loved by the community, the Produce Bar Co. and the gallery in which it resides represent a collaboration between Villarreal and Garcia, who have found a way to create a living art gallery mixer with cocktails that complement the art.
“Art and supporting local art has always been what we’ve done our entire adult lives. We have a passion for it; we always want to [provide] local artists [with] a space where they can showcase their stuff in a gallery that’s accessible,” Garcia said. “Then, we decided to elevate the experience…it’s a cohesive idea: art and a drink menu that complements the overall vibe.”
So, what kind of cocktails come from behind that shiny new bar top? “We’re an art gallery, so we don’t want to lose that essence by pushing too far in one direction. We settled on beer and wine,” said Villarreal. “We’ve also essentially tried to take it as a challenge and as an opportunity to offer [drinks] other places don’t offer or wouldn’t necessarily think to offer.”
Produce Bar Co. has rolled with spin-offs of the classics, like a margarita or old fashioned, by using smooth-finishing liquor-infused sakes that have the taste of a spirit, but not quite the bite. “I’m an old fashioned drinker,” Villarreal said about his own favorite on the Produce Bar Co. menu. The Fiery Fashioned is the gallery’s take on a smoked old fashioned using whiskey-infused sake. While Villarreal favors the cocktail concoctions, Garcia leans toward curating the beer selection and chatting over the lagers, IPAs and international selections they’re going to stock the cooler with.
Anchored by a righteous craft beer and wine by the glass selection, the cocktail menu is re-invented with each month’s art installation to further the immersive affair. The Produce Bar Co. team collaborates with exhibiting artists to curate a special cocktail menu at the start of the exhibition’s run. This ever-changing cocktail menu and its parallels to the displayed art allow for a unique drink experience unlike anything else.