Bentonville, a city in northwestern Arkansas, might not be synonymous with cocktail culture today, but Bar Cleeta is rapidly propelling its drinks scene forward. Run by wife-and-husband team Weisi and Trae Basore, the bright, contemporary bar and restaurant serves modern, creative fare like oysters and rabbit “bologna” accompanied by thoughtful cocktails and nearly 20 wines by the glass. If you were looking for a reason to head to Arkansas, this is your cue.
Read on as Weisi, a former New Yorker who heads up Bar Cleeta’s beverage program, masterfully takes on our Lucky Sevens questionnaire.
What’s your desert-island drink?
What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
I was studying in Tuscany and spring breaking on the Amalfi Coast, spending the day on Capri. My friends cooked me fresh-caught fish and grilled veggies, and we drank local table white wine — couldn’t tell you what it was, but it was exactly right.
FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan.
Difficult… but f*ck Negroni because when Negronis are involved, you know the night’s going to take you interesting places. Marry Manhattan because it was my first cocktail crush and reminds me of living in New York. Kill Margarita because tequila tastes so much better in other settings.
You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
Does it have to be alcoholic? I would want a strawberry milkshake made with Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream and fresh strawberries. If alcoholic, I choose a Tom Collins with Bluecoat Gin from Pennsylvania. Refreshing and to the point. Gotta go out with a little joy.
You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Sadly, it doesn’t exist anymore but the O.G. Milk and Honey on Eldridge [in NYC]. I’ll venture to say every cocktail ever served there was perfection. In so many ways, Milk and Honey is one of the reasons our beverage industry has flourished to this day, and I always hold it up as the superlative of cocktail standards.
What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
Alcohol doesn’t last very long in our house, but best bottle is a Greek, orange semi-sparkler called Paleokerisio from Domaine Glinavos. It’s neither rare nor expensive; it’s just my favorite bottle we’re saving for a rainy day.
Worst bottle award goes to a no-name brand of sloe gin we inherited from a family party. It shouldn’t be characterized as a sloe gin liqueur but as corn syrup garbage.
What cocktail will you never order again and why?
I’m unpredictable with my drink order, so never say never because every cocktail has a time and a place (even a Vodka Soda!). That being said, any drink with Southern Comfort I will dump down the drain immediately. Immediately. Too many memories of adolescent experimentation with SoCo for me to even whiff it without dry-heaving.