New York’s Sexiest Third Date Bars

The third date. You’ve made it. Now it’s totally acceptable for you to take your date back to your place and [fill in the blanks]. 

And in order to ensure that you’re both in the mood, we’ve compliled our list of the sexiest bars for that third date. Think of it as foreplay. Enjoy.

Boozy Dispatches from Tales of the Cocktail

From the outside, it looks like a fancy moustache convention. Many of the world’s best craft bartenders (and their wide array of fancy facial hair and clever tattoos) descend each year on New Orleans, Louisiana, for the week-long gathering of drinking, lecturing, networking, partying, and drinking some more known as Tales of the Cocktail. Most of the major spirit brands also attend the event in what ultimately becomes a Lolllapalooza of Booze.

No human being can manage to catch all of the events that surround this libation fest, and concurrent parties lure bartenders with bigger and more outrageous events. It’s sort of like watching Mumford and Sons only to find out that Arcade Fire is playing on the main stage. Here’s a roundup of what went down in NOLA—what we remember of it, anyway.

image Girl in A Ball at Beefeater’s Opening Party This year, the biggest and most outrageous parties were sponsored by Pernod Ricard, whose dueling gins (Beefeater and Plymouth) bookended the week with parties so jam-packed, you simply couldn’t see it all. The Beefeater party was a lavish masquerade ball complete with masks and ballerinas dancing inside bubbles. Along with the pomp and circumstance came some heavy-hitting bar tending. Audrey Saunders, owner of the Pegu Club in New York City, hit it out of the park with her Fir & Gin Fizz (Beefeater 24, fresh lime juice, ginger, simple syrup, club soda and Douglas Fir Eau De Vie). Saunders was joined by Eric Castro, who was the bar manager at Rickhouse in San Francisco before he became a brand ambassador for Beefeater, as well as a host of over 20 other bartenders each making their own drink.

image William Grant transforms the National WWII Museum into party central William Grant & Sons (the folks behind such brands such as Hendricks Gin and Sailor Jerry) blew the doors off the The National WWII Museum with a party that filled the mammoth museum with level after level of bars and drinks. In one of the most absurd moves we’ve ever seen in the business, the William Grant party had cows staged outside which were milked to make the famed New Orleans Ramous Gin Fizz.

image Andrew Bohrer chainsaws a monster block of ice in The Chainsaw Shift Like any great summer camp, Tales of The Cocktail isn’t just wall to wall partying. Ok, it is, but there’s more to it. Tales hosts a wide array of seminars presented by some of the most notable people in the industry. Want to learn about barrel aged cocktails from the master of barrel aged cocktails? From Jeffrey Morgenthaler (who bartends at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon) you can. How about learning to use lab equipment like rotovapors and centrifuges to make cocktails? Tony Conigliaro, owner of 69 Colebrooke Row in London, England, will teach you how.

Perhaps the coolest (quite literally) of the seminars was Andrew Bohrer’s The Chainsaw Shift. Bohrer, who owned the Nagal Lounge in Bellevue, Washington, and has managed the bar at the famed Mistral Kitchen in Seattle, is a pioneer in the field of booze and ice. Bohrer demonstrated how, with a Home Depot chainsaw, you can transform a three hundred pound block of ice into hand cut cubes that fill your glass and make your cocktail sing. Or was that us singing after too many cocktails? Hard to say, as every seminar had a cocktail or two attached. The one at The Chainsaw Shift was a Maker’s Mark Sazerac, with a great chunk of hand cut ice.

image Look out Patron. Don Julio has you in its sights Tales of the Cocktail is also a place where spirit companies introduce their new products to the bartenders, press, cocktail enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Don Julio showed off their new Don Julio 70, the first ever “Anejo Claro,” which is a clear aged tequila. The Don clearly has Patron in his sights, as the tequila is a lot sharper and spicier than their traditional Blanco, with a pepper kick Patron drinkers will love.

image Brooklyn Bitters leaves its mark William Grant & Sons showed off their superb Reyka Vodka, with bitters, made exclusively for them by buzz-worthy Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters. Jason Rowan, a frequent contributor with the New York Times, Out magazine, and writer of Embury Cocktails, runs the bitters company, which had a super-secret launch tasting at the event. Brooklyn Bitters has some out of this world flavors, including Rhubarb, Meyer Lemon, Black Mission Fig and Sriracha (yup, cock sauce bitters!). Although the bitters company kept things on the down low, it was one of the more impressive launches of the festival.

