Brian Felley and Mo Hodges made their names at Big, where they created a smash-hit concept out of what would be a nightmare for many bartenders: making every drink to order, based on the customer's preferences and the seasonal ingredients at hand. But when Big's landlord gave it the boot, they decided to part ways with the owners (who are keeping the name and reopening the bar in the Tenderloin's soon-to-close 21 Club) and set out on their own project, Benjamin Cooper, opening tonight in Union Square's newish Hotel G. (It's a bit hard to find, so here's a pro-tip: it's past the reception and up the stairs. Signage is coming soon.)
With 14 bar stools and scattered seating for another dozen people or so, Benjamin Cooper (a combination of family names from Felley and Hodges' two families, as well as a fictional character with an invented backstory) is intended for serious cocktail geeks, with a menu ($8-13) rotating based on both seasonality and the duo's whimsy. Everything here is crazy-creative, from a bottled-cocktail riff on Zima (gin, clarified lime cordial, genepy, lime zest) to a shot of tequila with a "sangrita" made from a raw oyster, dehydrated tomato powder, espelette pepper, sugar, citric acid, and magnesium powder. Salted orange-chili oil, compressed fennel, rice wine vinegar, and honey-guava syrup are some of the other concoctions you'll see sprinkled throughout the menu. There's also a small offering of beer and bubbly, and a daily oyster selection. Hours are Monday-Friday, 5 pm-2 am, and Saturday, 6 pm-2 am.