On a recent visit to New York City, I took a fellow bar aficionado to Apotheke, a mixology lounge on Doyers Street in Chinatown. It marries the cocktail renaissance ably chronicled by Robert Messenger to an atmosphere as stunning as you’ll find. Aesthetic details include exposed brick walls, a chandelier that evokes the eponymous apothecary, and a wide marble bar-top with a soft peach sheen beneath track lights.
Arriving shortly before doors opened, we were pleased to find the knowledgeable bartender Miguel Aranda willing to serve us. I ordered the Cilantro Paso, “micro-cilantro infused gin, White Lillet, agave nectar, lemon juice, and fresh muddled cucumber.” My companion had the Mata Hari, “rye whiskey, Absinthium essence, Indian herbal bitters, egg white and fresh lime.” As yet, I lack the vocabulary to explain exactly why these drinks were superb, except to say that they were well-balanced — never too sweet or too tart, smooth going down, but strong enough that you can taste and savor the particular alcohol that you are drinking. Mr. Aranda guided us well in those and subsequent selections.
On prior visits to Apotheke, friends have sampled and enjoyed the Absinthe. On this occasion we were treated to a variety that wasn’t on the menu, so while I can’t guarantee you’ll find the same should you visit, I can recommend the show that preceded it being served.
Though it hasn’t been around that long, Apotheke is a known stop on New York’s gourmet cocktail scene, and it doesn’t take reservations like Milk & Honey, so I recommend going early if you visit. This is especially good advice since one pleasure of the bartender renaissance is a knowledgeable server who you can talk to about what you like, what they’ve got, and new things you might try. That isn’t going to happen if you arrive alongside the Lower East Side scenesters, but at less busy times, do try to chat up Mr. Aranda or one of his colleagues.
Apotheke: 9 Doyers Street near Bowery, a few blocks south of Canal Street — see photos better than mine at their Web site here. Expect to pay for the fresh ingredients, atmosphere and location. Updates on other drinks next time I return.