A cricket club in New York, an Irish bar with a great cocktail programme, two new hotel bars and more.
Address: 226 W. 79th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10024, USA
Tel: +1 646-823-9252
Type: Cocktail bar
Nearest subway: 79th Street (1, 2)
Were you not expecting to find a cricket club on the Upper West Side? Well, there may not be a true pitch here, one storey above the Australian restaurant Burke & Wills, but this discreet cocktail bar certainly provides an appropriately clubby, posh environment. Just tell the maitre d' of your destination, and you'll be ushered upstairs to a long room full of overstuffed chairs, patterned wallpaper and Victoriana. Small octagonal marble tables match a gorgeous four-seat marble bar, where two bartenders work in front of a bay window lined with shelves of liquor to a soundtrack of '60s and '70s disco and R&B.
The short menu offers house originals for $18 each (inventive creations worthy of the British Empire with infusions of ingredients such as kaffir lime, garam masala and hibiscus) and some more familiar classics for $15 - ask about off-menu specials too. All the drinks we tried were on the sweeter side, though a nicely orangey Boulevardier was more balanced, and a bourbon-lime sour was sweet as well - I would have liked to have tasted the bourbon a little more. Manhattan Cricket Club is already one of the very few exceptions to the cocktail desert that is the Upper West Side, and they are almost to the calibre of a citywide destination. 3/5
Address: In the Hudson Hotel, 356 W. 58th St. New York, NY 10019, USA
Tel: +1 212-554-6217
Type: Hotel bar
Nearest subway: 59th Street Columbus Circle (1, A, B, C, D)
The new "liquor bar" at the Hudson Hotel - no, I have no idea either why they felt the need to clarify - is presumably named after the hotel's namesake. It has given its former Library Bar a slight makeover, left the glowing floor in place, but added impossibly trendy furniture. Loud dance music - or live jazz, depending on the evening - blares across the spacious room. The exposed-brick walls, low tables, and flattering lighting make for an attractive, flirty space and isn't that what you want from a certain kind of hip hotel bar?
The cocktail menu is short but innovative, featuring many house-made infusions and other ingredients, some from the bar's own rotary evaporator. The beverage program, from London barman Ryan Chetiyawardana, highlights local ingredients and combines flavours in unusual ways: my Gold-Fashioned, an inspired combination of añejo tequila and applejack, accented by a garnish of rhubarb and candied bacon, wins points for vision and creativity. The Waggledance, a honeyed Manhattan with tea-infused vermouth, is an unusual spin. I could do without the slightly silly house rules ("Our dress code? Preserve the sexy."), and prices are what you'd expect for a hotel bar, but this is a good place for a pleasantly different cocktail in Midtown West. 4/5
Address: In the New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA
Tel: +1 212-888-7000
Type: Hotel bar
Nearest subway: 51st Street (6), 5th Avenue and 53rd Street (E, M)
Trouble's Trust, the new cocktail bar in the New York Palace hotel, occupies a dimly-lit space under the main staircase off the high-end hotel's Madison Avenue entrance. The management has decided to have some fun with the image of the hotel's late owner, the "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley, who famously left $12m to her beloved dog Trouble in 2007. The lapdog passed away in 2010 at the age of 12 but lives on: the napkins at Trouble's Trust bear a discreet gold paw print. Everything else is more conventional, with sleek modern décor, and soft, generic club music - though that doesn't dissuade the suited crowd from talking business deals.
