Make Mine a Double
From movie theaters to barber shops, many NYC venues have alter egos— as cocktail lounges.
Everyone knows you can’t drink and drive. But there’s no law against drinking and driving golf balls, getting a great shave, or shopping for a couture ensemble. Several local establishments lead double lives, providing a service while simultaneously slaking thirst.
High-end hair salons have long offered their customers a beer or a glass of wine. But at Truman’s Gentlemen’s Groomers, men have access to a full, freestanding bar on entry, offering a noble selection of complimentary spirits when purchasing a haircut, manicure or other treatment. The Midtown atmosphere is clubby, the service professional and—almost as significant—the bartender knows how to flame an orange-peel garnish for his Old Fashioneds.
The Blind Barber takes a different tack, appropriate for its East Village surroundings: A small room with old-time chairs and vintage locker-room-inspired decor occupies the front, while a dark, wood-paneled bar awaits inside. Co-owner Josh Boyd says the name reflects the dual nature of the shop, with the barber turning a “blind eye” to the bar, which is also open to the public at large. However, those seeking tonsorial maintenance from the young, laid-back staff receive a free cocktail, including the aptly named Sweeney Todd, a concoction of Jameson Irish whiskey, egg whites, lemon, honey and grenadine that slides down throats as sweetly as the infamous Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s clients slid through his trapdoor.
Adding a bar to an existing shop is the usual route, but Chelsea’s Windsor Custom evolved in reverse. “Custom tailoring was always something I was passionate about. When I lived in Italy, tailors would always offer a drink or coffee, and sit down with you,” says owner Brian Mazza. When he realized that the high-rolling Ainsworth sports bar, in which he’s a partner, had unused basement space, he decided to create the most comfortable man cave in existence, with its own complimentary bar, sofas, pool table and large-screen TV—all to make patrons comfortable as they’re guided through the process of buying bespoke shirts and suits. The subterranean haberdashery has a five-item menu, but you can also order from the sports bar’s menu. “It allows the entire space to be a one-stop shop: Guys can hang out upstairs for a while with their friends, then come down for their fitting in a relaxing environment, all while watching the game,” Mazza says.
Suburban sports pleasures, along with their accompanying rituals, come to the big city at the new Greenwich Village Country Club, which combines the unlikely triumvirate of boccie ball, a nine-hole putt-putt golf course (festooned with vintage circus animal statues) and a thumpin’ dance floor, where stylish men and women crowd in on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s a Cape Cod-style clubhouse/bar, too, but “caddies” constantly circulate to fill drink orders, so when the game gets serious, you needn’t leave the course.
The club is set upstairs from its parent Bowlmor Lanes, which revolutionized the utilitarian old-guy bar-and-bowling concept for the smart set, especially with its second, year-old location in Times Square, which features 50 lanes divided into lounges inspired by various New York neighborhoods at iconic points in their histories (the 1960s-era Times Square room is appropriately risqué). One choice spot: the midcentury-influenced Central Park Lounge, with its dual working fireplaces, perfect for sipping a glass of wine or The Split cocktail (peach vodka, sweet tea and lemonade) between frames.
If your game is table tennis, Spin New York elevates the experience well beyond beer pong. A self-styled “ping-pong social club,” the large, open Flatiron District basement space offers 17 championship tables, flanked by enticing orange couches. The menu features tea-based cocktails and food beyond the usual pub grub (think: Kobe beef empanadas and veggie panini).
Some Broadway shows now allow theatergoers to bring drinks to their seats; the 1980s- themed musical Rock of Ages even features barmaids cruising the aisles to take your order. But a Weimar-era cabaret is integral to Off-Broadway’s Sleep No More, a mystical dance-theater retelling of Macbeth. Spectators don masks and follow individual performers through six floors of the warrenlike McKittrick Hotel, poking through darkened rooms, furniture and props at their leisure. The show begins and ends at the Manderlay bar, stocked with live jazz, moody lighting and real drinks, served by in-character staff—but the audience is encouraged to visit at any point during the performance. “It’s an intense play,” says Nick Atkinson, who plays host Maximilian Martel, one of the characters haunting the Manderlay. “So it’s nice to be able to go to the bar, let your hair down and kick up your heels.”
For a variation on the classic date of dinner and a movie, how about dinner at the movie? In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Nitehawk Cinema not only features a full restaurant and a small lobby bar—demarcated by wood posts and a miniscule awning like a poolside shack’s—it also offers food and drink at tables seatside. The house specialties are themed cocktails, created for each movie by on-site mixologist Jen Marshall and guest bartenders: For The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, set in Scandinavia, moviegoers could order a Swedish Punch (Banks 5 Island rum, Assam tea, simple syrup and bitters).
Shop With a Drop
Shopping can be thirsty work. Several of New York’s luxe emporiums offer restaurants, of course, but Armani Ristorante, within the Armani Fifth Avenue boutique, is a particularly elaborate example. Located on the third floor, separated from the elegant Italian moda by a spiral staircase, the streamlined black-and-white environs beckon with an illuminated bar and a soft rock/jazz soundtrack. Since it stays open after the store closes (until 10 p.m. weekdays, 11 p.m. weekends), the venue has become a destination in its own right, not only for shoppers, but also for Midtown fashion-industry folk, fashionistas and models, who linger over light cocktails such as the Aperol Spritz (Aperol—a bitter orange aperitif—prosecco and an orange slice), their willowy frames silhouetted against backlit rows of gleaming bottles.
At the opposite end of town, and an opposite mindset from Armani’s modernist sensibility, is House of Savoia, which doubles—actually, triples—as a men’s vintage-inspired clothing store, custom motorcycle shop and lounge. Owner Michele Savoia, who sports a pencil-thin moustache and high-waisted, pleated slacks, has designed the 1940s tribute space to reflect his own diverse life: He’s designed the interiors of two dozen nightclubs and bars, done costuming for Broadway shows and is a custom tailor. Upon arrival at the Lower East Side store, visitors are offered a drink from a curved, black Naugahyde-covered bar, accented with retro mirrors and a zebra skin. Soon they’re admiring the red pool table from the film The Hustler, and trying on Savoia’s Art Deco-channeling, off-the-rack fashions. “A customer might come in and have one drink, but then another friend arrives, and the party’s on,” Savoia says. “The music comes up and the lights are dimmed. After 5 p.m. here, anything goes.”
“I had always thought of the word ‘bar’ in terms of both candy and liquor,” says Dylan Lauren, founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar, a rainbow-hued cornucopia of chocolates, sweets and related paraphernalia (e.g., Pez dispensers). That thought became fully realized two years ago, with the addition of a bar that features colorful cupcake-shaped tables and themed drinks: “We do a lot of work infusing candies into spirits, as in our Strawberry Nerds Mojito,” Lauren explains. Guests can even pick out their favorite candies from the store, and the bar staff will whip up a customized cocktail that incorporates the treats.
“In European butcher shops, people hang out, eat and drink,” says Restaurateur Christian Pappanicholas. So it seemed logical to him to create a meat market, in both senses of the word, with The Cannibal. During the day patrons can order specialty cuts of pork, beef or lamb to go from a meat display case in back—before or after they perch at a long wood counter to choose from over 450 curated beers and charcuterie sandwiches. At night, the counter’s chopping block literally flips over and stools are added to provide more space for the thirsty throngs. From gentlemen’s barbers to haute couture boutiques: Sometimes, half the fun of visiting New York City is getting a drink where you least expect it.