Where can I get a good absinthe cocktail in New York?
October 21, 2008 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Help a beer drinker expand his horizons a little bit. What's a good place to get an absinthe cocktail in Manhattan (or anywhere else in New York)?

I want to try some absinthe, now that it's legal here in the States. I don't want to spend $60-80 on a bottle. Not initially, at least. I'd prefer to spend $15-25 on an absinthe cocktail. (Not much more than that.)

But for that amount of money, I want it prepared properly, by a good bartender. I tried to order one in a hipster-ish place in Queens; my order got the bartender a little flustered, probably because she wasn't familiar with that drink. (I decided to have a pint instead.) My knowledge of cocktail bars is pretty scant; I stick to beer for the most part.

So . . . if you've had the classic absinthe cocktail, with the spoon, the lump of sugar, etc. at any place in NYC where the bartenders know what they're doing, I'd love to hear some recommendations from you.

Many thanks in advance!
posted by jason's_planet to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't answer your question, but I can say that I've had great absinthe-and-lemonade cocktails, which I thoroughly recommend trying.

However, I really suggest that you try green Chartreuse instead. Distilled from 130 herbs and flowers, it has that anise flavor to it but is much more full-bodied and palate-arousing. It's also naturally green and, in my experience, has subtle psychoactive effects that are a bit different than your average 110-proof skullpopper.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:29 AM on October 21, 2008

This place even has an absinthe bar!

I can't vouch for it, but they do seem to take their absinthe seriously.
posted by Evangeline at 11:44 AM on October 21, 2008

The Dove has a classic absinthe cocktail on their menu.
posted by andrewraff at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2008

White Star on Essex St. is the place you want to go. It's new, it's small, and it's all about absinthe.
posted by neroli at 12:31 PM on October 21, 2008

Another vote for White Star.
posted by cazoo at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2008

At Apotheke, they make their own absinthe from a 200 year-old recipe.
posted by xo at 1:13 PM on October 21, 2008

White Star is great if you want to drink absinthe the traditional way, but if you want a cocktail using absinthe, it's a little tricky because it's technically a "no cocktails" place. Though honestly they mean "no citrus." So you can still get something like a Manhattan or Negroni, but expect it to be on the rocks since there are no strainers and don't order it when the place is busy.

Now if you're looking for something less limited than absinthe with sugar and water and/or a dash of bitters, pretty much many of the cocktail places around the city are using it in a variety of ways. It's an ingredient in plenty classic cocktails and it's also getting used in different forms whether people are floating it, misting it, or rinsing the glass.

Off the top of my head the Swiss Mist at PDT uses a spritz of Kubler absinthe. The bar at Allen & Delancey's got sibling absinthe cocktails on the menu. Tailor had a Pastiche Fraiche on the menu, though I can't remember if it's on the current menu's incarnation, but a lot of times these places can make you a drink on an old menu if they have the ingredients lying around. I'm pretty sure Death and Company has some too, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment because I usually stick to brown and stirred.

But you could just go to any of the following places and ask the able bartenders to make you a Corpse Reviver, Sazerac or whatever they can using absinthe. With your 15-25 dollar range it's MORE than easy to go to any of these places, so it's actually quite a lot of places around the city. So to narrow it down, I'm going to try and list the places that aren't hidden/secret/need phone number. At the worse, they're going to be seating only or always busy, which means if you show up there at 9pm on a Saturday, or any day, at the worst you might be put on a wait list or turned away. I'm further narrowing it down by listing places in Manhattan and/or places I've been to recently:

Pegu Club (Manhattan)
Little Branch (Manhattan)
Tailor (Manhattan)
Death and Company (Manhattan)
Flatiron Lounge (Manhattan)
Clover Club (Brooklyn/Carroll Gardens)
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:26 PM on October 21, 2008

I just realized that some might call foul because Little Branch breaks the no-secret rule. Granted you might just walk past the door if you haven't been there before, but I'm listing it anyway because it's not hidden like PDT or say the Back Room. It just happens to look like the door to someone's apartment. And later in the evening they have someone standing out there to regulate the capacity so it's more like "hiding in plain sight" than hiding. Keep in mind it's cash only. White Star is cash only as well.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:34 PM on October 21, 2008

If you want someplace a little less hoity-toity, The Stoned Crow actually has a bartender (Jimmy, I believe is his name) that is really into absinthe so they have a selection. Otherwise a pretty divey bar, personally I'd rather have it at one of the places kkokkodalk mentioned but I figured I'd put it out there.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:32 PM on October 21, 2008

Great! I'll try 'em all!

Thanks, guys! Thanks for all of your suggestions.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:20 AM on October 22, 2008

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