We Finally got around to visiting Dutch Kills last week. Dutch Kills is a bar that just opened fairly recently and takes its name from the archaic title of the area it inhabits (It encompassed most of what is now Long Island City.) It has a very old-timey theme—think early twentieth century, Gangs of New York—a couple of the bartenders have handlebar mustaches (see: last week’s blog) and it has a piano area in the back where I imagine patrons relaxing, sipping libations, and enjoying a peppy rag by new sensation Scott Joplin.
One of the most appealing things to me is that this bar models itself on prohibition speakeasies. First off, we had a little trouble finding the place because of its unassuming exterior. The whole area looks rather industrial [auto repair, wholesale carpet stores, etc.] so we were looking for some sort of giant sign. It’s a good thing we had the address handy because when we got there, there was only a modest placard that bore little more than the name of the establishment. There was no menu outside, no window sign, no posted happy hour specials. I was expecting them slide open a little eyehole and ask me for a password or a secret handshake. As I was coming up with likely passwords, Heather opened the door and walked inside.
As the hostess asked us how many were in our party, I started blurting out words that I would use as a password if I ran a speakeasy. “Rhubarb…President Warren G. Harding…Pantaloons…” The hostess looked at me funny and then frowned and then showed us to a table. Honestly I would think that this kind of thing happens all the time; it is a speakeasy after all. What's a speakeasy without a secret password? Once our eyes adjusted to the darkened room, we looked over the drink menu. Aside from a few beers and specialty drinks, the menu was pretty sparse. I suppose they figure if we’re savvy enough to find the place, we’re competent enough to order a drink.
I ordered the Queen’s Park Swizzle (see: last weeks blog) and it tasted remarkably similar to the one I made myself; at least I know I’m doing it right. Heather’s first round was a Separatist, a cocktail of bourbon, amaro ciociaro (a bittersweet digestif liqueur,) lemon juice, sugar and blood orange served in a highball glass. The result was a dark, fruity, rich cocktail that was right up her alley—right up to the moment she dropped the drink and the glass shattered on the table. As the great poet William Carlos Williams once remarked, “Condensation is indeed a cruel mistress.” He may not have said that, but he might have if he ever awkwardly dropped a spirited beverage. Think about it.
Fortunately for us, the staff cleaned it up in a timely fashion and brought her another one at no extra charge—score one for service. She apologized as the new one was brought out and the bartender said, “No problem, just don’t throw this one across the room.”—Score one for sarcasm. I must say, the staff was very accommodating, the bathrooms were nice (a stack of cloth hand towels; what am I, the Pope?) and the drinks were reasonably priced (nine bucks a pop, not bad for New York.)
For our next round, Heather got a Buccaneer’s Daisy, a blend of spiced rum, grand marnier, lemon juice and orange juice served in a cocktail glass. I, being the adventurous sort, challenged the bartender to surprise me. I am not the type of person who goes into bars and does that, but it was advertised on the menu so I figured it was a point of pride and not one of annoyance. I don’t know what the drink was called but I was told it was a daiquiri served neat and modified with apricot liqueur. It was sweet and chill and Heather actually preferred it to her own drink so we traded off. I’m nothing if not a gentleman. I capped the night with an IPA on tap (three drinks in one night, and it’s not even my birthday.) We live only one subway stop away so the ride home is a breeze.
I believe I am a fan of the modern day speakeasy. You get all the fun of sneaking drinks in a darkened room with old-timey and eccentric surroundings while not running the risk of a raid or having your drink fortified with varnish. If you want varnish in your drink, you have to go home and do it yourself.* I will say this though: We are experiencing a resurgence of an extreme economic depression and a renewed popularity of speakeasies. If history is any indicator we can look forward to the escalation of a global war and a robot that can smoke a cigarette. Drink up young people. It's going to be one hell of a ride.
*I probably don’t need to say this but we live in a very litigious society. Do not drink varnish. It is poison and will kill you. Besides, turpentine is where it’s at.**
**Also a joke.