Get Ready For Smaller Cocktails

Tapas are bullshit, and let me tell you why. Because while there’s nothing wrong with a variety of different bites served on small plates meant for sharing, the end result, and reason for the rise of tapas in trendy restaurants, is less food for more money. You know you’ve been to a tapas place when you pick up a slice of pizza on the way home with the three dollars you have left in your pocket. But of course you’re a philistine if you question the value of tapas. If you want a full belly on the cheap, Taco Bell is right this way, Bubba. Well, as Eric Felten pointed out in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, tiny cocktails are the new thing, and they’re tastier and more sophisticated than the regular bloated varieties, so don’t embarrass yourself by complaining that you’ve blown all your money and you’re still sober, okay?

To be sure, it’s a smart, well-researched article that takes pains to point out that cocktails, much like American waistlines, have grown much larger over the past century, and smaller drinks are more historically accurate. I was certainly interested to learn that the martinis Hemingway drank in the 1940’s were a mere two ounces. And Felten’s not alone in his observations. Esquire drinks correspondent Dave Wondrich has been banging the small-drinks drum for years.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that martinis are at their best when they’re extremely cold. But we know how these things go. The drinks will shrink a lot, the prices will shrink a little (if at all), and the difference will be made up in … awesomeness? Bottle service is a (brilliant) way to force people to mix their own cocktails at bars and feel special doing it, and high-end New York nightlife might not have survived without it, so maybe it’s best to just look at this as a price hike and move on with our lives. Nobody’s going to quit going to bars because of it.

But before we get all effete and euro with our cocktails and sip with our pinkies sticking out, take a moment to acknowledge the success of the American bigger-is-better ethos. It got us the world’s #1 economy, the enduring popularity of the Cadillac, and a multi-billion-dollar sport that doesn’t care that the rest of the world uses the name football for a game that centers around pretending you’ve been hurt. Much of the time, bigger really is better, and if you’re charging me $20 for a martini, yes, it should absolutely have some heft to it. Don’t worry, I’m capable of tossing in an ice cube from my water glass as it gets low. No finer drinker than James Bond himself said "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad." And that was in 1952, the golden era of cocktails. Still think big drinks are crass?

Yet it would be folly to fight the trend toward dinky drinks. Cocktails will get smaller, profit margins will increase, and we’ll all be fine. I hope bars will at least soften the blow by selling martinis in flights, or adopting practices used by such excellent bars as Pegu Club in New York, which serves cocktails in tiny glasses but also provides a "dividend" in a little carafe on ice. But if they choose not to, don’t blame me for not jumping for joy when I see my drink served in a thimble. This isn’t Japan, and I don’t have a fetish for cute.

In the meantime, pre-game by mixing your mini-martinis at home, like I’ve been doing for years. If you don’t have tiny cocktail glasses, use my patented trick of freezing a shot of water on the bottom of a regular sized (8-10 oz) cocktail glass. It keeps your booze cold to the last sip while giving a nod to that trend that never goes out of style: moderation.

[Image via Frog Workshop]

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.

PDT’s Jim Meehan Talks About His James Beard Award Win

This year the James Beard Foundation debuted the Outstanding Bar Program Award, an honor sponsored by Campari that is given to a bar that “displays and encourages excellence in cocktail, spirit, and/or beer service through a well-presented drink list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about beverages.” The winner of the inaugural award was PDT. We chatted with the humble owner of PDT, Jim Meehan, after he won the prize.

How did it feel to win?
It’s a crazy feeling, but it feels spectacular. This is something that we have paid very close attention to for a long time. It’s amazing that bars are now a part of the awards. I kind of left last night wondering if they were going to ask for it back.

Campari had a big part in the creation of this category. Do you like the spirit?
Campari is one of the ingredients that ends up in many cocktails and we use it a lot. Last night one of the bartenders made a good Campari drink with Plymouth gin, spiced honey syrup, and champagne.

Why do you think you won?
For five years we have taken care of our industry. We have always been a bar that is a little something extra, and, when chefs stop by we always take care of them.

You run you bar very well. What is your inspiration?
I came from Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club. Audrey [Saunders, owner of Pegu Club] came from a five-star hotel and she taught us all how to offer hotel service in a cocktail bar.There were a lot of Gramercy people awarded last night too, and at that place it’s like a finishing school for service.Our own form of hospitality, the way we run the bar, is the way a restaurant runs its dining room—meaning, there is no standing and there is enough staff to serve you. My team for five years now has bought into this concept of running a bar like this. It’s very gratifying to get this award from this industry’s most celebrated and respected chefs.

What other bars do you think should win this award?
All the bars nominated deserve this award. Pegu Club is where I learned so much. Bar Agricole has an amazing wine program and their cocktails are elegant and well presented. Plus, it’s a certified green restaurant and I am surprised it didn’t win. Also, for Grant Achatz to open up a bar [The Aviary in Chicago] is such a huge thing for the bar industry. Last but not least, Toby Maloney who was our head bartender at Pegu Club and the first to head out and open up the Violet Hour in Chicago. It was bittersweet to walk away with the award because I am close with all the nominees and they all deserved it.

