By Ella Riley-Adams
First meetings are both exciting and nerve-wracking. In the adult world, that means a strong drink is a first date’s natural accompaniment. “Takes the edge off,” we say to ourselves. But a drink has far more potential, especially in New York City. It can be a taste adventure, conversation starter, and meal enhancer.
As you’re planning your first date (or hell, your second or third), banish the jitters by arranging to meet at one of these interesting bars. Let each cocktail segue into a bigger topic: does your date appreciate taste or smell more? When did she last feel truly happy, and what cocktail would encompass that feeling? Was he ever a bartender, and if so, did he prefer shaking or stirring?
The following list of drinks and bars should inspire both taste sensations and fun date questions:
Robert Johnson Swizzle: Death & Company Flip to the whiskey portion of Death & Co’s lengthy drinks menu. It’s interrupted by a shotgun illustration and a quote: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk, that will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” (Hemingway, of course.) However, do open your mouth in order to drink this cocktail featuring fresh squeezed lemon juice, vanilla syrup, and Otima 10yr Tawny Port, bourbon, and bitters. Not only is it delicious, but you get to say the word “swizzle” when you order. If whiskey’s not your speed, try one of this dark bar’s three juleps, or feel slightly dirty when you order a “Little Miss Annabelle.”
St. Catherine’s Academy: Elsa If Death & Company waters the dark corners of your heart, Elsa is bound to enliven the inner angel. This East Village spot is all white washed surfaces and candlelight, complemented by a cocktail menu printed in vintage music books. Though the selection changes seasonally, summer’s menu features St. Catherine’s Academy, a simple concoction made with muddled kumquat and basil. Make a reservation to insure you get a cozy booth, and prepare to feel simultaneously warm and refreshed.
Gin and Juice: Booker and Dax This bar, attached to Momofuku Ssäm, emphasizes their measured approach to drink making. Specifically, they say they’re “considered, deliberate, and precision-oriented.” If you or your date can taste the difference between well tonic and house tonic, Evan Williams and Bulleit (and you prefer the latter), your palate will get a kick out of Booker and Dax’s offerings. Typically a simple drink, their Gin and Juice is made with grapefruit juice that’s clarified in a centrifuge. Then, it’s carbonated and served in a champagne flute. PopSci’s got more on the specific process, but we assure you the finished product is what Snoop Dogg wishes he were rapping about in his classic ballad.
3 Amigos: Hotel Delmano Sit outside of this Williamsburg haunt while the weather’s still nice. Nudge your chair next to your date’s (for warmth, of course) and split the baby octopus salad. Then, take the evening up a notch with Hotel Delmano’s triple whopper: a can of Tecate, shot of tequila, and small glass of sangria. While you’re working on the beer, decide on some goals, whether they’re work-related, emotional, or romantic. Toast to your upcoming achievements with the tequila, then use your sangria as an excuse to linger in the new comfort of your conversation.
La Miel: Beauty & Essex The sweetest drink of our bunch, this concoction might as well be your dessert for the night. With vanilla infused Brooklyn gin, applejack, honey syrup, citron and ginger, you’re required to savor every sugary sip. Take your cue to talk about human sweetness: what qualifies as a sweet gesture? When is romance overly saccharine? Make mental notes; if a fourth or fifth date rolls around, it’s not La Miel who will make the night a sweet success. It’s you.