Don’t look for a sign with Honor Kitchen & Cocktails’ name on it, because you won’t find one anywhere on this Emeryville bar’s exterior. At Honor, which invokes the spirit of Prohibition-era speakeasies that operated in semi-secrecy, management has not removed the “Sushi Village — Fine Foods” sign left over from the building’s previous occupant. Step inside and you’ll find whimsical curios on display in the lobby, a dark interior with warm, golden lighting, and an open kitchen whose aromas make you immediately forget any diet you might have been following. Born in Hawaii and raised on the East Coast, bar manager Eric Grenier got his start in the bar business at the age of 17, checking ID’s and providing security for nightclubs he was too young to legally patronize. Grenier has had a wide variety of careers, including serving in the Navy as a hospital corpsman and selling real estate. He holds a degree from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, has lived in the Bay Area since 2010, and is an active member of the Northern California chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.
Are the drinks you’re pouring making artistic statements? We’re putting a modern twist on classic cocktails. Less is more. I find myself looking at drinks on cocktail lists where ingredients are being used that don’t need to be. I like to be able to taste all the ingredients.
How important is it to have your drinks and décor pay tribute to the Prohibition era? The term “Prohibition era” is a bit overused and trite now, but that seems to be the last documented time when our industry was held in high regard, and it shouldn’t be ignored. Regarding the drink recipes from that age, anything that’s been around for 80 or 90 years is bound to be good.
Do your food and drink offerings sometimes reflect a common theme? Yes. Our chef and I definitely get our creative juices flowing. For example, our in-house butcher creates a pork hazelnut sausage with a fair amount of Nocino [black walnut liqueur] involved, and there’s a cocktail that consequently finds its way onto our menu every autumn that uses Nocino as well.
Bartenders tend to be skeptical about things like bartending school, and that skepticism could extend to something like the Bartenders’ Guild. What benefit do you derive from your membership in it? I’m 10 times better as a bartender than I used to be. The guild promotes the art and craft of bartending with educational and charity events. It’s quite a tight-knit community of bartenders who really take it seriously. Out here, it seems the area as a whole has embraced bartending as a viable career path, as opposed to something you do to pay your bills while you’re pursuing some other career.
It sounds like in the beginning, bartending was something you did while pursuing other types of training and work experience. Yes, I realized I’d been searching for something I had already found. It finally dawned on me that I was doing something I loved.
IF YOU GO:
Honor Kitchen & Cocktails
1411 Powell St.
Emeryville, CA 94608