Welcome new contributor, Karina Schroeder, to Girl Around Town! We’re salivating over her profile of one of the best new cocktails bars in the city…
Since the debut of shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, vintage alcohol and cocktails have come roaring back into style.
And we couldn’t be happier, because now you can get variations on delicious classics in just about any neighborhood in the city. Can I get a Manhattan, please?
One of New York’s coolest bars tapping into this trend is Lantern’s Keep, a 1920s-30s era European lounge in the Iroquois Hotel in Midtown. Sexy low lighting, a warm black lacquer furnace, an intimately arranged seating area, and classic vintage cocktails all take you back to the days of smooth jazz, flowing evening gowns, and seductive affairs.
Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t heard of it- Lantern’s Keep is just a little over a year old, and it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It was recently put on the map, however, as the only East Coast-area bar named a finalist for World’s Best Hotel Bar at the 6th Annual Spirited Awards. You can’t help bragging about that.
We recently sat down with Lantern’s Keep’s head bartender, Theo Lieberman, and asked him to share his passion for mixology + the secrets to his success.
What was the first cocktail you ever tried?
The Gold Rush, at Raines Law Room. Fresh squeezed lemon juice, honey, and bourbon. It’s an unbelievable drink from T.J. Siegel.
Where did you learn to make cocktails?
I’ve had a couple of really amazing teachers, Meaghan Dorman from Raines Law Room and Sasha Petraske from Milk & Honey. I’ve been bartending since I was 21, for three years, and I’ve spent a lot of time in bars taking notes.
What is your favorite cocktail here?
I think The Double Barrel is an amazing drink, it’s from The Fine Artistry of Mixing Drinks, 1936. We’re doing The Double Barrel 1:1:1 (sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and rye). Our sweet vermouth is Carpano Antica, our dry vermouth is Dolan Dry, and then [we add] angostura bitters and orange bitters. We do it on the rocks, and I love that drink. It is our second most popular stirred drink.
What is the first most popular?
The McKittrick Old Fashioned. It’s a bourbon old fashioned with Pedro Ximenez Sherry as the sweetener, and a little bit of Bittermens Mole Bitters.
Was that drink inspired by Sleep No More?
Yes. Classic hotel bars in the early 1900s named things after Broadway plays a lot or celebrities from Broadway, [as well as] hotels. We have a drink on the menu that’s called Weekend at the Waldorf, which is a white rum daiquiri with strawberries and curacao. [Another drink on our menu] is called Warhorse. The McKittrick, although it’s not a real hotel, I thought was a great name. I feel like it has a good feel for what I felt when I was at Sleep No More, dark and with a lot of layers.
Most of the drinks on our menu range from the late 1800s to pre-1940. A lot of them are tweaked. The Floradora is a drink from the early 1900s that used ginger ale and frambrois (raspberry liqueur). So we do it with fresh raspberry, house-made ginger, fresh squeezed lime juice, and club soda.
All of your cocktails are made with fresh-squeezed fruit juice?
Yes. We have fresh lime, simple syrup, lemon, honey, house-made sweetened ginger juice, and fresh-squeezed pineapple which we do daily. And then we have orange bitters, angostura bitters, and peychaud.
Do your drinks change from season to season?
We change 10 out of 27 drinks per month. We do seasonality really well without ever changing the ingredients we have. I don’t do seasonality with fruits or anything like that, I feel like you can do a completely seasonal menu using things like Manhattan variations that are 1:1, or you know things of that nature that are lighter. You can give people the ability to have the same drink all year long, which I strongly believe in.
How do you feel about Lantern’s Keep being a World’s Best Hotel Bar finalist?
That was huge. We’re a tiny little bar and the staff is insanely dedicated. We’re a 29-seat bar and we do everything to order all night. I feel like we’ve done something really great and special here.
How do you think current television shows and pop culture have influenced the vintage bar scene?
I think people are making drinks at home more. I think people are stocking a home bar more, and then coming to bars for inspiration when they go out with friends. It’s definitely making things more expensive. Just a couple of years ago I used to get amazing crystal glassware for no money. [Now that’s much more difficult].
Tell us what makes Lantern’s Keep unique from other NYC vintage bars?
What I think makes this bar different than any other bar in the world is the staff that works here. There are tons of great staffs but the people who work here are just the best. I think we offer a good selection of new-school philosophy meets very classic old-school. We’re not going to do the 8-ingredient drink here- we do simplicity and we do it really well.
Make sure to stop in Lantern’s Keep for an evening drink the next time you’re in New York City.
Accessorize: For cocktails that take you down memory lane, here are a couple accessories that will as well…
Carolee Long Gold Glass Pearl Illusion
Karina Schroeder is a freelance arts and culture writer in New York City.
While contributing to various online publications, she also writes her own blog at http://karinaschroeder.com. @schroederkarina