121 W. 10th St nr Greenwich Ave, West Village
The Place: A bright and lively tropical-themed bar that’s gotten a bunch of accolades lately. I think.
The Time: Wednesday June 22, 5:30pm. I had coffee with a friend near Union Square, and was seeing Halley Feiffer’s new play at the Lucille Lortel Theater later that night, so I had some time to kill in between. I stopped at Strand and picked up some unnecessary reading material, then headed over to the Happiest Hour for a drink and a quick bite. Because the best two places to kill time are a bookstore and a bar, am I right ladies?
The Vibe: I don’t know why but in my head I thought the Happiest Hour would be a speakeasy*, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a big bar right in plain sight. It was so lovely and light at 5:30 on a summer’s eve. There’s a seating area in the front, then a fairly large circle bar in the center, then a big space in the back with table service. There’s a see-through divider in the middle of the space that I keep thinking is a mirror, but I can’t see myself in it, so it’s not. They’ve got a Florida beach resort theme going on, and they embrace it fully. The music consists of mostly the Beach Boys, and other music like the Beach Boys. It’s great right now, but it makes me wonder what it’s like in the winter. Depressing or refreshing? When I get there, there are two guys drinking martinis on one side, and two girls drinking highlighter-colored cocktails and munching on fries on the other side. I sit on the side with the ladies. I didn’t mean to segregate this bar by gender, but then another man sat on the side with the dudes. The bar slowly fills up, and the gender segregation dissipates, primarily because it’s overwhelmingly occupied by white dudes in their 30s wearing dress shirts. Seriously, each time I look up, there’s another one. Are they having a convention?
The Drank: Belle of the Ball: red pepper, lemon, habanero, tequila, served tall with a slice of red pepper for garnish. It’s super yummy and goes down easy. I think I love it so much because it’s similar to one of my favorite drinks of all time over at my local watering hole, Huckleberry Bar. Most of the drinks give you a liquor option, usually providing a choice between gin, tequila or rum, depending on the cocktail. It’s not the biggest menu, but it’s certainly diverse, and with the choose-your-own-adventure liquor deal, everyone will get a drink that they’re happy with. I also got the Salt + Pepper Broccoli as a snack in an attempt to be healthy, but turns out it’s fried. Whoops. Whatever, it’s fucking delicious.
The Bartender: A large bald man in a Hawaiian shirt with a goatee named Sweeney. I asked him whether he would suggest tequila or gin for my drink, and without any hesitation he said “tequila no question.” I appreciate this sense of confidence and authority. A circle bar is damn hard to work, and Sweeney gets a bit more frantic with each new person that shows up, but he certainly holds it down. Since each drink has a liquor option, that’s double for a bartender to keep track of. When he’s frenetic, Sweeney talks aloud, repeating the orders back to himself. I want to help, because this is a really tough job to work, especially alone. Another bartender, also in a Hawaiian shirt, finally joins him and balance is restored. Also, guys, there’s a FEMALE BUSSER. Do you understand how rare this is!?!
Was I Hit On? No. As the bar filled up, there were more people than just dudes in dress shirts, but it was still predominately male. The guy next to me was alone, drinking a gin and tonic, not doing anything, just sitting with his head in his hands. Rough day, bud? By the time I asked for my cheque, it was like Frat Party 2.0 walked in — all the dudes of Alpha Sigma Phi and a select group of girls they were trying to get with. Sweeney wasn’t thrilled by this either, and I wished him good luck as I departed.
Should You Drink Alone Here? Absolutely. But since I left around 6:30 and it was getting packed, go when they first open or when they’re about to close. That way, the tropical paradise of the Happiest Hour will be all yours.
*Slowly Shirley is their speakeasy downstairs