Orient Express Cocktail Bar
Such an attractive website. Such false advertising and facade. I had found it while searching for quality craft cocktail bars after having seen a remake of The Orient Express in the movie theatre. Drinks all based on the Agatha Christie Novel, the movie and a few new ones that looked very attractive.
When I came in it looked like a shoe box. The bar itself only seats about 6. I am guessing it was planned this way, like a railway box on the Orient Express itself. The decor is nostalgic and has old luggage, posters, etc.
When I enter the bar it looks like a hookup place. Not my words, my wife’s. I personally could not help but notice that 2 of the young women at the bar were baring midriff in early February. No complaints from me of course, but now I wonder because women have this 6th sense. She later tells me that the couple sitting next to us were flirting. Nothing unusual but he is wearing a wedding ring and she is not. They snack on hummus and leave after one drink. Another woman is sitting alone, has half her beer and leaves alone after a few minutes.
When I ask the bartender (excuse me, mixologist) if they still have the Sleeping Car, he looks bewildered, asks the waiter to look it up on the computer and comes back a moment later and says “yea I can do that”. Since the bar is crowded and the one customer seems bothered that he cannot leave his coat on the empty seat at the bar, we go to sit. They offer me to have a seat hastily but I am checking out the whiskey they have. And to be honest, I wanted to see him making the drink, not because I don’t trust him, but I like to see the method. After all there is a tower of bitters at the corner of the bar prominently displayed so I am thinking they take their cocktail game seriously.
My drink arrives. The Sleeping Car. It is supposed to be “apricot infused Hennessy cognac, calvados, lemon juice, mint, bitters. The website version is on the left, my version is on the left. What is missing is obvious, the muddled mint, the double straining, the frothy head and of course the Angostura bitters. Am I being picky and critical? Of course. I have been dreaming of this place since I saw the movie. I spent $16 for this drink with tip and I am hoping for something by a mixologist better than what I can make at home. I did not taste apricot, no mint (though it was floating in the drink), I can only assume it had cognac and calvados (apple brandy). But its a lost cause.
My wife gets The Colonel. It has tequila and mezcal. I know she is not going to like it based on her tastes but I am glad she got it because now she can have mine and I can taste hers. The menu calls for Don Julio tequila, mezcal, honey, lemon juice, lavender, thai bitters. When I saw the waiter mixing it I knew this was going to be a mistake. I can’t say for sure they used sweet and sour mix, but it did look like lemonade. When the drink came it was basically lemonade and mezcal. The mezcal was a punch in the face as if it was an ashtray dumped into a glass of lemonade. I know mezcal can be strong, but if they had balanced it with the honey, lavender and tequila it would or should have been subtle. This was a throwback to the college bars I would go to which was free poured ingredients into a mixing glass, and served over ice.
This was a complete and total fail. I understand that there are off nights and sometimes different staff does things differently, but this was clearly a case of low standards and no consistency and/or complete and total false advertising. When you enter a place like this you are not expecting TGI Fridays or Applebee’s descriptions of cocktails which look and taste completely different from the menu or website.
While craft cocktails are now more expensive than a burger in Manhattan, $14 cocktails portrayed too good to be true, probably are. And no, I am not paying $20 for a cocktail. I will start making them at home if this is the new norm of price gouging for a glorified whiskey sour consisting of sweet and sour mix.
325 West 11th Street, New York NY