Where to Drink in New York: Fatty Johnson's


[Photographs: Carly Wray]

With Fatty Johnson's, Zak Pelaccio (chef of Fatties Crab and 'Cue) has doubled down on the idea of the pop-up. It's not just a temporary bar that may soon disappear, it's a bar that disappears every time it closes. Go two times and you'll get two different cocktail menus designed by different guest bartenders. Go a third, and you'll find no cocktail menu at all. Given the ticking clock, though, whatever you do: Go very soon.

The space (previously Cabrito, you can still locate it via the goat over the door) is warm and casually bare, lit by scattered candles and muted TVs—think Criterion Collection, not ESPN. There's a distinct hit of pork in the air, fitting for a place offering several levels of "Ham Service," including Jamon Iberico ($21) and Dickson's Farmstand Picnic Ham ($13); the food menu's a shapeshifter, but some form of pig is always in steady supply.

My first roll of the dice at Fatty Johnson's landed me on a "Bartender's Choice" night, when the menu stated two options—The Good Stuff ($13) and The Really Good Stuff ($15). Your role here is to trust your bartender, in this instance Fatty Crew's Adam Schumann and Philip Pepperdine, a brand ambassador for St-Germain. It's fair to throw out a few more ideas of what you're after (shaken or stirred, savory or sweet), but offering too many adjectives misses the point. I stuck to The Good Stuff, one shaken and one stirred, and my trust was rewarded. Pepperdine started with Elijah Craig bourbon on the first, stirring in St-Germain (naturally), Maraschino, lemon, and Punt e Mes, an aromatic vermouth with shadows of wormwood. For the shaken round, I scored an Aviation-esque cocktail of Plymouth gin, lemon, St-Germain, and Maraschino, a bright, jangly, floral wonder that unfolded one note at a time.


On the next night, the ham service remained but the staff had switched to Employees Only's Steve Schneider and Ward III's Michael Neff, a man who knows his way around an egg white. His Winter Tuxedo ($12) binds one with Beefeater Winter Gin, lemon, sugar, and housemade orange bitters, a grown-up creamsicle with the kind of velvet foam you can't help but sample with your finger. The rest of the menu, as on all the other nights, reveals that the organizing principle here is fun—not precious nose-thumbing or pretentious snark, but an inside joke-riddled, off-duty sense of humor.


To wit: The Young Republican's Convention ($13), a drink with the flavor profile of a boozy apple pie. Zubrowka vodka lightens up the edges of a shot of apple brandy, and the whole thing's flecked with lime and mint. The best part, though, was the mallet-crushed ice, partly for its perfect texture but mostly for the spectacle. Every time a bartender picked up a massive mallet to smash a new sack of cubes, faces around the bar made a note to order whatever drink required such gleeful violence.

If you're curious what you're in for before you visit, there are menu and staff updates (often with videos) on the Fatty Johnson site, but to truly capture the spirit of the pop-up, you may as well just pop in.

Fatty Johnson's

50 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014 (map) 212-929-5050; fattyjohnsons.com