image Russian Standard Dinner at the Eiffel Society Booze wasn’t the only focus at Tales of The Cocktail. After gorging on po’ boys at Johnny’s, jambalaya at Coops, or fried chicken at Mother’s, festival goers could chose from over twenty Spirited Dinners, featuring copious amounts of food and cocktails. While most of the dinners featured cocktails, the Russian Standard Dinner at the Eiffel Society took a contrarian view, and poured straight spirits to accompany caviar, foie gras, and flatiron steak seasoned with $300 whiskey. Tough life, we know.

image Drew Levinson and Aisha Sharpe crash Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Bridget Albert’s dinner As highbrow as the spirited dinners sound, Tales is still a grouping of some of the greatest partiers in the world, typified by Aiesha Sharpe and Drew Levinson’s 3rd Annual Spirited Dinner Crawl. Aiesha Sharpe (founder of Contemporary Cocktails Inc. in New York) and Drew Levinson (mixologist at Wirtz Beverage in Las Vegas) buzzed around New Orleans in a bright green Leblon Cachaca van crashing seven of the twenty spirited dinners at Tales and kidnapping diners (along with this journalist) to join them. It’s this kind of spontaneous revelry that defines Tales.

image A rare bartending session with David Wondrich Tales of the Cocktail attracts a lot of luminaries to the event and provides a rare chance to catch a drink and a story. Notable bartenders behind the stick at Tales included: author and cocktail historian David Wondrich; King Cocktail and one of the legendary bartenders at the Rainbow Room in New York, Dale DeGroff; Steve Olson, owner of Aka Wine Geek in New York; Misty Kalkofen, owner of Drink in Boston, Massachusetts; Jason Littrell from Death & Co. in New York; Jim Romdall from Vessel in Seattle; and, Tommy Klus from Kask in Portland. Diageo seized on the opportunity and threw a happy hour party with forty of these mixologists and forty cocktails.

image The liquid equivalent of 2Pac vs. Notorious B.I.G. You can’t get this many bartenders together with this much ego and not have a competition, and the Bar Room Brawl was the centerpiece of all that bravado, pitting six bars against each other in a winner-take-all-or-at-least-get-us-all-drunk competition. The contenders were: Eastern Standard from Boston, Little Branch in New York, Sable in Chicago, The Roger Room in Los Angeles, and Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon. It was an East Coast/West Coast brawl that was the liquid equivalent of 2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G. Teardrop Lounge and The Roger Room tied for fan favorite, and Eastern Standard picked up the judges award (although our cards had Teardrop with a TKO in the last round).

image R.I.P. Long Island Ice Tea Tales of the Cocktail begins with over-the-top parties, and it ends with a funeral. Each year, festival organizers and key bartenders decide which drink’s time has come and gone. This year, it was the get-trashed-in-a-glass Long Island Ice Tea, which was laid to rest, complete with a second line band and a march through the city of New Orleans. The funeral had its own wake in the form of Plymouth Gin’s Bartender’s Breakfast, a closing night party that starts late and goes even later.

Geoffrey Kleinman is the founder and author of Drink Spirits

NYC: The Best Bars to Entertain Holiday Visitors

The holiday season means higher-than-usual tourist density in New York City, and naturally, that spike in traffic is due in no small part to your own eager friends and family, who descend on the city for an authentic, fairy-lighted experience of the Big Apple in winter. But after a day at Macy’s, an evening at Rockefeller Center, and a dinner somewhere “New York-y,” as per their request, where do you, their trusty tour guide by default, take them for a night on the town? Here are a few crowd-pleasers that will still earn you some street cred, whether that crowd involves your boyfriend’s distant Uncle Larry, Mom and Dad, long-lost friends who’ve emerged from the woodwork, hard-to-impress rubberneckers, or your old high school mates. A comprehensive list of the best yuletide boîtes to celebrate the new year – and the best of NYC.

Bars with Games Good For: Who doesn’t like to indulge in the nostalgia of old-school games, especially this time of year? Whether you’re with a raucous bunch of old friends, have a score to settle with your Mom over ping pong, or need to take the focus off a conversation with relatives you barely know, these bars offer distractions and can make for a festive time. Bar 675: Basement rec room goes for casual chic with Jenga, cards, and board games. Earn extra points from sceney friends, who will be thrilled to tell the folks back home that they hung out in the Meatpacking. The Diamond: Brooklyn bound? Beer makes shuffleboard so much more fun at this Greenpoint joint. SPiN: Table tennis for mom, and the fact that it’s owned by Susan Sarandon will appease cousin Name Drop as well. Barcade: Are your friends from the Midwest looking for “authentic Brooklyn?” Watch their wide-eyed wonder as they take in skinny-jean gangs playing thumb-cramping faves like Frogger and Tetris for an authentic 25¢ a pop. Ace Bar: Skee-Ball bar pleases the kiddies and anyone else who likes bare-bones décor sprinkled with bits of pop-trinket nostalgia from your childhood. V Bar: Siding with the gaming snobs of the world, this spot is best for your Princeton-alum brother (who happens to be a chess genius). Café and wine bar stocked with NYU grad students, chess and Scrabble battles, and a nice selection of beer and wine.

