although i am, just like sugar kane, "a dive girl through and through", i do enjoy the occasional quality cocktail in a sultry and more grownup atmosphere. mixology, i.e. skilled bartenders carefully mixing the highest quality ingredients to create flawless drinks, seems to be growing in popularity, and nyc is no exception to the rule. in addition to the legendary milk & honey, there were two places worth a visit, both in brooklyn (who would've known...), that i will mention.
in the beginning there was milk & honey, the bar that started it all – as far as i know. located in an ordinary residential street low, low, low in manhattan, the members-only speakeasy was famous for creating a list of house rules for its clientele:
1. No name-dropping, no star fucking.
2. No hooting, hollering, shouting or other loud behaviour.
3. No fighting, play fighting, no talking about fighting.
4. Gentlemen will remove their hats. Hooks are provided.
5. Gentlemen will not introduce themselves to ladies.
6. Ladies, feel free to start a conversation or ask the bartender to introduce you. If a man you don't know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.
7. Do not linger outside the front door.
8. Do not bring anyone unless you would leave that person alone in your home. You are responsible for the behaviour of your guests.
9. Exit the bar briskly and silently. People are trying to sleep across the street. Please make all your travel plans and say all farewells before leaving the bar.
the bar itself is a small, alley-like dark room with a few, leather-lined booths on one side. they need to be reserved beforehand, showing up without a reservation is a strict no-no. although i don't have membership, i got in with a friend some years back. i had the pleasure to witness the bartenders at work by sitting next to the bar, and still remember the experience as absorbing.
acquiring a membership was not easy and everyone had to wait for their turn; the bar was famous for making ethan hawke wait months for his. nowadays the once much coveted phone number for the bar is publicly listed which implies, i guess, that reservations can be made by mere mortals. the house rules still apply and you're not supposed to tell anyone where the bar is exactly... the luring power of secrecy, right?
well, bkln. my first recommendation, the clover club, is for the history inspired cocktail buff. it has a tennessee imported bar from the 19th century: the solid and dark ornamented wood works as a beautiful background for the colorful bottles and the art of mixing. unlike most mixology bars, this one has an open front and more light, but the back is dark and velvety soft just like you'd expect. their list changes often, serves pre-prohibition drinks, and there are delicious informative stories added in the menu for your reading pleasure. the service is impeccable and the drinks balanced. background jazz was slightly too middle-aged to my taste, but suits the bar nonetheless.
photo from the clover club.
the other one goes by the name hotel delmano and follows the speakeasy style of the original classy mixology venues truer than the clover club. nevertheless, there is a bouncer at the door and usually a line where you wait for a seat inside. this is the hipster alternative to clover club's collars and slacks wearing clientele and is apparent also amongst the staff: bartenders are notably rude and obnoxious, but their liquid concoctions work. when we visited the hostess was acting like a dimwit and we voted with our feet after the first drink, but the bar itself was beautiful and my salt'n'pepper martini amazing.
photos from free williamsburg, © noah kalina.
do you find speakeasies and mixology bars appealing – or just anachronistic and pretentious?