I seek out Pulqueria on a tiny street in Chinatown as per recommendation. I was told it is full of mezcal, and it is. The cocktails are all agave-based, though nothing seems terribly unique or creative. Everything is a riff on a margarita or a tropical drink. The most interesting drink seems more than I should consume alone: a hollowed out pineapple filled with a frozen tequila, coconut, and habenero slushy. Instead, I order the Smoking Gun (mezcal, pineapple, lime, serrano, cilantro) and sit next to the host stand to catch up with a long lost former co-worker who I am surprised to see at working the door. The faces are friendly, the atmosphere casual. It is a quiet Wednesday night.
They have pulque and I am excited, but they are out. Next time.
“Have you been to the bar next door?” she asks. I say no, tell me more. Her response immediately dictates I will be making one more stop before my dinner plans with Lizzie. I bid farewell, refreshed by the reunion.
Two people walk out of the door at Apotheke, literally up the stairs and next to Pulqueria. I attempt the door to find it locked – it is the speakeasy game. I wait. The doorman asks for a password. I am befuddled. He gives me a hint, and I fail. “I’m terrible with riddles and puzzles,” I say. He tries again and my guess is closer; he gives me a graceful bye and allows entrance. Ultimately the password is “flat tire” which he tells me was a term for a bad date during the prohibition era. I’d like to bring that term back into circulation. For others more prepared than I, the password can be procured from a contact form on the website.
I walk into the space with couches lining the walls, but none of the dividers as found at Raines Law Room or Dear Irving. It is moody, sultry, and beautiful. This is not the setting for a flat tire. Approaching the bar I quickly realize this is the night I run into people unintentionally; the lead bartender is another friend. I laugh at the small nature of a city so large.
Wednesday is prohibition night with themed cocktails. I glance through the menu and order the Blood Lust (prohibition scotch, strawberry, sweet vermouth, orange bitters). My friend calls the order out to the other bartenders. The structure of the bar is that of a kitchen – the lead bartender expedites the orders and tastes the drinks to ensure quality. He implements the straw test to mine before setting it in front of me. He is also the one to counsel patrons who approach the bar on drink orders and collect payment. A unique structure for a bar, it certainly lends itself to quality control.
I leave my second drink up to the bar team. I am presented with a coffee dark and stormy (goslings, housemade ginger, house made sour, coffee). The drink is tart and tangy, coffee forward, and drinks like a cappuccino.
Apotheke’s intention of an absinthe den seems achieved; or at least some sort of speakeasy den. It is so similar to others of its nature, but the structure of the bar’s hierarchy sets it apart. When I return, I will certainly stand belly up at the bar rather than cozy up in one of the velvety inviting couches, though that, too, seems like a good move.