Now that you won, what are your plans today?
My plan is to try and reply to all my text messages and emails from people all across the country that reached out to say congratulations. Then I have a meeting at a bar and tonight I am having dinner with my brother and our wives at wd-50 for the launch of their new menu. All in all I am kind of speechless and really happy, but, in my experience you got to try to live up to the award. It’s important not to let it go to your head, so, it’s back to work. 

Photo by Kent Miller

Occupy My Birthday! How to Eat Like the 1%

Once upon a time May Day meant walking around the May pole and the hedonistic jumping through fire to celebrate fertility for both the land and people. In the late 1800s it became International Worker’s Day and after the May Day riots in 1894 the day quickly became a time to speak out against government, capitalism, and what have you. This year the month of May kicked off with branches of the Occupy movement storming the streets of Manhattan marching and videotaping police brutality.

All this happened outside the window of Onegin as I sat in a plush chair dining on red caviar wrapped in blintzes and sipped from tiny glasses of spicy horseradish infused vodka. For May Day in my world is also my birthday and for one day, I felt a part of the one percent as I spent the afternoon in completely opulent luxury.

The birthday adventure started with cups of mellow and smooth kopi luwak, otherwise known as civet cat coffee, a brew that comes from beans harvested from the animal’s poop. It tasted great. To go with the poop coffee we stopped at SCRATCHbread for the most amazing poached egg sandwich that popped with bright kale pesto. Breakfast was quickly followed by lunch at Onegin where we downed too many shots of flavorful house-infused vodka and munched on the aforementioned caviar.

Next, our plan was to get birthday cake at Parm, and this is where the day turned sour—they were out! After a childhood filled with Dairy Queen’s beloved ice cream cake all I really wanted was to sample the version at Parm, but alas, this didn’t happen. Instead, the bartender bought me a magenta beet negroni, which had a faint sweet, earthiness to it that was very pleasing. While it didn’t make up for the cake, the cocktail satisfied my taste buds.

From there we headed to Pegu Club to sample their smoked trout deviled eggs, a snappy dish that makes even egg haters swoon. I paired my nibbles with a creamy Earl Gray mar-tea-ni, it was after all, tea time. The end of my birthday commenced at The Vault at Pfaff’s, which ironically was right in the path of more May Day marchers. Police lined the streets and Broadway was blocked off from traffic. So, I did what any self-respecting one percent birthday girl would do: I marched down the dark stairway into the swank cocktail lounge and ordered champagne.

Booze, Breasts, & Bartenders: Welcome to Portland Cocktail Week

Imagine being a huge sports fan, and Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, and Wayne Gretzky all walked into a bar together (which actually could happen in Portland thanks to Nike’s headquarters nearby). The bartender equivalent of this is how Portland Cocktail Week began, with Dale DeGroff (the Granddaddy of the craft cocktail), Simon Ford (top international brand ambassador), Misty Kalkofen (one of the top female bartenders in the world), Jason Littrel (New York’s finest from Death & Co), Ali Tahsini (San Francisco powerhouse from Bourbon & Branch), and Tony Conigliaro (the best mixologist in the world) all ponying up to a little Portland bar called Rum Club.

Why Portland? How did this little city draw some of the biggest bartenders in the world for a weekend of seminars, parties, and imbibing? Portland is like a good friend who never manages to keep down a job, but always manages to leave at the end of the night with the hottest girl in the bar. Some places just seem to have that kind of mojo, and Portland, for one reason or another, has it.

image (Jeffrey Morgenthaler Bartending at Mary’s Strip Club)

Portland Cocktail Week isn’t anywhere close to the scale of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic or the standard-setting Tales of the Cocktail, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in enthusiasm. There’s just something about Portland that drives people to drink, and the intermingling of bartenders from around the country for spirits, seminars, parties, and strippers, seems like it’s always been pre-ordained. And yes, we said strippers. Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other state in America, and they are as big a part of the drinking scene as craft cocktail bars, dive bars, and pubs (but more on that later).

Less than ten years ago, it would have been almost unfathomable for someone to say they wanted to be a career bartender. Bartending was something you did to pay your way through school, or because you couldn’t get a job in your chosen field. With the craft cocktail revival, bartending has re-emerged as a culinary career and has gained some of the same kind of respect and support we give to great chefs. As such, modern bartenders are very interested in expanding their knowledge base through learning new crafts and better techniques, and one of the reasons they go to events like Portland Cocktail Week is to hone their craft.

Some of the topics covered at Portland Cocktail Week included understanding how taste and smell work with an Absolut Vodka Sensory Experience; deconstructing one of the most iconic of cocktails, the Martini, with Tony Conigliaro; making beer cocktails with Jacob Grier, the guru of beer cocktails; and, technical freepouring with 22-year bartending vet Tobin Ellis.

