In a city where there are so many people trying to be visible, we seek places in deep corners where we can hide behind velvet curtains or heavily guarded steel doors simply to avoid crowded, messy social interactions. The overstimulation and exposure of the senses in New York drive us to places of secrecy and valor. It may or may not be a direct correlation of our narcissism, but either way, the liquor is damn tasty.
The newest addition to the ever growing collection of back door New York speakeasies is Garfunkel’s, a Lower East Side hotspot complete with an ear piece-wielding bouncer with a warm, toothy smile. It took him three minutes to admit us to a mostly empty bar. I respect the exclusion.
Decor beckons to the plush age of old New York, where velvet upholstered thrones live alongside a wall of books that most likely do not have real pages. The dim lighting lends the space a sexy, rustic vibe. It is an excellent place for date night – an impressive move on a first or second date, or an engine-revving boost to a long-term relationship in need of a night out.
This lower lower east side spot could easily be a stuffy, pretentious cocktail bar erring on the side of shoving mixology rules down the throats of its patrons. It has the experience and the sweat and the guts to do so, but somehow it remains a laid-back place you can’t wait to tell your friends about. The vibe is unarguably cool, but lots of New York establishments are cool. It’s the people behind a place that give it soul, and soul outlasts cool.
Beverage director Ivo Diaz is a fountain of knowledge, and his ambition for success is apparent in the child-like wonderment of his chosen profession. It is rare in the world that we live in to meet someone who is truly excited by what they do, what they create, and the passionate guidelines within which they live their lives. Formerly of The Nomad, Diaz executes mixologist Lucinda Sterling’s elegant and interesting cocktail list with finesse, and allowed us to sample some of his newer ideas. The list will change seasonally, though it is already expansive enough to cover much ground.
Favorites are the 1933, an aged rum cocktail with black mission fig bitters and pear liquor that drinks like an Old Fashioned and is an absolute delight. The tequila based TNT, complete with habanero bitters, spicy tamarind and a glass rimmed with tamarind salt is something to be sipped slowly, luxuriating on the flavors that swirl to spicy perfection. We also sampled a spin on a gin martini where three dollops of aromatic olive oil danced on the surface, taking the place of actual olives. It was exquisite, not to mention the added bonus of not having to dispose of a toothpick.
Garfunkel’s will inevitably be a sought after, crowded, exclusive hot spot – it’s the nature of a space and a cocktail menu as beautifully intriguing as this one. What will make it thrive is the commitment to innovation, to creativity, and to that intangible thing, soul.
Twisted Talk: What’s your favorite cocktail bar in the city? Have you tried out Garfunkel’s yet? Discuss below!