For Harrison Ginsberg, hospitality is a way of life.
The bar director — currently running NYC’s Overstory, Crown Shy, and Saga — has been working in the industry since he was just 13. And his deep understanding of the culinary world can be felt (and tasted) each time one enters a bar he runs.
Ginsberg’s career began to take off once he started at Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. “I thought the restaurant management track was gonna be better for me,” he says of working at some local fine-dining staples like Gracie’s. While in Providence, his interest in the cocktail scene began to grow. Soon, he found himself being mentored by a bartender at gastropub Cook & Brown Public House and The Dorrance, who showed him the ropes in high-end mixology. “I knew how to bartend,” he says, “but not like that.”
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He caught the bartending bug, pining for a job behind the bar. “I just wanted to work for free and learn,” he says.
Today, Ginsberg’s resume includes some of the more well-respected spots in the industry — Chicago’s The Dawson, NYC’s The Dead Rabbit, Estela, and Blacktail, to name a few. He didn’t get there overnight, though. The climb to these top bars was a grind, and earning the respect of his peers wasn’t an easy task. “I was just working hard,” he says. “That’s all it was.”
After working behind top bars for years, Ginsberg had the opportunity to help open Crown Shy at 70 Pine Street in NYC’s Financial District. As head bartender, he helped design the bar’s menu — soon moving up to bar manager, then bar director. “Maybe in hindsight, I should’ve bartended a little longer just to cherish it,” he admits.
But leading teams seems to be in Ginsberg’s blood. While crafting unique creations is his passion, his success in designing bar programs is almost unmatched. When the Crown Shy team decided to open Saga and Overstory last August — a restaurant and cocktail bar on the 63rd and 64th floors of 70 Pine, respectively — Ginsberg’s influence could not be overstated. His vision is reflected in every inch of the spaces, from the menus to the decor and the music.
All the while, Ginsberg was also helping some of his team members open other spots around the city, like Mel’s and Al Coro in Chelsea. When designing the cocktail lists at both, he made sure to stick to his philosophy: “Be true to the concept.” At Mel’s, a pizza joint, he leaned on simple aperitivos to match the spot’s non-fussy vibe — a leap from the experimental concoctions served at Overstory that recently snagged it a spot on 2022’s World’s 50 Best Bars list, among other accolades. “I don’t want to be a one-trick pony,” he stresses.
Ginsberg’s delicate touch and culinary approach to drinks makes each menu he crafts dynamic and accessible — his background in restaurants and hospitality fueling his interest in unique ingredients and innovative techniques, and ensuring his cocktails set the gold standard for the industry as a whole. Everything from the food to the physical space informs each menu he curates. “I’ve poured so much energy into this,” he says. “I treat these places like my babies.”