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Need a recommendation for a bar for daughter's first legal drink

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Hi all,

So my eldest will be in town for a day next week from college and I'm going to treat her to a great day in Manhattan. I'm about to move from NYC after 30 years here, so I am going through some stages of grief that I am "treating" with great food and cocktails as often as is possible.

She will turn 21 the day before she arrives so I want to take her to a great bar in either Manhattan or Brooklyn where she can tell the bartender to come up with something great based on her favorite spirit for her first legal drink- kind of a fun thing that she will not be able to afford on her own very often.

So I guess I am looking for a place with a good-natured and friendly mixologist who might get into the fun of this. I'd prefer Manhattan, but my girl loves Brooklyn, so that is also a possibility.

I personally like the Flatiron Lounge, but the service is somewhat hit-or-miss.

Any and all suggestions would be appreciated!

JT

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Flatiron Lounge
37 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

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  1. My pick would be the Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle.

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    Bemelmans Bar
    35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021

    1. Go to the bar at Eleven Madison Park, your daughter (and you) can tell the bartender your favorite spirit, your favorite flavors, your favorite "style" of drink and they will recommend, tweek, or create a cocktail for you. If you are looking for a classy place for that first legal drink, this is it, bar (pun intended) none...

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      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      1 Reply
      1. re: Spiritchaser

        I'd choose the 21 Club (if they've finished refurbishing the bar), the Oak Room would have been fantastic but it's closed. She'd like the Monkey Bar I think.

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        21 Club
        21 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019

        Monkey Bar
        60 E 54th St, New York, NY 10022

      2. Assuming her favorite spirit isn't vodka, all of the famous mixology bars (PDT, Death & Co, Pegu Club) will be able to do this. It will sometimes be labelled on the menu as bartender's choice.

        What is her favorite spirit? Any specific neighborhood you'd like to be in?

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        Please Don't Tell
        113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

        Pegu Club
        77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

        Death & Co.
        433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

        1. While not as elegant a place as the suggestions above, DBGB has great bartenders, as well as yummy oysters.

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          DBGB
          299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

          1. You're a very cool parent. I don't know the bartenders at Bemelmans Bar, which David W. suggested, but the decor and atmosphere are wonderful.

            Pegu Club is also a great place to go for ambiance and well made, interesting cocktails. Never had an extended conversation with a bartender, there.

            If having a very nice, personable bartender is important to you, Employees Only employs some wonderful ones, who also happen to make very good, very strong cocktails. (I'm sure you can request that they come weak, if you need to.) Decor isn't as nice as it is at Pegu or Bemelmans, but it's no dive.

            And finally, I've really liked talking to some of the bartenders at Little Branch. They're whizzes at inventing drinks on demand, so you can ask for a "bartender's special", tell them what you like and don't like, and maybe what the occasion is, and they'll whip up something delicious. Decor in this underground space is pleasant (despite the hidden speakeasy-like entranceway) on ground level.

            Depending on the hour, it can be difficult to get into Pegu, Employees Only and Little Branch without a wait. But if you go on the early side, it probably won't be a problem.

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            Little Branch
            22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

            Employees Only
            510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

            Pegu Club
            77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

            Bemelmans Bar
            35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021

            2 Replies
            1. re: michelleats

              Pegu opens at 5pm, and it's really nice to sit at the bar that early, especially if Kenta is working.

              EO doesn't open until 6pm, and LB at 7pm. Note that at Little Branch, you can't sit at the bar, so you miss out on that part of the experience.

              You could probably do a nice cocktail crawl since they're a short walk away from each other.

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              Little Branch
              22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

              1. re: michelleats

                I think the bartender at Bemelman's is Frank. He's Irish and has been there forever. He makes a fantastic martini! Another beautiful bar is the King Cole Bar, I love having a champagne cocktail there. Another of my faves is the Campbell Apartment.

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                Campbell Apartment
                89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

                King Cole Bar
                2 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022

                Bemelmans Bar
                35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021

              2. This is just great -- exactly what I was looking for! These are all new to me, though I have eyed the entrance to PDT while grabbing a bite at crif dogs.

                kathyrn - I'm chuckling, the last time she was home I asked if I should pick up some vodka and she gave me a bit of a look and said that she didn't like vodka. Her favorite spirit is gin, that should give a good bartender some great options.