Next: Cozy Fireplaces

Cozy Fireplaces Good For: Catch up time with people who came to really enjoy holiday spirit in the city. Rose Bar: Have friends or family more interested in being around artists than actual art? For example: I once took someone here who fawned over what he thought was a Warhol (he read about it in a city guide) loud enough so that he was sure Neve Campbell, seated a table away, could hear. It was a Haring. Rubber-necking friends aside, the velvety banquettes and giant fireplace are a cozy departure from the winter weather courtesy of Ian Schrager and Julian Schnabel. The Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel: Wood paneling, stuffed animal trophies, and twin oils of hunting hounds give off an English-manor-library vibe. Can be a headache to get a good spot, which are usually reserved for “hotel guests,” monied travelers, and pretty hipsters. Try eating at Gemma first and brown nose your server for a spot by the fireplace. The Back Room: Semi-secret spot for those wishing it was still Prohibition. They’ll get a kick out of drinking their $11 cocktail from a mug. Employees Only: High-class weirdness, with a gypsy psychic at the door and stellar mixologists to determine your fate. The smell of the fireplace and the sight of all the handle bar mustaches will really transport your visitors. Highlands: Décor is pub-meets-hunter’s-lodge, with stuffed deer on brick walls and salvaged woods. Cozy, and it exacerbates that whole “New York Melting Pot” idea. Savoy: A townhouse in the middle of Soho with a fireplace as the festive cherry on top. Shoolbred’s: Scottish pub parlor warmed by actual fireplace. Ten brews on tap. Scotch, natch. It’s Highlands for the East Side set, with a low key (NYU students) crowd.

Next: The Oldest Bars in New York

The Oldest Bars in New York Good For: Skip these precious spots if you’re with a crew that couldn’t care less about anywhere that doesn’t have a VIP list. Otherwise, impress friends and family with the storied, often quirky backgrounds of some of New York’s oldest watering holes. Bridge Café: Opened in 1794, old but not musty. Looks like the site of a nautical murder mystery and is rumored to be haunted by ghosts of sailors and whores, like your parents’ bedroom. Ear Inn: Classic New York-on-the-waterfront feel, minus Marlon Brando, but with plenty of coulda-been contenders. I’ve seen a Soprano in here. McSorley’s: Born in 1854, and perhaps the most renown bar amongst the younger members of the Historical Society, this beer-chugging joint sees tanked fratboys, the cirrhosis crowd, and, after a court order, a few ladies (in other words: no women were allowed until 1970). Sawdusted floors, dust-encrusted wishbones, and loads of cats make this a very special place, indeed. Delmonico’s: Quenching your bloodthirst since ’37 -1837, that is – your parents will appreciate the air of refinement this joint still exudes, not to mention the supposed hauntings. Mahogany wood dining room with glowing chandeliers is the ideal noir-glam setting for steakhouse staples and a bustling bar separate from the dining room.

Next: Mixology Bars

Mixology Bars Good For: The mixology trend is widely known across all towns and townships, so let your slightly underage cousin Timmy learn firsthand just how delightful muddling, zesting, and spicing can be. Just about anyone who doesn’t limit themselves to wine coolers will appreciate the craftsmanship and ambiance. Apotheke: For those who want the back alley as much as they want the absinthe, welcome to Albert Trumer’s quirky school of cocktail science – this former opium den has been transformed into a medieval apothecary by the Austrian mixologist. Bonus: it’s in Chinatown. The interior is antique-sexy, with warm lighting and super-friendly bartenders. PDT: Oh, this is good. Through a hot dog joint you’ll go, and then through a phone booth, where you’ll have to say some secret something-or-other (though they’ve grown lenient in their older age) before you take your dumbfounded guests back to a room with a diagonal slat ceiling, de rigueur taxidermy, and a glowing bar. Note: Make a reservation earlier to get a good seat and smooth entry. Little Branch: By far the most talked-about speakeasy, this West Village spot boasts no signage unless you count the line out the door during peak hours. Retro cocktails served with cool swizzle sticks by tall drinks of water. Go on the early side of a Sunday night to chat up the mixologists and catch some jazz. Mayahuel: The cocktail connoisseurs at Death & Co. built an agave altar. Intimate confessionals, stained glass, and communal pews evoke a Mexican mission. All tequila, all the time, with all the bells and whistles to render previous tequila blow-outs null and void. Death & Co: Dark and polished, this cocktail den packs in a lively crowd. Bartenders in suspenders and vests serve up expert cocktails, and clearly love what they do (they don’t take of their vests when they get home). Great spot for just about anyone who can appreciate such a scene. Cienfuegos: Cuban rum bar from Mayahuel/Death & Co vet seduces with pink couches and sugarcane.