The menu has a clear emphasis on New York State spirits and ingredients - a gin menu is divided between various styles, with local offerings first. I liked seeing a section labeled "No Hooch" for non-alcoholic drinks, far more creative than standard soft drinks. Specialty cocktails ($19), including the "Queen of Mean" and the "Pampered Pooch", continue the Helmsley theme, while the unusual "New York Deli" (an upstate gin-based cocktail) comes with a kosher pickle garnish. The bar also boasts some superlative classics - my Last Word was perfection. 4/5
Address: 365 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
Tel: +1 646-918-6553
Type: Cocktail bar
Nearest subway: 28th Street, (6)
From the outside, Grace looks almost exactly like any other pseudo-Irish pub. What a revelation to note the sumptuous atmosphere - framed pictures and maps of Ireland, a very good kitchen, and a top-notch cocktail programme. This gastropub, named for Irish pirate queen Grace O'Malley and designed to highlight the feminine side of an Irish pub, is a comfortable outpost in a section of Murray Hill that doesn't have many other solid cocktail prospects (with the exception of Middle Branch).
Along with the theme, the beverage programme at the bar was put together by an all-star female lineup, including Lynnette Marrero, Charlotte Voisey, Franky Marshall, Ivy Mix, and Meaghan Dorman. None of them are behind the stick on a regular basis, but the staff execute their drinks very well indeed. Aside from the classics on the menu, eleven specialty cocktails span a wide range of creative styles, from the aromatic gin, plum eau-de-vie and absinthe White Seahorse to the cunning cold Irish Coffee. It went down easily without being cloying, and capped the evening off well. 4/5
Address: 1 East 27th St. New York, NY 10016, USA
Tel: +1 212-447-PLAY (7529)
Type: Cocktail bar
Nearest subway: 28th Street (N, R, 6)
Play, the new cocktail bar at Manhattan's Museum of Sex, could have gone so wrong. I had envisioned genitalia-shaped mugs, or worse, some ad agency's vision of "sexiness", like Paris Hilton with a garden hose. Thankfully, the execution is more sultry than sleazy, the experience anchored by wildly creative, compelling cocktails. Find the lounge through the museum's cafe, bypassing bookshelves containing innocuous titles that are not what they seem. Some bricks in the walls are replaced by small black-and-white video monitors, and the sleek finish contrasts with the antique-looking dark wood bar. A light-up transparency of Hieronymus Bosch anchors a raw bar of just-shucked oysters, and good rock music from the '60s and '70s sets the tone as well.
At this garden of earthly delights, beverage director Jim Kearns, formerly of Pegu Club and the just-around-the-corner NoMad, has come up with a long, inventive menu of 24 "Permanent Collection" cocktails, divided into 'Demure', 'Curious' and 'Kinky' headings. Drinks get more intense as you move down the page and you're left with a difficult choice, from subtly flavoured slings, to aromatic punches and house-infused spirit-led adventurously conceived drinks - one uses duck-confit fat-washed Cognac, say. I can't wait to stop in again. 4.5/5
Address: 13 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003, USA
Tel: +1 212-995-5151
Type: Cocktail bar
Nearest subway: 2nd Avenue (F)
Golden Cadillac was conceived as a tribute to New York's cocktail culture, especially that of the oft-maligned '70s and '80s. Owners Greg Boehm (Cocktail Kingdom), James Tune (Pegu Club GM), and Giuseppe Gonzalez (PKNY, Clover Club) argue that those decades weren't as much of a Dark Age of drinking as usually depicted, and showcase retro tipples such as the Buttery Nipple, a Hot Grasshopper and other clichés such as a Dirty Martini.
Well-known drinks from other NYC bars also feature, from Audrey Saunders' Earl Grey Mar-TEA-Ni to Phil Ward's Final Ward, and Don Lee's Benton's Old-Fashioned alongside food, inspired by gourmet magazines from the '70s. The Galliano-laced namesake Golden Cadillac 2014 comes creamy-sweet, but the addition of orange bitters to the classic recipe gave it some needed structure.
The spot on an East Village corner isn't large, but packs a big custom bar along the left side of the room, some tables around the perimeter, and a larger banquette at the back. The tables and walls all have matching faux-wood paneling straight out of a suburban rec room, while the bathrooms are wallpapered with vintage Playboy covers. (Don't tell, but I think Miss August 1977 is kinda cute.) 4/5