The bar and restaurant at The NoMad Hotel has been open about two weeks, but the cocktail program has been a long time coming, since it grew quite naturally out of the program bar manager Leo Robitschek developed at the group's other restaurant, Michelin three-star rated Eleven Madison Park.
But where EMP started with 6 cocktails (gradually growing to 15), NoMad is offering 30 of their own inventions as well as a selection of 8 classics. And while Eleven Madison Park's bar is gleaming, mirrored, and bright, the bar at The Nomad is warm and pubby, flanked by a comfortable library/lounge. Menus are slipped into Art Deco-era books, and each season's selection of classic cocktails hails from a different historical tome. (This spring's offerings are from George Kappler's Modern American Drinks, circa 1894.)
"When this project came along, we wanted to recreate the classic hotel bar, which essentially was the birthplace of the cocktail," and a social center of the city, said Robitschek. The neighborhood immediately surrounding The NoMad served as an inspiration: "This area used to be known as the Tenderloin. It was vibrant and full of life, basically the epicenter of all the food and beverage in Manhattan. Delmonico's opened just down the street; Jerry Thomas had his first bar just down the street. It had a huge collection of saloons, gambling halls, and dance halls." So lively was the area that it became known to reformers as 'Satan's Circus'—a name Robitschek uses for his ruby-red rye cocktail (with a bit of a spicy chile kick.)
The menu of original cocktails is divided into several sections: aperitifs that are light on the alcohol, light-spirited cocktails featuring gin, tequila, pisco, and aquavit, and dark-spirited drinks that use whiskey, cognac, brandy, and rum. "There's not one drink on the menu that I wouldn't consume copious amounts of," said Robitschek when we asked him to pick favorites.
Want to see a few of the cocktails before you stop by The NoMad for yourself? Click through the slideshow for a preview of 8 drinks and the stories behind them.