Next: Impressive Hotel Bars

Impressive Hotel Bars Good For: If your guests really “wanna see stuff,” like mine usually do, guiding them to impressively-designed hotel bars around NYC—usually the crown jewels of the hotels themselves—will go over well. Here are a few that leave a lasting impression. Bemelmans Bar: It’s classic New Yawk! Located inside the Carlyle, this timeless upscale New York City bar near Central Park draws bold-faced names, many of whom your out-of-towners could care less about. They will enjoy the classic cocktails and gilded ambiance. Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel: If your guests approach things like rock music, sushi, and democrats with trepidation, this bar on acid may not be the place for them. Shrek-green lights illuminate the escalator, there’s a chandelier the size of a Volkswagen, the floors glow, the chairs seem to float—except for the tree stumps—and the whole thing makes you feel like you’re living in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s that cool. The Waldorf Astoria: Ah, the sprawling impressiveness of the Waldorf – the stuff salads are named after! Three bars, four restaurants, and Jazz Age overindulgence. A certain spirit abides, especially during the holidays. Jane Hotel and Ballroom: This place is for your visiting sorority sisters – leave the parents at home. Dual bar spaces decked out with Edwardian charm, as befits the hotel’s 1908 origins. Posh couches, leafy palms, tortoise shell ceilings, and an ancient disco bar all made better by the creatively-dressed PYTs. Plunge Rooftop Bar + Lounge at the Gansevoort Park: This hotel bar sort of looks like the New York in the Sex and the City movies. It’s slick and arty, with shinning angles and scrumptious views of the Empire State Building. Stoke your vertigo with windows in the terrace floors that look straight down on distant midtown traffic. Your guests will feel so very modern. The Standard Hotel: So this is the place with all the naked people? Depending who you’re with, I’d say a stroll around the grounds with a stop at the bar in the hotel’s Standard Grill will be enough. Unless you’ve got some young model/socialite family members, why waste family time on rubbernecking at Boom Boom? The Ace Hotel: It has a curious cheeky quality to it without being a tourist magnet. The Lobby Bar is reminiscent of an all-American library, with Ivy League reading-room tables, a bar serving up Old Fashioneds and the cult favorite Porkslap Pale Ale, a vintage-style photobooth, and a massive, tattered American flag on the wall. Bring people—not sheeple.

Next: Editor’s Picks

Editor’s Picks Our editors are often tasked with selecting the perfect place for their cousin Sarah’s college roommate’s mother, who’s coming to the city for the first time. Here’s where they like to bring their special holiday guests this time of year. Chris Mohney: Pegu Club. Great place to take any out-of-towner who likes a good drink. Still some of the finest cocktails in the city, and now that it’s been around a while, almost always chill enough to easily find a spot without worrying about crowds. Ben Barna: Fatty Cue. It’s good for anyone, really. Except maybe vegetarians. It’s got the kind of vibe you can only find in Brooklyn, and the kind of unique cuisine you’ll only find in New York. Also, it’s a restaurant meant for sharing, so that’s fun. And the drinks are as good as the food. I’d like to just bring my bros, but it’s expensive, so I take my parents as well. Megan Conway: The Good Fork in Red Hook. I’d like to take my parents to visit this historic, less-trodden waterfront neighborhood. This cozy restaurant offers inspired grub in one of the more unique pockets of the city. Nadeska Alexis: The Dove. It’s a well rounded place that’s chill enough for friends, and I’ve been there with adults and have not been embarrassed. Fun cocktails too. Victor Ozols: Rudy’s. It’s a really lasting, authentic experience that stays with someone. Cayte Grieve: Oyster Bar at Grand Central. For New York newbies and friends and family who haven’t spent a lot of time in the city, the Oyster Bar is one of those bars-slash-attractions that sort of kills two birds with one stone. Grand Central? Check. Getting Grandma drunk? Check. All done with old-style glamour.

