Thursday, July 5, 2007

Land of Milk and Honey

I visited, for the first time, the New York branch of Milk and Honey, the London-based cocktail bar that conducts itself a bit like a speakeasy and a bit like a private club.

Milk and Honey has no phone number and no listed address. You have to know someone who's associated with the place in order to get the number. Once you have those digits, you call and make a reservation for a designated night and time. Someone calls back to confirm. It's all very mysterious and gives you a kind of tingly sensation.

Since the bar's intention seems to be to keep things on the hush-hush, I won't reveal the address here, even though it's been printed many places and is easy to find out. Let's just say it's on an obscure street and there is no signage or any other indications that it's there. You press a buzzer; there's a slight wait; then the door clicks open. Sweep aside two black curtains and you're in a narrow space, formerly a tailor's shop. Tin ceilings, low lighting, jazz music. A small bar seats four. There are three booths up front, three in back. Many coat hooks line the walls.

No one took my name and gave me instruction. Me and my friend occupied the final booth. As everything around me bespoke of civilized behavior, I didn't insist on attention, but waited patiently. It was about 15 minutes before the bartender approached apologetically and offered two glasses of champagne to make up for the lag in service. He said he was short on help that night; he was alone, in fact. Since he was so nice about it, and the place was so nice, I didn't care.

He asked for our order. I offered my usual challenge: a Sazerac. He didn't blink. We agreed on a brand of Rye and that was that. My friend wanted vodka and let the choice of drink up to the man. It took a while before the drinks came. No wonder, since the bartender obviously labors over them. Good drinks take a while to make. The Sazerac was good and, I was told later, made with actual Absinthe.

We were never rushed to order a second drink. The place is not about drinking. It's about selecting a drink, making it and then enjoying it.

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