Happy Now #41

imageNew York (my daughter took the Statue of Liberty photo!)

I was in NYC this weekend with my daughter and managed to get to a few new bars while she was doing her homework before dinner. They include Pouring Ribbons, The Bar at The Baccarat Hotel, The Campbell Apartment, Dear Irving and Raines Law Room. Included below is the entire New York section of my Bars post on this site.

New York is tied with London as the best city in the world in which to enjoy fine cocktails. My favourites from the list below are PDT, The Bar at The Baccarat Hotel, The King Cole Bar at The St. Regis, Maison Premiere and Amor y Amargo.

With San Francisco and New Orleans, New York represents one third of the original cocktail Holy Triad and the city in which I’ve spent the most time barhopping.

  • 365x270.orig.02WGB-PDT:  My big thrill was this past November when I finally got to enjoy drinks at the venerable PDT.  It was, of course, everything I’d expected.  Getting on the list is tricky and easier of you know someone.  Otherwise you have to call precisely at a certain time the day you plan to go and hope for the best.  I’ve also heard showing up and playing dumb can work as well.
  • 618_348_timothy-speed-levitchs-favorite-quirky-bars-king-cole-barThe King Cole Bar & Salon at the St. Regis Hotel:  It doesn’t get much better for a hotel bar than the St.Regis.  The massive Parrish mural above the bar doesn’t hurt and as the inventor of the Bloody Mary, this bar has established pedigree.
  • 6a00d8345157d269e20105358679e3970b-800wiBemelmans at The Carlisle:  Much less ‘cool’ than The St. Regis, this low ceiling bar is painted totally with a mural by the bar’s namesake artist of Madeline children’s book fame.  Apparently he painted in order to pay off his bar tab.  Great cocktails, ambience and history.
  • Milk & Honey:  Many believe this famous bar started the renewed global interest in cocktails.  There are apparently only a few seats but it’s worth the trip.  Unfortunately my understanding is it’s now a private club.
  • IMG_5881Bar Goto (right): Opened recently by a bartender from Pegu Club, Bar Goto (pronounced go-tow) is Japanese-styled.  Darkly lit and tiny, the place evokes warmth and calm, which makes sense given its theme.  My Topaz Glow cocktail was outstanding and one that I will be recreating at home.
  • Death & Company: The doorman let me stick my head inside this famous spot and I was blown away.  I haven’t yet had a cocktail at Death & Company so I’ll have to let you know.  Considered by many as one of the world’s most important bars.  That said, if you’ve leafed through their cocktail book, they seem to heavily believe it themselves.  There is an obvious self-reverence in the pages, which despite being a great book, kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Lines like it always amazes us where in the world D&C cocktails will show up don’t help. Also, I tried about ten of the recipes and actually hated every one of them. Not a good sign.
  • image_955Little Branch: This basement wedge of a space is surprisingly spacious once you get deep inside.  My wife and I had some great drinks and loved the live piano jazz and crowd.  Well worth it.
  • Randolph at Broome
  • *The Dutch, Brooklyn
  • Experimental Cocktail Club
  • Amor y Amargo: This tiny, tiny, tiny space is full of spunk and awesome drinks.  Well worth the visit and just down the street from Death & Company.  The scene reminded me a bit of the old black and white images of people continuously piling into a VW beetle.  Patrons kept arriving and somehow we all squeezed into the tiny space.  Unlike most bars (especially in NYC), amor-y-amargo-443-e-6th-st-new-york-ny-10009the bartender, despite being crazy busy, took a moment to greet us as we entered and hand us bar menus.  We had our cocktails quickly and were asked twice how we liked them, this with them being totally overwhelmed.  There is no pretension at Amor y Amargo, and the cocktails are as good as you’ll find anywhere in the city.  Do not miss this spot.
  • The Daily
  • Peacock Alley at The Waldorf: Of the three famous hotel bars I’ve visited in New York, this was my least favourite.  That said, the lobby of the hotel is a bustling throwback to yesteryear, and the clock in the centre is worth the visit alone.  The drinks were pretty mediocre, though we were finally happy to be the youngest in a New York bar for once.
  • IMG_5898The Tippler (right): Though they serve cocktails, this isn’t really a cocktail bar. Big, spacious and piping Jon Bon Jovi through big speakers everywhere was not really my idea of a cocktail bar.
  • Martha in Brooklyn
  • IMG_5896Bar & Books: The sister bar to one located in Prague, this is actually a very beautiful, small bar in the style that I prefer.  What I didn’t know and don’t prefer, however, is that it is also a cigar bar and they charge $5 if you don’t order a tobacco product from them.  Not surprisingly, the smoke in this place was dense, and I left in a hurry.
  • The Lounge at Atera
  • Long Island Bar, Brooklyn
  • Leyenda, Brooklyn
  • IMG_5877WGB-Clover Club in Brooklyn (left): One the 2015 World’s Greatest Bars and well worth the trip out to Brooklyn.  The Gin Blossom I had was one of the greatest drinks I’ve ever samples and my wife’s Clover Club was outstanding.  A classic.
  • Mixologist Scott Teague of Pegu Club - New York, NYPegu Club (right): world famous and creator of the Pegu Cocktail.  I expected more of an old world scene at this Asian-influenced spot near SoHo but it was full of twenty-somethings being drunk and noisy and ordering beer and vodka and tonics.  That said, the cocktails were among the best we tried in the city and I left being pretty impressed overall.
  • *Dutch Kills in Queens
  • Mother of Pearl
  • IMG_5905Booker & Dax (left): We somehow got seated immediately at this busy place near Union Square.  Really beautiful spot.  Neither of our drinks blew us away but the Japanese (I think) 9 to 5 movie poster in the bathroom was a total highlight.
  • IMG_5899WGB-Employees Only (right): Also one the 2015 World’s Greatest Bars, this place filled completely within 5 minutes of opening its doors at 6:00 PM.  Crazy.  My bartender’s girlfriend runs the bar at The Harbord Room in Toronto, my original haunt, and we hit it off right away.  My drink, sadly, was less than inspiring but the ultra Art Deco experience made it worthwhile.
  • IMG_5814WGB-Elephant Bar at The Nomad Hotel (left): The cocktails were out of this world but the eight deep cluster of clientele made it a little hard to enjoy our drinks.  Going there at 8:00 PM before dinner on a Thursday night probably didn’t help but the well-dressed thirty and forty something crowd made us feel at home. I’d love to go back at 5:00 PM.
  • *The NoMad & Library Bars at The Nomad Hotel
  • IMG_5901Slowly Shirley (right): Skip the happy hour frenzy at the upstairs location and head straight to the basement for this sweet, non-scene bar with outstanding cocktails, awesome staff and beautiful decor.  My Cedrat and Cava aperitif cocktail was among the best I’d sampled in the city and I’m really happy I made the trip.  Well, well worth it.
  • ***ZZ’s Clam Bar
  • *Mace (East Village)
  • imagePouring Ribbons (pictured left): It seems if you ask a bartender in NYC, they all say this is their favourite bar, which must mean a lot.  The space itself is fairly ordinary but the cocktail menu, entitled, Silk Road, was anything but. Rather than being seasonal, like most cocktail bar menus, Pouring Ribbons presents a changing regional menu. My drink was a tikiesque East Indian concoction that included turmeric and ginger. Really lovely. Another huge bonus of Pouring Ribbons is that it apparently never gets packed, meaning you can show up at a peak time and still get in.