Next: Around Rockefeller

Around Rockefeller Good For: Sometimes you just gotta give the people what they want: A Disney-fied version of the most wonderfully commercial time of the year! While your skating, shopping, and taking photos around The Tree, you might as well ease your sensory-overloaded nerves with some family vodka time. Rock Center Café: Tourist magnet, priced accordingly, and you will wait accordingly—yes, even the early birds. Perhaps it’s best to skip the food and opt for a toast instead. Perfect before, during, or after a spin around the rink. Watching wipe-outs with the fam never felt so corporate. The Modern: Danny Meyer’s unabashed flamboyance for air-kissing culture whores. It’s at the MoMa, kids, so take only those who desire such a scene. If you’ve got yourself a crew outfitted in suits and ties longing for a culture cocktail, here’s your promised land. 21 Club: It’s so famous! Free parking if you show up before 6:30pm, if that tells you something about the demographic, but only the locals and culture snobs will take note. Skip the steaks and head for the scotch with the people who’ve read about the place or heard about it in hip-hop songs. Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe: Here’s a cozy place to get warm after running with the masses around Rockefeller. Please remember that other people longing for a night cap will also be directed to this wine bar, which boasts over fifty well-chosen wines by the glass and 2,000 bottle choices on the menu.

Nightlife Try Outs: Intern Alice’s Wide Eyed NYC Itinerary

Name: Alice Urmey Professional Resume: BlackBook intern and NYC newbie.
 One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Fascinating.

City Loves: 
 • Favorite lunch spot: Hampton Chutney Co. in Soho. Cheap, delicious, and a nice alternative to Whole Foods. 
• Favorite dinner spot: DBGB. Fight for a table up front and enjoy upscale burgers and beer with the crowd.


• Favorite nightlife trend: Bars becoming more than just places to drink: Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber. • Drink of choice: Sangria is always a summer favorite. And a Belve and Soda. • Meal of choice: John’s of Bleeker: classic New York pizza. 
• Favorite group of people to bump into: Anyone I haven’t seen in a long time and keep forgetting to call.

image Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber

City Gripes: 
 • Nightlife trend you loathe: When a good trend goes out of style too quickly. 
 • Drink: Martini, who knew it was just a fancy name for gin?
 • Meal: Raw oysters. Briny and slippery goop. • Group of people to bump into: Crowds on The High Line, tourists in Soho.

image Alice, Left

Her Hotspots: Monday: Fresh pasta at Scarpetta, Little Branch. Tuesday: B.E.S., Avenue. Beautiful art and beautiful people in Chelsea. Wednesday: Bar Pitti, Wilfie & Nell. A low key night with close friends. 
 Thursday: Schiller’s Liquor Bar, free entrance to New Museum after 7pm–great incentive to get my boyfriend to a museum. 
 Friday: Start with a bite in Brooklyn at The Vanderbilt. Hit the East Village for Death & Co. and Mayahuel, where tequila is not only the drink of choice, it’s the only drink. 
 Saturday: Union Square Greenmarket for a loaf of bread and Long Island wine. Light dinner at The Standard Grill, followed by a night of rooftop bars. Sunday: Aroma Espresso Bar, Balthazar. Recover from the weekend with strong coffee and steak frites.

image Smith & Mills

Every night: Smith & Mills. Perfect place to end any night. 
 Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Fratty bars like Wicked Willy’s. If I wanted to play beer pong, I would’ve stayed in the suburbs. 
For special occasions: Celebrate with drinks at The Modern while munching on truffle popcorn. 
Brunch is usually: Pastis. Or Bubby’s if I didn’t eat there in the early hours of the night before.

Painkiller’s New Logo Is, Well, Killer

Lovers of logos, get excited. Also, lovers of adventurous New York drinking dens, you can get excited, too. Painkiller, that Lower East Side, 70s-inspired tiki bar is approaching their opening date, and they’ve got the highly badass logo to prove it. The owners, Richie Boccato and Giuseppe Gonzalez designed the logo themselves, with the intention of mimicking the New York Hard Core logo Boccato would see everywhere as a youth.

“It’s a symbol that I used to see so much around New York,” says Boccato. “Particularly as I made my way up from my native Brooklyn to the mean streets of Manhattan. Back in those days, the Bowery was an entirely different and exponentially more appealing scene to a young man with delinquent tendencies.”

Boccato came up through the Sasha Petraske cocktail empire (Little Branch, Milk and Honey), and Painkiller is his second venture as an owner, after he and Gonzalez opened the Long Island City saloon Dutch Kills last summer. He says of the logo, “My partner and I sketched out the logo to include a classically inspired tiki mask with the tools of our trade, a swizzle stick and a barspoon.We then gave this concept to Kenny Colvin of Giant Squid Press, and he and his team ran with it.”

image

New York: Top 10 Bars to Kick Off a Serious Bender

Le Souk Harem (Greenwich Village) – East Village pariah/magnet Le Souk adds “Harem” to the name, signals that it’s not going all PC yet. Belly dancers, hookahs, general debauchery spread out over massive tri-level space. Start this thing off classy. You’ll eventually make it down to the Mars Bar level. ● Little Branch (West Village) – Apparently, “little branch” is Native American slang for “get loaded, righteously, with elegant grace and speed.” Subterranean lounge known for stiff pours. Will definitely kick-start a couple of weeks to not remember. ● Superdive (East Village) – Bottle service is so 2008 — hook us up with a keg, brah! Adult supervision not an emphasis here, therefore good launching pad for the myriad enticements of the EV.

