5 Great New York Bartenders
They'll take Manhattan... and make you a damn fine one, too. Amid New York City's ever-expanding cocktail renaissance, these five impresarios are (vigorously) shaking things up. (Pictured left to right)
Dave Arnold, Booker & Dax
For the cocktail magician and author of Liquid Intelligence, curiosity is the prime ingredient. His arsenal at this annex to the East Village’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar includes a centrifuge, liquid nitrogen, and a 1,500-degree red-hot poker (for caramelizing the sugar in his French Colombian)—but his flash is always in service of flavor.
Signature Drink: The preposterously green (and nitro-muddled) Thai basil daiquiri.
Leo Robitschek, NoMad Bar
Seasonality is key for this 2014 James Beard Award winner, who developed the cocktail programs at Eleven Madison Park and the always-buzzing bars of midtown’s NoMad Hotel. Robitschek changes his lists year-round, using ingredients (grapefruit and amaro in winter, cherries and aperitif liquors in summer) that evoke a clear sense of time and place.
Signature Drink: The Start Me Up intensifies Elijah Craig bourbon with lemon juice, ginger, honey, and Strega, an Italian digestif made with saffron.
Thomas Waugh, Dirty French
Waugh’s cheeky wit is on display in the bar menus of ZZ’s Clam Bar, Carbone, and this sultry new bistro on the Lower East Side. His m.o.: keeping faith with vintage cocktails while “throwing things off just enough” to make them fresh.
Signature Drink: The Muddy Water, an inspired Sazerac riff that combines cinnamon-bark syrup, mole bitters, and cumin-infused rye.
Pamela Wiznitzer, The Dead Rabbit
This multistory saloon inside an 1828 Federal-style building singlehandedly brought cool to the Financial District, thanks largely to Wiznitzer’s speedy (but always warm) service and equally quick sense of humor—she’s been known to bust out a mean Robot when the right tune comes on. “I try to remind the other bartenders not to take our work too seriously,” she says.
Signature Drink: The fiery-red, cognac-and-pomegranate-based (and very serious) Scarlet Letter.
Natasha David, Nitecap
Opened last spring, David’s subterranean Lower East Side haunt quickly made good on its name as the late-night destination for fellow bartenders. Her style is firmly rooted in the classics, but she’s no stranger to whimsy and has a sweet spot for spritzes and lower-proof spirits such as sherry and fortified wine.
Signature Drink: The Exit Strategy, a blend of two types of amaro, brandy, and salt, with an orange twist.