  • IMG_5886IMG_5887WGB-Maison Premiere
    (pictured above and left):  Every once in a while one comes across a life-changing spot, and Maison Premiere was such a place for me.  My wife and I actually went for lunch and I could not have been more floored.  The attention to detail in this place is beyond imaginable.  It was as if we’d been plunked into an ancient cobblestone street in some tiny French town.  The staff and service was exemplary and the bar blew me away.  My cocktail, The American Pharaoh was one of my all-time favourites and made me head straight to Astor Wines to attempt its recreation. This part of Brooklyn, by the way, is stunning.  Whatever you do in NYC, do not miss a trip to Maison Premiere.
  • WGB-Attaboy (in the original Milk & Honey location): I never got to go to Milk & Honey, the bar that started it all, so I felt getting in to Attaboy was of paramount importance.  We were second in line when it opened on a Friday night and got a great seat at the bar.  Our drinks did not disappoint.  Well worth the trip to Soho.
  • WGB-The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog: This is an odd Irish place in the financial district near 141013121318-world-best-bar-2-dead-rabbit-horizontal-galleryBattery Park.  The floors are covered in wood shavings and the our bartender was actually Irish. The cocktails we sampled were of the highest quality and overall the experience was great.  Be sure to sit in the main floor room as it’s where the action is.
  • The Bennett
  • *Dante
  • Fort Defiance, Brooklyn
  • Raines Law Room: This speakeasy located in a basement near 17th and 5th is well worth a visit, especially if you’re staying in the area. The cocktails were exemplary and I found the bartender and staff friendly and inviting.
  • *Raines Law Room at The William
  • imageThe Campbell Apartment (pictured right): There are bars that simply can’t be missed based solely on the space. The Campbell Apartment is one of them. An old office located in Grand Central, this is one of the two or three most beautiful bar spots in the world, hand down. The drinks are a bit pricey for NYC and somewhat routine. Go for the space. Stunning.
  • imageDear Irving (pictured left): Part of the Raines Law Room & Bennett group, Dear Irving is a truly great addition to the New York Bar scene. Though the semi-private rooms are here too as in their other bars, the bar itself is a great spot to sit for a drink. The cocktails are inspired and the bar staff friendly and welcoming.
  • Grand Banks (summer only?)
  • *Madam Geneva
  • Boom Boom Room
  • Lantern’s Keep
  • imageThe Bar at The Baccarat Hotel (pictured right): I didn’t know when I visited the bar just how special the relatively new Baccarat Hotel is among the great hotels of the world. I happen to sit down to two architects from Chicago who were speechless. The stark street-level lobby with its fireplace and spectacular light show is worth ten minutes on its own. But, The Bar, a throwback to the long bar style of old world New York is hands down one of the most inspiring spaces to drink anywhere. The cocktails are pricey, obviously, but worth the money just to soak the opulence in for a few minutes. So, so incredible. God, I wish they had one in Toronto.
  • imageThe Russian Tea Room (pictured left): There is a bar here, loaded with Russian vodkas, but really it’s all about the space. There probably isn’t a more over-the-top spot in NYC to drink vodka and eat Russian caviar.


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