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Apr 2, 2009 03:46 PM

Kick-ass, old-school, hardcore art of cocktail mixology

Dear Manhattanites,

Minneapolis couple staying at the Standard/51st & Park for a long weekend. Yes, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We know New York is one of the greatest cities in the world for mixology. Please help us get our artful drink on.

Our interests are simple, and all criteria don't have to be covered in the same place;

1. the art of the new talent with new ideas
2. old-school, quality mixologists that cannot be stumped and pride themselves on tradition, proper presentation and mastery of difficult drinks
3. rooms that reek with old-school wood or history that no Midwesterner can find
4. the quality places right near where we're staying (the Standard)

I'm sure this topic has been covered before, so feel free to redirect...for some reason, I'm really bad at searching these boards effectively.

Thanks, Manhattan

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  1. #1 and #3 seem kind of at odds with one another. Not that many places have proper cocktails and history behind them. Keens Steakhouse, perhaps? Depends how much you want atmosphere, and how much you want big ice, fresh juice, fresh fruit, etc.

    And there's not a whole lot that meets #4. Maybe Atrium? Haven't been but heard good things. Campbell Apartment is nice in terms of environment, but the drinks are TOO sweet. A lot of the generation that used to work the Rainbow Room and Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel are no longer there.

    You can also find a good number of lists designed by a big name consultant in Midtown, but the talent that is executing the list can vary.

    Most places are downtown from that. #2 some places are more comfortable going off menu than others, but most should know the classics.

    1. Milk and Honey -
    Read all the instructions re: getting a reservations and definitely follow the rules, bring cash, and be prepared to go off menu (well, there is no menu). No food. Great house made ginger beer. Open from 8pm until late. Used to be hush-hush, had to know the secret number to text, but no longer. Just follow the rules on the web site.

    2. Death and Company
    Walk-ins only, we like Sundays, when Alex Day and Thomas Waugh are at the bar. Get there EARLY. The lamb quesadilla is nice, as are the hot pretzels. Last call is at 11:20, they close at midnight, so not so good for post-dinner drinks. Get there early. Very popular.

    3. PDT
    Tables are reservations, bar is first come, first served. Sit at the bar, get there early. Save space for waffle fries and a hot dog. Reservations taken only day of, at 3pm. Inside a hot dog joint, enter through a phone joint. Hit the button once, lightly. Super popular.

    4. Pegu Club
    Walk-in unless you're a big group. Good bar snacks and canapes, too. Allows standing, can get slammed on weekends. A classic. Their house made ginger beer is great.

    5. Tailor
    Eben Freeman is one of those molecular-gastronomy influence bartenders. He does great stuff like butter infused rum, nut infused cognac, "solid" cocktails, etc. His drinks are available in both the main restaurant and the downstairs lounge. I'd stay in the restaurant and get dinner/dessert, because the lounge gets packed with Grey Goose and tonic folks at prime dining times. And Sam Mason's food is really, really good, if you're into the more experimental stuff.

    6. Flatiron Lounge (and its sister bar Clover Club in Brooklyn
    )Walk-in unless you're a big group. No food. Allows standing, so they get slammed on weekends and quality can suffer.

    BTW, if you find yourself waiting for a spot at Death & Co or PDT, and need somewhere to wait, head over to the bar at WD-50 or Yerba Buena (Artemio is ex-Pegu Club). There's also Angel's Share (but also no standing and gets crowded), Employees Only, Freemans, Little Branch, B Flat, Brandy Library, and the new 'inoteca in Gramercy (24th Street).

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Fantastic! Thanks, Kathryn--I happened to meet up in a group with a New Yorker late this afternoon, and they ticked off #1-4 just as you did. Sounds like these are the places.

      1. re: chrisheadrick

        I would add Apotheke to that list as well. Located in Chinatown.

        1. re: lanadai

          Do they still have a ridiculous door policy, velvet rope, bouncer, etc?

    2. For #2, and not so very far from your hotel, the bar at the Essex House. For #3, the bar at the Algonquin. They look really ugly in these pictures! But they're not.

      And there's a quite new place (nowhere near where you're staying) called White Slab Palace, which has some well made and unusual drinks. I had a bloody beet, which was a bloody mary made with beet juice instead of tomato juice. It was pretty excellent. Do not go in hopes of food, as there ain't none, but they'll give you some good bar snacks free for nuthin'.

      And if you get homesick:

      3 Replies
      1. re: small h

        What about Bemelman's? I've always thought they made great cocktails, and lately have had some "newer" ones on the menu. And, you can't beat it, in my mind, for ambiance.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Kathryn mentioned Bemelman's in her post, so I figured the name was out there. I agree that it's great.

          1. re: small h

            Oops - I missed that - thanks!

      2. kathryn posted pretty much exactly what i would have, only i would put little ranch in the main list, and perhaps angel's share as well, instead of as also rans.

        for class and style i would say pegu club up top. for new ideas i would say tailor and little branch.

        i have yet to make it to flatiron lounge. (hangs head in shame)

        1. I am a huge fan of Bill's Gay 90s, right near your hotel on 57 East 54th Street between Park and Madison. It's very old-school NY (it used to be a speakeasy) and very friendly. You won't get anything superfancy, but the bartenders mix a good Manhattan and know all the old-style drinks.

          Also, if the owner is there, ask her if you can tour the second floor which is done up in turn-of-the-century theater memorabilia. Very cool.

          Movie fans take note: this place was used as a location in Michael Clayton.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Oliverstreet

            Thanks, everyone, for such great recs!

            1. re: chrisheadrick

              If you decide to branch out a bit (Kathryn's manhattan rec's are dead on) you could pop over to Cobble Hill / Carroll Gardens brooklyn to Smith St / Atlantic Ave which has also turned into quite the bar destination. In particular, you'd want to check out:

              Clover Club (some of the same co-owners as Pegu Club) - they take like 5 - 10 mins to craft your drink but its well worth it

              All this is an easy crawl around the street, with plenty of wine bars and restaurants to check out too.

              Char No 4 -- possibly the best whiskey/bourbon selection in a NYC bar and some kick ass Whiskey cocktails too like the Nor'easter

              Diety -- haven't been in a while, but its just around the corner from Smith St on Atlantic and its one of the most interesting looking bars I've been to, incl. a tree in the middle of the seating area...its really quite a stunning place.

              Brooklyn Social -- old school favorite on Smith St. Great old school cocktails and equally good speakeasy sort of vibe.

              1. re: Nehna

                Clover Club are the same people who run Flatiron Lounge, not Pegu Club, BTW.

          2. I know this thread is a little past it's prime but I was at the Flatiron Lounge this weekend and would go again. It hits all 4 points, great new drink but an old world interior. I can't wait to get back.