                I'm liking the cocktail crawl idea (though if I bring her home drunk my better half will not be amused) -- 2 drinks should be fine though <grin>. I will definitely give Pegu a shot and maybe try a couple of the others this weekend before she arrives. Talk about enjoyable field work.

                I think at least one should have a good speakeasy feel.

                This will be fun!

                4 Replies
                1. re: JCT_UCB

                  I would also suggest Pegu Club or PDT. I'm 26 and love both. Personally if she hasn't been to PDT I'd shoot for that one in East Village. PDT is "cool" because you walk into the bar from a faux telephone booth inside Crif Dogs. Once inside PDT you can order from their menu or have them make you something special (just like PDT, Little Branch, Peg, Death & Co, etc). Although they do not have fancy small plates you can order "specialty" dogs from Crif that they ONLY offer on the PDT side. In the past PDT offered Chef inspired dogs.. like the one David Chang helped to create with which was wrapped in bacon, with kimchi, etc.

                  Pegu is also very nice and has a more extensive /varied list of small plates if you'd like some food as well. I went there with a small group for my birthday last year and it was very nice. They are good about accomodating a candle in something, etc.

                  I was at Death & Co last week- although they were one of the first to start the speakeasy trend in NY the ambiance for me is lacking.

                  I find Little Branch maybe a little too romantic for a 21st birthday.

                  If she enjoys rum Cienfuegos looks very cute but I haven't been.

                  If she would perhaps enjoy something a little more alternative I would look into Painkiller which is a Tiki Bar in LES.

                  If you are looking to have dinner to look into Hurricane Club.

                  Hope you have a great time!!!

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                  Little Branch
                  22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

                  Pegu Club
                  77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                  Crif Dogs
                  113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

                  Death & Co.
                  433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

                  Cienfuegos
                  95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

                  PKNY
                  49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

                  Hurricane Club
                  360 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010

                  1. re: MsAlyp

                    I wouldn't send a gin-lover to Cienfuegos (which is rum punch focused) or Painkiller (tiki drinks = multiple rums usually). I find the bar at Painkiller to be a bit uncomfortable as the stools are nailed down into the floor. And Cienfuegos doesn't have a bar you can sit at, so it's not really good for bartender's choice drinking.

                    For something like this, you definitely want to sit at the bar, strike up a conversation with the bartender. To do this, I'd suggest arriving at Pegu Club, Death & Co, or PDT right when they open. The bartender will be less busy and you'll be able to get a seat at the bar -- it's less fun to do bartender's choice if you're seated at a table or banquette.

                    For PDT this is especially important because the bar is first come first served, whereas the booths and tables are reservations-only.

                    I've found the drinks at Hurricane Club to be poorly balanced or overly sweet.

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                    Please Don't Tell
                    113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

                    Pegu Club
                    77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                    Death & Co.
                    433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

                    Cienfuegos
                    95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

                    PKNY
                    49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

                    Hurricane Club
                    360 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I like to sit at the short end of the bar at D&C. You get good personal service and can take in the behind the bar scene of cocktail making. It really gives you an appreciation of the craft. The menu has pages dedicated to drinks of each spirit. But they are happy to work with you to come up with something. The door policy and the no standing help make it comfortable and you don't have to deal with people leaning over. If it's crowded, you can put your name on a list and go next door to Amor y Amargo. The mixologists there are good and will craft something on request as well.

                      I've been to D&C right when they open and it's a little too quiet. I like it better closer to the heart of the evening when there's a buzz. A y A is nice and cozy and good early on. They are pretty much right next to each other on 6th St.

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                      Death & Co.
                      433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

                      Amor y Amargo
                      443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

                  2. re: JCT_UCB

                    I would definately recommend Employee's Only - Great cocktails, great atmosphere, very friendly bar tenders and they really like it when you ask them to come up with something specific for you. It is also a big restaurant/mixologist hang out, which is always a good indicator of quality. It does get pretty busy but if you are fine with getting there a little on the earlier side then you should be able to get a seat at the bar fairly easily.

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                    Employees Only
                    510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                  3. Mulberry Project mixes wonderful custom drinks based on whatever you like. I wanted something with ginger and got exactly the drink I would've ordered if I'd seen it on a menu (ginger, Laphroaig, lemon, a bit of cinnamon, not sure if the bartender added anything else). They also serve dinner in a beautiful back garden. Happy birthday to your daughter, have fun!

