Experimental Cocktail Club
The gourmet cocktail craze shows no signs of abating, along with the spiffy themed and gracious settings that we gather to sip them in. Welcome stateside to-the-direct-from-Paris…Experimental Cocktail Club (now in London too). And welcome -yet again- to the 1920’s. Guess we all want to feel just a little naughty while we imbibe, a touch glamourous, so a soupcon of prohibition with a dollop of Boardwalk Empire and away we go. The speakeasy is ever thriving. Pretend clandestine, gorgeous, sophisticated playtime dots the urban landscape everywhere these days. Don’t get me wrong – I like it. It’s fun, it’s an escape and in this case, a current mixing DJ keeps it all anchored in the now.
Enter the glow. You will be greeted by someone in dapper array, twenties style. Cute. Fine. It’s drinking as theatre. And the staff couldn’t be lovelier. Both Coco our genial male host and Nina, our cocktail server were a delight. The decor from the wallpaper to the lighting is inviting, pretty, a comfortable chic. Unfortunately the stools surrounding the low tables make you sit up quite a bit higher than your chair seated companions. A bit odd but maybe after a cocktail or three you’ll be happily slumped downward and the disparity evens out.
We sat in the front room, the action spot I guess. Home of the DJ and the early arriving hordes. I think I’d prefer the larger back room which is just as lovely but a tiny bit more serene.
Onto the libations! There are about 14 specialty cocktails offered, and of course the traditional American drinks that you’d expect. The most intriguing or say…amusing offers are their vintage cocktails. I won’t give away all the secrets but there is a “Vintage Dry Martini” made with Gordon’s Gin circa 1950’s available for $200. I can offer the same from my parents liquor cabinet I think. So, a thrill or markedly better?
We experienced three confections. The Artist, a combination of seven ingredients including Calvados, Billecart -Salmon Champagne, Absinthe and a surprise or two…
…the Black Heart, also seven ingredients but more from the bourbon, bitters and coffee angle and then the Noblesse Oblige, my favorite. Six ingredients including Bittermen Mole Bitters and Mezcal, two selling points for me.
I found the Artist a mishmash of tastes, sharp and sour points, not well thought out so we traded that for a straightforward and well blended Manhattan. The Black Heart was fine though erring too far to the sweet and then my drink – Noblesse Oblige, the best of all. Yet…the overriding fail here is that these carefully constructed jewels have layered themselves right out of balance. What’s so successful about PDT, the adjunct bar to Crif Dog (ha!) is that the cocktails are complicated, tasty, actually have enough alcohol and remain in perfect harmony. These are fun enough, but less alcohol and less composure render them not yet quite good enough.
Food is available in small plate form, charcuterie, cheeses, scotch eggs and the like – all from the Fat Radish, a wonderful gastropub nearby.
Go and explore the list. The standard drinks are well made, three champagnes are on the menu, Billecart-Salmon, Krug and Jacquesson plus a few more entertaining menu surprises. It’s a lovely and lively atmosphere and hopefully the artful cocktails will find a way to meld with the aesthetic balance they’ve created with the rest of that world.
Experimental Cocktail Club
191 Chrystie Street near Rivington Street
Email for reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org