Welcome to the Johnsons (Lower East Side) – Funkiest spot in town — at least in the smell department. Our fraternity basement was Bliss Soho compared to this joint. Décor looks like the rec room of a pedophile uncle, convenient when verticality or even bar stools are more than you can handle. Do not touch any surfaces. ● Automatic Slim’s (West Village) Once dazzling, now dingy black ‘n’ white floor says it all. Bender- starting kind of begs for bar-top dancing, does it not? ● Tortilla Flats (West Village) – Girls gone wild turning muy moronic. Ahh, the real Cancun right here in Manhattan, sans the tans and natives, though commensurate number of social diseases. Perfect when you’re about to indulge in an extended spate of anti-culture. ● Jeremy’s Alehouse (Financial District) – What’s more refreshing than a mega-sized Styrofoam cup of brew under a low acoustic-tile ceiling? Real New York scene of firemen and brokers, plus MTA crews enjoying after-work beers at 8am so you won’t have to drink through the morning alone. ● 123 Burger Shot Beer (Midtown West) – Spring break hits Hells Kitchen. Gimmicky, sure, but satisfyingly cheap. Two burgers, two beers, one shot, one tenner. Easy math for newly unemployed financial analysts. ● Holland Bar (Garment District) – Hard times? Good times. Holland Bar gets squeezed out by rent hike, only to have Port Authority-ass-end retail not look so hot after all. Original memorabilia is gone, so come bleed on a new era’s worth. ● Mars Bar (East Village) – Regulars are a bunch of grizzly drunks, and not the cute variety, who definitely don’t want you fucking with their jukebox, no matter how “authentic” you think their joint is. “Authentic” as in bloody condoms on the windowsill. Can only go up from here.

Industry Insiders: Larry Poston, Room Service Provider

Larry Poston officially opened the West Village resto Hotel Griffou with business partner Johnny Swet on July 1. Poston made his name in New York restaurant circles as a manager at Pastis and the Waverly Inn, and Swet gained his hospitality know-how at Balthazar and Freemans. Most recently occupying the 9th Street space was notorious speakeasy Marylou’s, but the name of the new joint is after the original, French 1870s occupants. The modern dining rooms are themed as a salon, library, and artist’s studio with a French-inspired classic cuisine menu. Poston gives us an inside look at the new spot.

What are you focusing on now that you’re open for business? My business partner Johnny and I are really priding ourselves on great food and great service. That’s what we know. We’ve learned from Keith McNally that no matter all the fanfare and no matter what comes in, great food and great service are the only things that keep them coming back ten years down the road.

How did you first meet Keith McNally? I started waiting tables at Pastis in 2000, so I interviewed with Keith. He hired me, and I worked there for six months and then moved out to LA with dreams of being an actor. I was a pool boy at the Chateau Marmont for four months. So that was my West Coast experience. I hated LA. I came back and started waiting tables again at Pastis. They promoted me to manager on the floor, and I worked at Pastis for six years.

Most important thing you learned from McNally? Keith had been a maître d’ when he first started out. He taught me a lot as far as what to look for with people, and he would say, don’t just seat the people in front of you with the suits and the flashy money, because they always get a table. Look behind them and see the nervous couple or the little old couple or the funky-looking group that doesn’t always get a table, and seat them. That adds to the room and also keeps that eclectic mix of New York going. You don’t always want suits, you don’t always want fashion people, you don’t want all of any one thing. I would love to have Mick Jagger over here, some drag queens over there with a rock band and then some Wall Street guys. That’s what keeps it interesting. That’s New York to me.

Then you worked with another legend, Graydon Carter. It was just that time, that point of trying something new and spreading your wings and getting out there. And that’s when I met Graydon Carter over at the Waverly Inn. That was a whole other aspect of service and learning people because that’s a man who is like maître d’ to the stars. He’s the epitome of a host. It’s his room, and he knows where everyone should go. I got to know a lot of names at the Waverly Inn, obviously.

What’s the Waverly’s secret for remaining A-list over the years? You have Eric Goode and Sean McPherson who know restaurants, and they also have their own chic clientele of people who they bring to any project they’re involved in. You get that mixed with the energy of Graydon Carter and all these amazing A-listers in there for a great dining experience. You get the mix of a person who knows the people and the people who know how to run a restaurant. Once, I was telling a friend some of the names who went in the place one night, and he was like, “So, what you’re telling me is, if the Waverly was to explode right now, it would be the end of civilization.”

