Glowing from this dim side of Chrystie Street is the gallery: white walls, pink neon, large-format, nonobjective paintings. A friend leads the four of us inside. The gallery is small, four clean walls, the right back corner transitioning into a small alcove where one might hide, out-of-site, from the front window. It’s deceiving. We go to the opposite corner; Diego opens an unmarked door, the sort of door that looks as though it shouldn’t be opened, irrelevant.
Inside it’s dim, flickering firelight and crystal chandeliers. A long bar stands to the left of the space; opposite, there are couches and low tables grouped on either side of a fireplace. A DJ booth holds the far corner behind the bar, in hiding. We have to shout over the music. There’s a simple rawness to the space: the chemical-treated exposed brick of the backbar, the creaking hardwood floors. The space is adequately crowded for a Thursday–the conundrum of a “secret” NYC bar. Still, service is prompt and friendly, and crowd varied but mostly stylish, young.
The four of us encircle the cocktail menu: oohing and awing the selection. There’s highlights of every category: the Rose Selavy—the floral, refreshing easy-drinking gin drink (gin, rose syrup, lemon, cucumber); the requisite spicy tequila cocktail, Fig. 19 Blackberry Margarita (jalapeño infused tequila, blackberry puree, lime, angostura bitters) which we nearly order; a couple of sherry drinks for good measure; a single vodka concoction complete with lavender syrup, elderflower liqueur, and lemon, called The Prince.
With a swift flick of the menu, Michelle says she’ll have The Standoff (mezcal, pear brandy, agave, sherry, lime).The cocktail is balanced with layers of smoke, citrus, faint fruit, and the softness of sherry. It’s smooth, harmonic. One could easily make an evening of this beverage.
A group discussion unfolds between the two tequila cocktails–Kathryn’s preferential spirit, she’ll order something spicy by default–but we’re intrigued by the flavor play of Midnight in Paris (tequila, ginger syrup, bitter cocoa liquor, lemon, mole bitters). In a tumbler, on the rocks, garnished with nibs of cocoa, the drink is an international mix of favored flavors. We love the sweet-bitter play of the cocoa and mole underneath the snap of ginger and lemon.
I order the Vanishing Point (vanilla bean and cinnamon infused gin, lemon, agave, egg white, sea salt). Served up, there is a perfect balance of liquid and egg foam; the drink has that desert-like texture I look for in an egg white cocktail. The sweet-spice infused gin is faintly aromatic and sweet without being sugary, a pleasant tartness to the finish. The sea salt isn’t a standout element, rather working balance in the shadow of other flavors.
It’s a good showing here on this menu, a real work of art.