Tigre It’s unusual to hear a rum based cocktail described as “joyful pain” but that happens at Tigre, the intimate, retro chic bar that opened this week on New York’s Lower East Side. The reason for this description is the rum, or rather rums, in the recommended cocktail Airmail composed of champagne and three symbiotic rums from Martinique, Venezuela and Haiti, countries in a region in which slavery played a part in their production. The social history detailed by the maître d’ is, obviously, painful but the cocktail itself is delicious, a choice on the “then” section reinventing classics of the six part menu. (Their screwdriver also has eight types of citrus including three types of orange.) Creative concoctions such as Mister Softee with Singani, sage and pina appear in the “Now” section and martini fans can dictate exact specifications with a ratio of 4:1 to 16:1 among other options.
The room is designed to emulate a sophisticated jet setter’s residence from the 1970’s or 1980’s (also the decades of its booming soundtrack) with gold Ultrasuede walls, jacquard velvet banquettes with tiger embroidery and chocolate leather seats at the small tables plus a horseshoe shaped green Brazilian quartzite bar. The entrance doesn’t give any hint that such a plush setting awaits within, however: it’s a nondescript door plastered with handbills and graffiti guarded by a doorman checking reservations. Given the bar’s immediate popularity, though, and the intimacy of the room, even with reservations, patrons often have to wait on the sidewalk until guests inside vacate their space. (The staff hopes that sorts itself out soon.) What also should be sorted out soon, or at least as soon as the downstairs kitchen is finished, is food to go with the drinks. Since the team behind it also operates beloved New Orleans style oyster bar Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, raw bar items— and definitely oysters— should be on the way.
Paradise Lost The entrance to this bar in the East Village is also nondescript: a door marked with a green symbol but no name with a buzzer to be let in. Once inside, though, the design comes at you from all sides: white fur lining the door; thick foliage lining the walls of the hallway and in the bar itself, a panoply of vivid colors, flashing colored lights (that change when certain drinks are ordered) an eight foot tall altar, taxidermy items, a leather bar and tables designed to look like surfboards and snakeskin banquettes. The team behind it describes it as a tropical hellscape, amusing and slightly sinister, a fantasy allegory/throwback tiki bar.
In this florid setting, the cocktails couldn’t be simple presentations—and they’re not. They arrive embellished with pinwheels and flowers, flaming in a witch’s head, in multicolored glasses with tufts of mint. Many are rum mixes with names like Cobra’s Fang and Chaos Magick or combinations of other spirits such as Archfiend with jalapeno infused tequila, makrut leaf infused mezcal, strawberry, hibiscus and galangal. To balance those out, there’s a food menu including sticky ribs and coconut shrimp.
The Portrait Bar It’s a much calmer, quieter and more elegant scene at The Portrait Bar in the new Fifth Avenue Hotel in NoMad. The setting by star international designer Martin Brudnizki, is classic London hotel bar mixed with patrician Italian villa: dark wood paneled walls lined with 50 portraits as if displaying the generations of a prominent family along with plush burgundy couches and chairs and shelves dotted with artifacts from international travels.
International travels are also the basis of the cocktail program as devised by Bar Director Darryl Chan, a veteran of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants Daniel, Café Boulud and Boulud Sud and Carne Mare and The Dutch with chef Andrew Carmellini, the chef of the adjacent fine dining Café Carmellini and the bar menu here. Among the destinations and the cocktails they inspired: a blend of Beach Plum Gin, Nardini Mandorla, smoked cinnamon, lemon and egg white from Marrakech; Campari, Cardamaro, Antica Torino, Saba and Fig Leaf Soda from Torino and Cognac, Pineau des Charentes, Cappelletti, Grapefruit and Orgeat from Cognac. Among the elevated items on the menu to accompany them are Comté Gougères, Crispy Oysters with Celery Root Remoulade and Lemon Aioli and Tuna Tartare with Yuzu Cucumber and Crispy Nori. The right flavors to go along with a sophisticated cocktail in this very sophisticated room.