- One of the most anticipated cocktail bars to open in NYC, The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog recently flung open the doors of its landmark building to much acclaim. Founders Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of the award-winning beverage program at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel have done their homework to create a cocktail menu that honors the mid-19th century drinking scene in gangland New York. On the first level, a pub-style bar room complete with sawdust on the floor serves up classic cocktails, bottled punch, draft beer and Irish whiskey, while upstairs a more refined lounge serves an expansive menu of meticulously crafted drinks. On a recent visit, I sipped the Automobile (Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, Pernod Absinthe, celery cordial, Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne and Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub), the Ale Flip (Sixpoint Cask Conditioned “Dead Rabbit” Ale, Jameson 12 Year Irish Whiskey, spiced egg batter, muscovado sugar and nutmeg), the Bankers Punch (Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey, Dead Rabbit Jamaican Rum Mix, fresh lime juice, raspberry cordial, Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters and dashes Graham’s LBV Port Wine), and a complimentary teacup of Grandieur Punch (Bols Genever, Varnelli Anis, lemon sherbert, lemon juice, orange flower water and peppermint tea). Everything was incredibly tasty, and the wait time for drinks was not long at all, a stunning feat considering there were only two barmen behind the bar and the room was full on a Saturday night. This Monday, Feb. 25, mixology master Gaz Regan will serve as guest bartender from 7 p.m. onward–so don’t bloody miss that. The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street.
- Speaking of new bars, Dipsology has a nice list of recently-opened and soon-to-open cocktail bars in NYC, including Attaboy, taking over the Milk & Honey space. Time Out New York interviewed Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy and rumor is they will open their doors later this month.
- Beefeater Gin recently got the green light to open London’s first gin distillery visitor center, expected to be completed later this year. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit Beefeater’s headquarters in Kennington, I am thrilled for Master Distiller Desmond Payne and his team. Desmond is profoundly passionate about the making of gin and will do a great service to the public by showcasing the distillery’s process. (Check out the video announcement here.)
- Mixing drinks comes with its occupational hazards, and unfortunately, not all bartenders have health insurance. On Monday, Feb. 21, the USBGNY is hosting Bartenders for Healthcare, a fundraiser to support career bartenders in need of health insurance. For $40, sip cocktails made with Plymouth Gin, Herradura Tequila, Santa Teresa Rum, Leblon Cachaca, Denizen Rum, Michter’s Bourbon, Combier, St-Germain, Carpano Antica, Bittermens Bitters, and Prometheus Springs mixers. Bartenders volunteering their services include some of NYC’s best: Lynnette Marrero, Jim Kearns, Jason Littrell and Marshall Altier. In addition to the drinks, guests will enjoy Stinky Bklyn cheese, snacks made by Freemans’ chefs, and music from folk-rock trio the Crooners. Freemans, Freeman Alley off Rivington St., second floor, 7 to 10 p.m.
- Honor International Women’s Day and support disadvantaged women at Whisky &Women Unite, March 8 at Astor Center. Organized by LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and sponsored by Compass Box Whisky, the event features some of NYC’s best female bartenders creating Scotch whisky cocktails. Tickets are $85 (purchase here) and will include eight specialty cocktails, chocolates from Bespoke Chocolates and artisanal cheese. Thirty percent of all ticket sales will be donated to Bottomless Closet, a non-profit helping women achieve economic independence. 399 Lafayette St., 7 to 9 p.m.
- The Astor Room recently opened at Kaufman Astoria Studios, and combined with the revamped Museum of the Moving Image next door, it’s one swanky destination for Queens. Modeled after the studio’s Pre-Prohibition heyday, Astor retains the original tiling and ’20s-era marble staircase. The cocktail menu, created by Lynnette Marrero and Jim Kearns, features classics such as The Astoria Cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters) and The New Yorker (bourbon, claret, lemon juice). 34-12 36th St., Astoria.
- Now open for private events during Fashion Week, strip club-dive bar hybrid The Westway (75 Clarkson St.) is attracting a hipster-elite crowd to its boogie nights. Formerly the Westside Gentleman’s Club and now run by operators of Smile and The Jane Ballroom, the bar kept the light-up disco floor and brass poles for impromptu striptease. With Sunset Park’s jungle-themed, Vegas-style bikini bar Jaguar (225 47th St., Brooklyn) also in pre-opening stage, according to Blackbook, and Red Hook’s Paris Burlesque Club in the works, one has to wonder, will 2011 be the year NYC nightlife puts its go-go boots back on?
- And although the focus is on wine, not cocktails, at Brooklyn Height’s recently-opened Colonie, I just have to give props to the restaurant’s brilliant use of Kickstarter to raise thousands to help fund their opening. 127 Atlantic Ave.
- Since El Cobre let the rum flow in December, January of 2011 has been a good one for cocktails with the opening of several new bars and more on the way. The West Village’s Fedora reopened with a seasonal menu and the promise of barrel-aged cocktails. Another reopening, The Rum House in Times Square, was orchestrated this week by the owners of Ward III (more photos here), bringing classic drinks and fresh polish to the piano lounge. What’s most exciting is that drinks are $12-$14, a steal for the neighborhood. And The Mulberry Project, a cocktail cave in Little Italy, was recently opened by alums from Milk & Honey, GoldBar and Bagatelle. Later this month, look for Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere oyster bar with cocktails by Maxwell Britten, along with Teqa taqueria and tequileria in Murray Hill. And in February, Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini brings The Dutch to Sullivan Street in SoHo with a cocktail program by mixologist and spirits writer Naren Young.
