Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle Hotel (Even Sounds Fancy)
Upper East Side. The Carlyle. 'Nuff said. When Anthony Bourdain, my most favorite food personality of all time, visits a bar and says they have some of the best cocktails in the city, I absolutely have to go. Do not enter through the first door. It's the side door. Boy, was I embarrassed for a good five seconds.
Instead walk straight through the Carlyle's lobby, down the short steps into the plush café, and swing a left into the darkened doorway. A server in a classic white jacket, complete with black bowtie and black shiny shoes, will be waiting to seat you. It's a luxe, intimate setting, with gold ceilings, and a jazz trio (piano, big bass, vocals) in the middle. We were seated at one of the brown leather booths and were immediately awed by Bemelman's murals that cover all of the walls. Ludwig Bemelman was the creator of the Madeline children's books, and the murals are shown clearly in his style. It felt like the Central Park painter and that guy selling balloons joined us for drinks.
I'm sure we were the youngest people there, but it's so relaxing to enjoy a little music and great cocktails in an air of sophistication, minus all the screaming and puke-covered floors the kids are used to. All at the cost of a $25.00 per person cover charge for a table (it's $15 a person at the bar). Worth it, in my opinion. My first cocktail was the Passion Royale, a passion fruit-infused vodka, with fresh lime juice, topped with champagne, served over crushed ice. $24. And worth every sip. It's sweet and fizzy and everything a girl could ask for. The only other cocktail I've enjoyed as much in the city is a dessert cocktail by Angel's Share (a cute speakeasy in the lower east side) called the Cheek to Cheek. I'll just let you wonder about that one, or maybe I can write about it in a future blog.
Not having had dinner, I ordered Bemelman's mini burgers. Hotel food, meh. But the fries were good.
Instead, I enjoyed my drink with the bar snacks that I guess come with the $25 cover charge. The cheese crisps were especially good, cheesy with a hint of spice.
Next, I tried the champagne dream, made of pama pomegranate liqueur, Cointreau, fresh orange juice canard, and Duchene champagne. $34. Good but no match for the Passion Royale. My partner in crime had an old fashioned, $20. As a whiskey connoisseur, I trust him when he says it was a truly good old fashioned. He also had the gin-gin mule (Tanqueray, ginger beer, muddled mint, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, $21) and the whiskey smash (maker's mark bourbon whiskey, muddled mint, muddled lime, simple syrup, $23). All perfectly blended, quality cocktails.
The trio ended their session at midnight, upon which the audience dispersed. Early night but quite enjoyable. $216 plus tip for five drinks, mini burgers with fries, and two cover charges. Still worth it, if you're there for the whole experience and quality cocktails (yes, you really can tell the difference)