Since starting this blog more than two years ago, I have made an end-of-year list of the top 10 cocktail bars to open in NYC each year, recognizing the best new additions to our drinking scene. See 2010′s picks here and 2009′s picks here. Since I have abstained from drinking alcohol for most of this year (yes, if you haven’t heard by now, I’m pregnant and due in January), I am looking to you, dear readers, to help me compile the 2011 list. This year is especially difficult since so many fantastic bars (and restaurants with stellar bar programs) have opened. I’m hoping you can help me narrow down the favorites! Voting will end December 15.
- September is Bourbon Heritage Month (complete with these NYC events and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Sept. 14-19), and naturally, this is cause for celebration. Kick off the brown spirit-soaked festivities tomorrow night at Brooklyn Bowl, where Maker’s Mark is hosting the first Brooklyn Bourbon Bowl. You can count on two reserved lanes of free bowling, live music, and $5 Maker’s Mark drinks, Brooklyn Pilsner and Maker’s Mark frozen slushies from 8 p.m. to midnight. Don’t miss Brothers among the rock ‘n’ roll lineup, featuring actual twin brothers Dylan and (Prime Meats bartender) Damon Boelte. 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn. Free; Maker’s Mark drink specials.
- Audrey Saunders’ iconic NYC cocktail bar Pegu Club recently turned 5; check out Sonya Moore’s recap here. Meanwhile, Alphabet City mainstay Louis 649 turns 6 tomorrow, with a happy hour from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring half-priced bottles of wine and beer and $9 cocktails.
- Autumn is the season for new bar openings in New York, and Metromix has a long list of watering holes on the horizon. And you can add Whiskey Brooklyn, Peels (from the Freemans team) and Lambs Club at The Chatwal Hotel (bar program by Sasha Petraske) to the list of just-now-open bars–go warm up those fresh bar stools!
Drinking options around Union Square are about to significantly improve as all-American gastropub Rye House soft-opens this weekend before fully opening on Tuesday. Located at 11 W. 17th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., just down the street from cocktail lounge Raines Law Room, Rye House emphasizes American food and spirits.
I attended a super-soft opening last night and sampled an Appleseed Cobbler cocktail (Maker’s Mark bourbon, Applejack, cinnamon bark syrup, apples) and Chef Greg Johnson’s phenomenal buffalo sweetbreads paired with a Nectar IPA. Prepared in the style of buffalo wings and served with blue cheese and celery, the spicy, crunchy breading complemented the tender, creamy offal perfectly and made for a playful bar plate.
Owners Mike Janetta and Rob Lombardi (Sala Bowery and Sala 19) and Julio Herencia teamed up with Lynnette Marrerro (Zacapa Rum, Eletteria, Freemans, drinksat6) and Jim Kearns (Freemans, Mayahuel, Pegu Club) to develop the cocktail program. Lynette and Jim previously worked together to create the cocktail menu at now-closed Woodson & Ford. There’s also a selection of domestic craft beers on tap and domestic wines. The long white granite bar with antique shelves is packed with a selection brown spirits, especially micro-distilled/artisanal whiskies and bourbons.
“We wanted to use small-batch American spirits,” said Lynnette. “Every drink had to have an ounce or more of an American spirit. The drinks are American twists on classics. Some, like the Creole Daiquiri, show the best of American fusion. We wanted to have a seasonal julep since it is the quintessential American whisky drink.”
Plates by Chef Greg and Ann McKinney, chef de cuisine, include drunken mussels with wheat beer and tarragon, crayfish po’ boys, beef wellington sandwiches with filet mignon and foie gras on brioche, baby chicken with buttermilk spoonbread, and stout BBQ ribs. Rye House has a front bar area with plenty of seats at the bar as well as two long, farmhouse-style communal tables, and additional communal seating and booths in the back. The decor is a mix of rustic Americana with clean, modern lines, and dim, romantic lighting. I look forward to returning again soon!
The hotly-anticipated cocktail menu here:
The Mansfield: Bluecoat gin or Tito’s vodka, Dolin blanc, yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit bitters ($12)
17th St. Sazerac: Rittenhouse rye, Hine cognac, demerara, Peychaud & Angostura bitters, Marteau absinthe ($12)
Fleur de Lis: Aviation gin, St-Germain, lemon, orange bitters, champagne ($12)
Orange Blossom Special: Overholt Rye, lemon, simple, orange flower water, egg white, soda ($12)
Golden Delicious: Applejack 7½ year, lemon, honey syrup ($12)
Clara Bow: Bulleit Bourbon, St.-Germain, house made grenadine, lemon, mint ($12)
Rye House Punch: Chai-infused Rittenhouse Rye, Batavia Arrack, lemon, grapefruit, angostura bitters, soda ($12)
American Highball: Buffalo Trace, Averna, soda, orange slice ($12)
Appleseed Cobbler: Maker’s Mark bourbon, Applejack, cinnamon bark syrup, apples ($12)
Rye House Julep: Peach-infused Death’s Door white whiskey, Applejack, mint ($13)
Creole Daiquiri: Old New Orleans 3 year rum, chorizo-infused Sombre Mezcal, lime, pomegranate molasses, cane syrup ($13)
Rye House, 11 W. 17th St. (212) 255-7260. The bar is open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, dinner is served until 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 12 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch service will begin on Nov. 19 and brunch will start on Nov. 28.