- On a completely opposite note, a new Duane Reade drug store in Williamsburg is selling beer by the growler to stand out from the mom-and-pop pharmacies. I’d say something about this being another nail in the coffin for the hipster-hood, then again, that coffin is plaid, covered in wheat paste graffiti and sold by Urban Outfitters.
- On January 25, Edible Manhattan is hosting Good Spirits at Le Poisson Rouge, a mash-up of some of the city’s finest food and drink featuring top chefs and mixologists. Get a sweet discount on the $40 ticket price here, and you’ve got no excuse not to go.
- 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!
Super! Last night at Dram in Williamsburg, I had the good fortune to bump into Romée De Goriainoff, co-founder of Paris’ Experimental Cocktail Club, who was there to visit Nicolas de Soto, a former ECC bartender, behind the stick. Opened at 37 Rue Saint Sauveur in 2007, the ECC is Paris’ premiere cocktail speakeasy and is one of the few bars in the city open after 2 a.m. on weekends. The clandestine 40-seat lounge oozes with 1920s charm and features tipples such as the Experience #1 (Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur, lemongrass, lemon juice and basil) for 10 to 12 euros. Following the success of ECC, its owners opened Left Bank outposts Curio Parlor Cocktail Club, at 16 Rue des Bernadins, and Le Prescription Cocktail Club at 23 Rue Mazarine in the sixth.
Romée said the Experimental Cocktail Club London is expected to open in the SoHo district (about a quarter of a mile from Milk & Honey London in Soho) this December, and the bar will be open until 3 a.m.
- Casa Mezcal, a ground-level mezcal bar within a three-story property that will soon include a Oaxacan gallery and a basement-level bar/cinema, opened at 86 Orchard St. in early June. Featuring a wide variety of sipping mezcals, including some obscure varieties, the bar also offers a cocktail menu designed by Junior Merino. A Mexican food menu will be added as soon as the gas is turned on, until then complimentary bites include fried grasshoppers and pico de gallo. The mezcaleria is within stumbling distance of two of NYC’s most rambunctious cocktail bars–Painkiller and The Randolph–creating a “Cocktailian Bermuda Triangle,” if you dare.
- Legislation that could have a severe impact on NYC nightlife is on the table. Eater reports that State Senator Daniel Squadron has submitted a bill that would revoke a bar’s liquor license if police receive six or more noise or disorder complaints within a 60-day period. This comes on the heels of a bill from Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman that would impose an 11 p.m. curfew on rooftop and backyard bars on weekends and 10 p.m. on weeknights, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Let’s hope both of these bills go nowhere–NYC nightlife generates renevue that the city can’t afford to lose.
- Tribeca cocktail den Ward III celebrates its first anniversary this weekend, offering specially-priced cocktails, as reported by NY Barfly. Check out Hendrick’s Gin drinks tonight and Maker’s Mark tipples tomorrow night.
- Speaking of Maker’s Mark, the Kentucky distillers will be launching their first new bourbon in 50 years, Maker’s 46, next month. Check out blogger DrinkBoston.com’s report from Louisville on how the special edition bourbon is made–the secret lies in the seared French oak staves. Retailing for $35, the 46 (named for the fact that it was simply the 46th recipe) will be a toasty addition to any Maker’s lover’s liquor cabinet.
- Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans is just around the corner–July 21-25, and the 2010 Spirited Awards nominees were recently announced. New York swept the awards last year, and based on the high number of talented bartenders and bars up for honors this year, the city could see another coup–good luck!
- Sam Mason, formerly chef at now-shuttered SoHo restaurant/cocktail den Tailor, has opened a no-frills dive bar, Lady Jay’s, at 633 Grand St. in Williamsburg next to Bushwick Country Club. The bar, which Eater reports is across the street from his apartment, has neither fancy cocktails nor food–just whiskey, beer, shuffle bowling, a jukebox and standard hipster decor–antlers on the walls.
Bourbon, beer and rock–what’s not to love? Not a thing, am I right people?! Get ready for Idle Hands, a bar promising those three things, coming to the East Village next month. A labor of love from music-biz friends Rob Morton, Marc Schapiro and Dave Ciancio, the bourbon- and craft beer-focused bar will be on the basement level of 25 Avenue B while Billy Hurricane’s, a Mardi Gras-themed “speak-loudly,” will be opening up around the same time on the ground level. Billy Hurricane’s, owned by Roland Jabbour, Kyle Radzyminski and Billy Bishop (also owners of Point Break and Thunder Jackson’s), will feature Hurricanes, obviously, and other party favorites like wheels of shots, along with Cajun food and Top 40 music. With nearby New Orleans-themed bar Ninth Ward about to open as well, NYC seems to have a hankering for a taste of the Big Easy.
Downstairs, however, expect an atmosphere of understated cool complete with cozy booths and an ample selection of 50 to 70 bourbons, on par with Brooklyn’s Char No. 4 and Tribeca’s brown spirits haven, Brandy Library. Although Idle Hands won’t feature live music, there’s sure to be a meticulously-curated rock soundtrack and the bar may even host music industry parties. Rob says the bar is about 2-3 weeks out, so in the meantime, keep track of their progress here.
Idle Hands and Billy Hurricane’s, 25 Ave. B (2nd & 3rd Sts.)