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                    Mulberry Project
                    149 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

                    1. not from NY but maybe a bar that Sex and the City girls went to for a cosmo ?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: danionavenue

                        The birthday girl was 8 when SATC started and 14 when it ended. Could she possibly be interested in the show?

                        1. re: melo7

                          my sister just turned 21 and she loves SATC:) Plus there were the movies. Just a thought.

                          1. re: melo7

                            Re-runs!

                          2. re: danionavenue

                            Make sure to remind your daughter to bring i.d. - otherwise, all will be frustratingly for naught! Have a lovely time.

                            1. re: danionavenue

                              A cosmo is vodka based; the OP's daughter doesn't like vodka, and it sounds like they want somewhere where they can get a more customized/bespoke cocktail. Unless there's a scene in SATC where they do that...?

                            2. not that i know your daughter -- but if her birthday is the day before, i think you may just get beat to the punch for the 'first legal drink'.

                              to provide an option outside of manhattan, since you said your daughter loves BK, clover club on smith street is awesome. great cocktails, service is great, bartenders skilled and helpful. can't wait to go back myself. can grab some small bites as well, the food's great. www.cloverclubny.com

                              1. Your daughter has been drinking for years. Make her first "legal" drink a great glass of wine. I'm sorry to go against the grain here, but wine is a far more sophisticated drink than is a cocktail or a mixed drink. Far more nuanced. Giving her a sense of how wonderful wine can be will be a great gift. Make it part of a wonderful meal. Perhaps lunch at Del Posto, Jean-Georges or Le Bernardin. Let the host know it's her birthday when you reserve. If you book at Le Bernardin, they may conclude the meal with their "egg" dessert. In any case, you're to be saluted for trying to make her day special. Good food, good wine and a sophisticated setting, in my book, is far better than a bar.

                                -----
                                Jean Georges
                                1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

                                Del Posto
                                85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                                Le Bernardin
                                155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: famdoc

                                  Yeah, but like my daughters, they may have been having wine at places like Le Bernardin for quite a few years when they eat there with dear old Dad. My daughter is on a first name basis with more than one sommelier in NYC, for God's sake. My daughters have never had a cocktail in their life. Domain Dujac, Coche-Dury, Rousseau, d'Yquem, etc. By the gallon (figuratively if not literally).

                                  But, if she is new to fine dining and fine wine, that's an excellent idea.

                                2. Eleven Madison Park has just won the title of Worlds Best Restaurant Bar, as such, to me, this is a no brainer.

                                  -----
                                  Eleven Madison Park
                                  11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PKR35

                                    Excellent choice. Followed by dinner and a great bottle of wine!!

                                  2. Here's a late entry: the Campbell Apartment, if you're in midtown. The Old New York look of the place is about as far as you can get from a college-drinking scene, and the after-work-hours clientele give it a Mad Men feel.

                                    -----
                                    Campbell Apartment
                                    89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JoyceHanson

                                      Unfortunately, the cocktails are nowhere near as good as the other places mentioned. I am not sure I would trust a bartender there to go off the menu and make a customized drink.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Kathryn is spot on. Campbell Apartment looks great. But the cocktails are run of the mill.

                                    2. I was just talking to my daughter and she asked me where we were going drinking when she is home for the holidays and I realized I had never posted after our fantastic night out.

                                      First -- a big thank you to everyone who helped me plan our evening.

                                      After our usual mom/daughter shopping and dinner at Ippudo we headed over to PDT. I had called for reservations that afternoon and when I told my girl where we were going she was all excited. As it turns out, a few summers back when she had been interning at NYU, the older interns had always talked about PDT, so she was thrilled to finally get to try it out.

                                      The waitstaff were excellent and attentive, answered all of our drink questions and made great suggestions. As someone suggested upthread, yes, it seems that she had learned to drink in college as she kept up with me for 2 rounds and then we shared a final drink. Everything was great and we had a blast.

                                      Thanks again to everyone and we're looking forward to trying another bar on our list in December!

                                      JT

                                      -----
                                      Ippudo
                                      65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: JCT_UCB

                                        Wow - you are one cool mom! Glad you and your daughter had a great time!

                                      2. Glad you had fun

                                        1. Cambell Apartment is a great first bar ecperience

                                          1. I'm chiming in a bit late with this but just wanted to mention the Temple Bar which is really beautiful.

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                                            Temple Bar
                                            332 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012