By Anne Jones
New York is a drinker’s city. Maybe it’s because we never have to be the designated driver or that every other door houses a cool bar or even that we city dwellers tend to eat out more than anywhere else (and what goes better with noshing than drinking?) Whatever it is, I am learning that there is no shortage of libations in the city, but what I’m also learning is that although you can find the newest hybrid mojito or $2 Jell-O shots and PBR specials, the art of the cocktail, even if it comes with a $15 price tag, is usually nothing to write home, or in my case, work, about. For my readers I have had the job of finding The Best cocktails in the city. It’s a hard job to do, but you can thank my high tolerance and refined liquor pallet for this guide.
Blue Owl – 192 2nd Ave. 212-505-BLUE. www.blueowlnyc.com
I’m not going to mess around with saving the best for last because I can’t stop gushing about my new favorite bar that serves up the best cocktails in NYC. Owner and gracious host, Ashley Smith and his partner and bartender-extraordinaire, Charles, have done what so many other NYC bars can’t seem to master. The “modern day speakeasy” serves up absolutely amazing beverages, houses a sexy-loungy-yet-totally-unpretentious atmosphere and gives everyone love, whether you’re an Olsen or a Jones (my case being the latter).
My drinking partner and I bellied up to the copper-clad bar (complete with handbag hooks and low lights to show off shoes – it’s the little things, ya know?), bathed in candlelight and oohed and ahhed over the cocktail menu, each drink seemingly better than the last.
Recommendations are as follows:
1) The Ellison, created by Charles himself, which is lovingly concocted of Hendricks gin, cucumber, mint, lime and bitters, with a reputation of one of the best drinks in the city. I will take the subway 70 blocks for this cocktail. Hell, I would walk it for this cocktail.
2) Another noteworthy drink is the Straphanger with muddled strawberries and a lil’ bubbly screams summertime.
3) Now, although I wouldn’t say that the Americano was my favorite drink, the crisp, dry taste was big enough to take the place of any wine with my charcuturie, cheese and olives plate, a concept that is often not duplicated.
4) Biggest surprise of the night? The Bobby Burns. I’m not a scotch gal-until now. The perfect blend of scotch, sweet and dry vermouth and Benedictine tasted almost like iced-tea and made me feel like a bad-ass drinking it. Speaking of being a bad-ass, you can rent the private room at Blue Owl, complete with hidden entrance, your own bathroom and a doorman that will require a password to party with you. And as far as saving the best for last, Blue Owl has a happy hour every eve from 5-8 when those delicious drinks are only five bones.
Pravda – 281 Lafayette St. (212) 226-4944. www.pravdany.com
Pravda might just be that one NYC bar that hasn’t established its “target” clientele, and really, is it such a bad thing? Another brainchild of Keith McNally, Pravda may be Soviet chic, but this underground lounge is simple and sophisticated. You’ll find fashionistas sipping on martinis (the Sex and the City gals have lounged at Pravda), happy-hour patrons in power suits, bachelorettes shooting the iced rack of vodka and Russian gents sampling the goods from their land. Smooth (not as in cheesy elevator music) jazz is piped in the background, and there’s a DJ at night. For a lounge with such a great atmosphere, the drink menu is no exception.
Ana, and her bartender, Zach, started me off with one of Pravda’s veteran drinks, the Leninade, a perfect summer refreshment made with Pravda’s own citrus infused vodka (they make lots of others as well), lemon and a hint of fresh mint. There’s a reason that this libation has been on the menu for over a decade; it’s simply fabulous. My favorite cocktail was the Bohemian, concocted of vodka, passion fruit puree and wild berry juice. This was the most fragrant drink I’ve tasted.
For the savory side, the Russian Mary with their own chili and horseradish vodka, tomato and lime, was meaty and rich and would be a perfect brunch companion with their scrambled eggs topped with caviar. Speaking of food, the vittles are seriously scrumptious, with a bevy of caviar offerings. The Zakouski Platter is a Russian spread that’s beautifully presented and perfect for sharing. My personal favorite on the platter were the Crispy Potato Pancakes with Scottish smoked salmon. One last thing – Pravda serves its delectable beet-juice potato chips with caviar and crème fraiche dip on the house for the first hour of opening. Budem!
(These cocktails not floatin your boat? No worries. This cocktail hunt is to be continued…)!