What’d you take from that experience to opening Hotel Griffou? How to deal with certain people. There are a million different personalities here in New York City, and then you have a certain amount of clientele that is …

High maintenance? Well, the great surprise is when the ones you expect to be high maintenance aren’t. It’s just having to deal with personalities. Higher-end personalities have higher expectations. You learn how to coddle egos in a way. I think that’s what the Waverly taught me: how to really deal with egos. That’s a good way to say it.

What came first for Hotel Griffou — the concept or the space? Johnny and I talked about doing this for awhile, and we had a concept. We had this place over in the East Village at one point, because we were thinking of modeling after some of those southern juke joints, speakeasy-type places that have great names like the Playboy Club or the Lizard Lounge. But you have to walk into a space that feels right. Johnny worked at Freemans, and I worked at the Waverly Inn, and both those places are very unique — Freemans is down that alley, and the Waverly Inn is at the bottom of a townhouse. In New York. It has to have a special vibe or a special space, then the bones were here and boom. I was never here for the Marylou’s experience, but I’d heard these amazing stories about what was here before. We’re hoping we can return it to some of its past glory.

You’re obviously alluding to that with the name. Hotel Griffou was what is was in the late 1800s. It was owned by this woman by the name of Madame Marie Griffou. It became this real mecca of ideals, artists, writers, and poets. One of the true stories is that Mae West actually did come here after her indecency trial, which is funny.

How long has this been in the works? From embryo to now — about two years. We initially started construction this past February.

What’s your favorite part of the interior? I can’t really choose. The inspiration Johnny and I talked about was an artist’s town house. There’s something about the feel of the salon, and I like the studio because of the crazy art and all the work that’s been contributed. Johnny spearheaded the design, but it was collaborative, and all the work that was contributed was by artist friends.

How much input did you have in the menu with chef Jason Michael Giordano (of Spice Market)? Johnny and I had ideas of what we wanted on the menu . We wanted those traditional dishes. Classical American cuisine is what we called it, and then we discovered that this place was owned by a French woman, and we had to throw a French nod to the cuisine. We wanted a signature dish, which is the lobster thermidor fondue.

Is that the most popular menu item? Yes, as well as the poutine, which is French fries with duck confit topped with a little buffalo mozzarella. It’s amazing. Also, the fried seafood basket, which is something from home. I love fried food, fried fish, cod, fried shrimp, fried oyster, with chips, we’re calling it Calabash, we’re not going to call it Southern, but yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a mix of some rich dishes and some light dishes. We thought that the idea of a great restaurant was that you can go here three or four nights a week and always have a new experience.

True that the pork cutlet recipe was found on the menu from the 1800s here? It’s very true. We have a sautéed pork cutlet recipe that was on the original Madame Marie Griffou menu from 1892. They’re sautéed, lightly breaded with this delicious pork gravy au jus with green beans. They’re delectable.

How was your soft opening? It was great because we invited a lot of industry people that we’d worked for and trusted their opinion. We got really good feedback and notes that we can take with us to keep improving. You get a little anxiety about your peers coming, and knowing you’re going to really hear the truth — which can be unpleasant, but always necessary. The bottom line is that everyone was pleased with the look, the feel, and the vibe of the place, which is important.

Where do you go out? I like Norwood a lot, and Little Branch. As far as dining I still love Indochine and also Peasant.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Photo: Scott Pasfield

Gramercy Park Hotel: Most Overpriced Drink in New York?

As someone with a roommate who tends bar at Dutch Kills, and another who works door at its West Village cousin Little Branch, I’ve been privileged to sample a lot of carefully concocted cocktails lately, filled with as much blood and sweat as they are with gin and orange bitters. These are precise, creative libations worth every penny of the $12 ($9 at Dutch Kills people!) you dole out. That’s why, when a bartender at the Roof Club of the Gramercy Park Hotel charged me $20 for a vodka soda , I wanted to spit up the beverage all over my nice clean boat shoes.

It was the other night, at Nick Cohen’s promotional thingamajig for his Upper Echelon Shoes collection — and it wasn’t $20, it was actually $19, but it stung like hell (especially because I ordered thinking the bar was open). My girlfriend ordered one too, bringing our total to $38. With our own eyes, we watched the bartender toss in some ice, pour an ounce or two of Grey Goose, and finish it off with a splash of soda and a wedge of lemon. When we found out the price, my girlfriend sheepishly asked if we could return them. We couldn’t. I understand it is my privilege to be amongst the beautiful set at the admittedly magical salon-like terrace, but dropping a twenty on a yawn of a cocktail is nothing but buzz murder. Rose Bar creative director Nur Khan was nearby when it went down, and I know he’s not (fully) responsible for this blasphemy, but I felt like going up to him, collapsing into his arms, and sobbing like a lost toddler at the mall. I ask of you, is this the most overpriced drink in the city? Here are some New York treats that are cheaper than the vodka soda at the Roof Club, and way more worth it.

