"You can't really find a craft cocktail bar in Hoboken," said Ladislav Sebestyan, one of the two owners of Kolo Klub, recently opened on the second floor of Pilsener Haus & Biergarten in Hoboken. (Sebestyan and partner Andrej Ivanov opened the biergarten one year ago.)
"It's all sports bars; it's the kind of city where you can't really open a bar without a TV. When we opened Pilsener Haus, we didn't know if it could survive without a TV."
But they felt it was time for the neighborhood to have a higher-end bar of its own. So they converted their biergarten's enormous second-floor space into Kolo Klub—an events space during the week, and a cocktail bar on Fridays and Saturdays, soon adding Thursday as well. To design the drinks? Michael Neff and Kenneth McCoy, proprietors of Ward III and the Rum House, came on as consultants. (Serious Eats readers know Michael, of course, as our Behind the Bar columnist.)
"We wanted to create a valid, modern cocktail menu that's not hitting people over the head the 'mixology' hammer—though we don't want to talk down to people, either," said Neff. "We think that's reflective of the space and culture here. We don't want to ever assume people won't drink that, people won't try that."
That means a number of drinks are based on somewhat familiar elements—"The 'Velvet Revolution' is essentially a mojito profile; the 'Daisies' is for someone who knows they like tequila, but is willing to explore a little bit."
While the bar is themed around Prague of the 1920s, Neff stressed that he and McCoy weren't too literal about that as a jumping-off point for the drinks. "It's a fun menu, and part of taking a theme like this is just playing with the flavors of that part of a world. Not just drinking what they did, but really doing your research, exploring the culture." For instance, the herbal liqueur Becherovka, a Czech spirit, fit perfectly, "but the owners never imagined it could be part of a cocktail. It's just what they remember from when they were kids, the liquor people would do shots of all the time. Here, though, we're able to use it in cocktails."
Take a look at five of Kolo Klub's drinks in the slideshow above.