THE HAPPIEST HOUR

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

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LANTERN’S KEEP

49 W. 44th St btw 5th and 6th ave, Midtown West

The Place: A small, serious cocktail bar in the back of the Iroquois Hotel. Random, I know.

The Time: Tuesday June 7, 6pm. I bought myself a ticket to see The Humans on Broadway, because I know when it wins the Tony for Best Play, I won’t be able to get one. I picked up my new headshots (weeeeee!) and had a sec to drop in somewhere for a drink. Because I hate everywhere in this area, I checked Yelp for cocktail bars. Miraculously, Lantern’s Keep popped up, and it was only a few blocks from the theater! Solid.

The Vibe: I’ve never been to the Iroquois Hotel before, because why would I, but the doormen point me to the back of the hotel when I ask where Lantern’s Keep is. It’s one small room, with a cozy and intimate feel save for the light flooding in from the gaudy lobby. There’s a sign right in front of the entrance saying “please wait to be seated” that I chose to ignore. Everyone else (aka every white man between the ages of 40 and 60 wearing a suit and thick rimmed eyeglasses) gets puzzled by this and idles awkwardly, peering in, seeing who will seat him. The one server, a woman with ombre hair  wearing a dark plaid shirt, gives no fucks about this, calling out to them from wherever she is and showing him where to sit by pointing. This bar must be a big after-work spot, because there are only men on business meetings or whatever sitting at the tables. I’m alone at the actual bar. 20 minutes in, and I am the only woman in the place, except the server. JK, not the only woman, because there are two large faux Degas ballerina paintings. One is mostly just her chest. The other is just of her tutu. Another woman walks in at one point, but she was the manager because she handed the bartender a check. 40 minutes in, and it was still just me, the server and the ballerinas’ body parts representing women.

The Drank: They have a good looking cocktail menu, but I wanted a negroni variation in honor of Negroni Week. The bar wasn’t doing anything special, but I asked the bartender, and he made me a Right Hand cocktail, a riff on a boulevardier with bourbon, campari and chocolate bitters. It’s delicious. For such a small bar, and seemingly one station, they have 11 shakers. That’s a stupid amount of shakers. They’ve got all the right stuff–a whole tray of amaros (amari?), a juicer to press citrus to order, big ice, frosted mixing glasses. WTF is this bar doing in the back of this no-nothing hotel? At one point, I overhear a guy ask for vodka, and the server tells him this is a vodka-less bar! WHOA. I look at the bottles and, it’s true! There’s no vodka in sight. I wonder how many businessmen have been pissed off by this.

The Bartender: A tall guy with glasses, tattoos and a khaki baseball cap named Fiaco. He was quick to whip me up something when I asked for a negroni-style cocktail, but before he did, he asked me if there are any spirits I didn’t like. Good man, Fiaco. He also works at Featherweight, one of my local haunts, so I’ll be seeing him again soon, I’m sure.

Was I Hit On? Surprisingly no, considering I was actually the only woman my entire time there. As I was ready to leave, the bar had filled up; the 3 other stools were occupied by lone men fitting the same description as the other guys. Maybe if I had stayed longer, one of them would’ve said something to me, but maybe not. I can’t say.

Should You Drink Here Alone? I guess so. A bar of this quality is rare in the theater district, so it serves that purpose. If you’re around and hankering for a good cocktail, by all means. But otherwise, leave that bar stool for the next businessman who walks through the door. He’ll fit right in.

WALLFLOWER

235 W. 12th St nr Greenwich Ave, West Village

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The Place: A super cute n’ tiny French restaurant with a strong cocktail list that I discovered many moons ago. I can’t remember how.

The Time: Thursday May 26, 7pm. After a busy day filled with v. important things because I’m a v. important woman, I was meeting a friend for dinner and drinks after he got off work at his job where he has to wear a suit (don’t worry, he’s cool). I stopped in to Wallflower a bit early to decompress after running around the city on this hot, feels-like-summer day.

The Vibe: No false advertising here–Wallflower is indeed a sweet little French place. The bar area is certainly tiny, with four bar stools in front of the marble bar top, and a few that wrap around the side. Everyone who works here wears a different colored button down. There are a lot of people working and I don’t know what they all do. Maybe they all do everything? That’d be cool. There’s fun funky music playing that goes against “type” for this kind of place, and it works. Clearly Wallflower is a hot date spot because besides me, it’s nothing but heterosexual couples walking through the door (and one fabulous older gay couple dressed impeccably). Most have reservations, so I’m almost entirely alone at the bar except for the couple next to me. When asked if they want to see a dessert menu, they ask to take a shot with the bartender. He’s into it. But these cats want something “that goes straight to the head.” Ok, 7pm. Then the couple behind me keeps arguing about what they’re going to order. The man spends a good deal of time explaining to the server what his date would like. “She likes refreshing, not too sweet, maybe with lime.” She echoes, “yeah lime.” He says, “like with tequila.” She says to the server, “I like gin.” He says to her, “you want rum?” DUDE. LET THE WOMAN SPEAK FOR HERSELF.

The Drank: Little Deuce Coupe–Citadelle gin, cocchi rosa, watermelon, lime, chili bitters. It’s yummy, yet it could use a touch more spice and sweetness. But I feel great sipping this cold pink cocktail on a hot day. They have a very nice cocktail menu, but the names are a bit on the nose for my taste. Like, the Cornelia has corn in it? And the Blue Note has blueberries in it? And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to drink something called Mother’s Milk, tbh. But they all sound good, so I’m probably just being an asshole.

The Bartender: Super nice guy named James who rocks this one-man bar. In response to the couple asking for something that goes straight to the head, he tells them it’s a little early for him to take one, but he pours them each a shot of coffee-infused cynar. Love this guy’s style.

Was I Hit On? No. They’re all on dates already.

Should You Drink Here Alone? Yeah. Wallflower is a lovely corner of the West Village to hang by yourself and drink a good cocktail. But it’s also apparently a hot spot to take a hot date, so next time you dare to ask that Tinder match to meet in person, suggest Wallflower. Everyone else did.