The Queens Park Swizzle, Dutch Kills ($9). ● Cheeseburger, at The Spotted Pig ($17). ● Ramen, Momofuku Noodle Bar ($16). ● The Woody Allen sandwich, Carnegie Deli ($17.95). ● A pitcher of Blanche de Bruxelles Witbier, Radegast Hall & Biergarten ($18). ● Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, Death & Co ($13). ● Porchetta sandwich, Porchetta ($9). ● Kobe Beef Sashimi, Scarpetta ($16).

Inside Griffin with VIP Diva Rachel Uchitel

imageRachel Uchitel, the bombshell Director of VIP Services at Griffin and a BlackBook Industry Insider, gives us the skinny on the hottest door in town.

What’s going on at Griffin right now? We’re in the middle of launching our programming. This week, we started our 5:30 service. So we’re open as a cocktail lounge from 5:30 on, 7 days a week. The week before, we had a celebrity-packed opening night. Sting, Uma Thurman, Kate Hudson, Mickey Rourke, Nas, and Maxwell were there. Lots of socialites and famous models. Fashionista people, like Rachel Zoe and Yigal Azourel. Art people like Salman Rushdie were there as well. An incredible, chic, sophisticated turnout. It was a real opening of a nightclub. That launched our evening opening with bottle service.

What’s the appeal? We’re now a cocktail lounge from 5:30pm to 2am on the nights that we’re not open for bottle service. There’s no place to go in New York right after work at 5:30, and nowhere to go before dinner at 8. And no place to go after dinner at 10:30 or 11. This really fills a role of a lot of things that are missing in the city. We’re also right in the middle of the Meatpacking District, which is right in the center of destinations that people will go before and after. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said it — I have nowhere to go out before I go out at night. There’s no door policy until 11, so it’s walk-in service until then. It’s not the kind of place where people will feel intimidated.

How has the transition been for you? I’ve worked for some of the best in the business at some of the best places between New York and Las Vegas. I’m very happy to work at the Griffin because it combines all of the elements that I learned in my past. We mix impeccable customer service with the most amazing, glamorous room, which is small enough that it can be very intimate. I was working at Tao, which is huge. At Griffin, we’re fitting like 350 people. I work with a great team here, and I have a great product behind me. People can get personal attention here from the second they walk in the door until the second they leave.

What’s the vibe like? On any given night, Griffin is the ultimate cocktail lounge that caters to a chic clientele looking for a sophisticated night out with impeccable service in New York. We’re staying away from a very young crowd, but it’s chic, real New Yorkers. The feel is a 19th-century salon.

How does the Griffin stand out from other lounges? The coolest thing is that we offer a list of punch bowls on our bottle service menu. We’ve come up with the idea that bottle service doesn’t have to be ruled by people ordering a bottle of vodka, tequila, or champagne. Average bottle prices are $350-$400 and up, so the average customer is spending between $500 and $1,500 on any given night. We tried to come up with a method where people would spend the same amount of money, but have the option to do something different. The guys from Milk and Honey and Little Branch came up with the punch bowl cocktails. You can get the Philadelphia Fish House Punch, where the bartenders come to your table and pour in the fresh ingredients and liquors and ladle out drinks for each member of a party. That’s amazing customer service. It’s so boring to order a bottle of champagne. This opens up to bottle service customers that we haven’t had it before. Girls aren’t generally bottle service customers, but if you get eight girls together, this is do-able. It can change your night. It’s not the typical night out. You can offer your friends a punch bowl instead of a bottle of vodka or champagne, and they’re served in these beautiful silver punch bowls.

What would you order as a bottle service customer? I’d get a table after dinner and order the Griffin House Punch for 10 people. I think it’s a great, cool thing to do on a night out. There are people who want to go out at 10pm and be home by 1am. It takes a certain person who wants to go out at midnight and be home at 4am. This opens us up to a whole different clientele who have jobs, who have to be there on time and sober. It’s great for after work or girl’s night out. You can also get our specialty cocktails served in a carafe size. If you wanted to come out with a small group, you can get a carafe as bottle service as well. This concept totally separates us from other lounges.

What’s the dress code? New York chic, super downtown. I’d prefer to see people dressed up, sans baseball caps and sweats. There isn’t necessarily a dress code because being chic and trendy sometimes goes hand in hand with wearing sneakers.

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