The blockbuster session of Portland Cocktail Week was one called "Half Way To Bar Smarts." Bar Smarts is a national bartender education program that travels to cities across the country to help educate and train bartenders. It’s staffed by some of the biggest names in the industry, and for this session in Portland it featured Dale DeGroff (legendary Rainbow Room bartender), Misty Kalkofen (Drink, Boston), Eric Alperin (LA’s The Varnish), and Jacques Bezuidenhout (Partida Tequila Brand Ambassador). The session covered some of the basics of identifying and tasting spirits as well as techniques, including Dale DeGroff making one of his famous Bloody Bulls, a riff on the Bloody Mary using beef broth.

image (Denver bartender Michelle Baldwin performing as Vivienne VaVoom)

With the learning done, Portland Cocktail Week focused on what bartenders do better than almost anyone in the world—party. I’ve had the opportunity to party with movie stars, rock stars, and bartenders, and of the three no one parties harder, better, or longer than bartenders. Portland Cocktail Week’s signature event was the DonQ Rum Yacht Rocking party, which was an odd fusion of nautical theme and 80’s culture with a live karaoke band and burlesque. Breasts pop up everywhere at Portland Cocktail Week.

Another Portland Cocktail Week party pitted bartenders against drink-making robots in a mano-y-mechanico smackdown. While the robots made a fairly good showing, it was the bartenders who showed that they have the finesse (and sense of taste) to outmatch a drink-making robot.

image

The final day of Portland Cocktail Week could easily have been labeled "Rack Day". They key event of the day was Speed Rack, a head-to-head competition of the top female bartenders in the region. Speed Rack pitted them in timed heats where they were scored both on speed and on the quality of their drinks. The judges panel included such luminaries as Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club), Charlotte Voisey (Company Mixologist with William Grant & Sons), Misty Kalkofen, and Portland celebrity drag queen Poison Waters. In addition to being a competition, Speed Rack was charity event to raise money for local breast cancer charities.

Breasts were center stage at Portland Cocktail Week’s closing party "Stripperoke". Hosted at Portland’s Devil’s Point strip club, Stripperoke had top bartenders serenading the intoxicated crowd on a stage accompanied by strippers doing what they do best. Stripperoke was an event that showed that no matter what Portland Cocktail Week’s ambitions are, it didn’t take itself too seriously.

Portland Cocktail Week may not be the biggest cocktail week nationally, but in its second year it showed why Portland tends to achieve things that should generally be beyond its reach, and why this Cocktail Week is one to watch.

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.

Unlock BlackBook’s Nightlife Badge on Foursquare!

In partnership with the aspirationally driven folks at HBO’s How to Make It in America, we’re proud to offer you the chance to achieve a personal gold standard by unlocking the exclusive BlackBook Nightlife badge on Foursquare. Make HTMIIA your Foursquare friend, then check into any 3 of 20 possible New York nightlife or dining destinations (restaurants are the new nightlife, you know), and you’ll get the shiny new Foursquare badge pictured here. Soon we may provide an even more material motivation to have fun with this, but for now, download the BlackBook Guide iPhone app and start hitting the hotspots. Complete list of eligible joints after the jump.

Allen & Delancey Apothéke Balthazar Boom Boom Room The Breslin Butter Coffee Shop Craft Daniel Elmo Japonais Macao Trading Co. Matsuri Morimoto Norwood Pegu Club Per Se Soho House The Spotted Pig Tenjune

Bartender: Raw Egg Crackdown as Bad as Hurricane Katrina

If you wanna make an omelet – or a pisco sour for that matter — you gotta crack a few eggs. But after what seems like a recent Health Department crackdown, bartenders who prepare drinks with raw egg are on the rocks. The victim of a recent bust, Pegu Club in SoHo, has stopped serving its MarTEAni, a drink featuring egg whites to balance out tannin-infused gin, after a health inspector issued the bar a citation and summons to court for serving the drink without checking to make sure the patron knew he was exposing himself to salmonella. The Health Department would prefer that bars use pasteurized eggs, which have been warmed up to prevent the growth of bacteria, but they leave drinks smelling like a “funky wet diaper,” according to Audrey Saunders, who owns Pegu and created the MarTEAni.

Halting the MarTEAni not only feels like an affront to cocktail creativity, it’s also been bad for business. Over $2,000 worth of the drink was sold each week at the bar (that’s eight dozen eggs), according to the New York Times.

In this particular instance, it’s hard to tell who’s being more ridiculous, the Health Department or rebel-without-a-cause bartenders. Nobody has ever gotten sick from drinking a cocktail with eggs at Pegu, (at least according to Saunders), and raw egg is listed on the menu along with a reminder that it may be dangerous to consume, “like sushi.” Still, the health inspector who nabbed Pegu claims that the drink was ordered by a patron who hadn’t seen the menu. The severity of Pegu’s citation has been scaled back considerably, and the bartender on duty insists that no MarTEAnis were served while the inspector was present.

But then there’s this, which makes us think that fancy bartenders could use a little shakedown themselves:

“If they make it illegal to serve egg-white drinks, that would be Hurricane Katrina for us,” said one of several bartenders and club owners who said they had been challenged by inspectors but declined to be quoted on the record, for fear of antagonizing health officials.

Or maybe it was out of fear of sounding totally ridiculous.