Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bottle Service Gets Its Good Name Back

Nomad, the swank new hotel at 28th and Broadway in Manhattan, is trying to reclaim bottle service as a thing fine, decent, liquor-respecting people might do. Particularly those people who enjoy the chance to mix their own cocktails in a public setting. From the New York Times:
Bottle Service Goes D.I.Y.
By Robert Simonson
Bottle service doesn’t have a good reputation in self-respecting bartender circles. It conjures up images of ill-mannered but well-moneyed night trollers loudly swilling $500 bottles of Grey Goose vodka in the cordoned-off V.I.P. corners of ostentatiously swanky clubs and lounges. It’s not the style of drinking a genteel bartender condones.
Leo Robitscheck (above), the beverage director at the newly opened NoMadhotel and restaurant, on Madison Square Park in Manhattan, thought that reputation was partly undeserved. “I think the idea of bottle service traditionally might have been a good concept. It’s communal, it’s social, with you and your friends getting together around drinks. It gets a bad name because it’s usually terribly overpriced and badly executed.”
NoMad’s reimagining of bottle service begins with its sleek, black, wheeled bar carts (part of a return to tableside carts that the Dining section noted this week). The bar carts were designed by Mr. Robitscheck and built by Regency Cart Services in Brooklyn. The top is indented with a crescent-shaped garment tray. A drawer below contains the jiggers, mixing spoons and other tools you may need to build your drink. Another pivoting drawer, which opens on either side of the cart, holds custom Kold-Draft ice. A crank on the side lowers or elevates the work surface to the height desired by the customer. There are also bottles of bitters, and various vermouths and sweeteners.
These accouterments are obviously not needed if all you’re doing is emptying the contents of a bottle into glasses. But at NoMad, the service comes with more than just a bottle. Your spirit of choice arrives with three pre-mixed cocktails. If you opt for gin, for instance, you’ll also get three vessels containing the makings of a negroni, a southside and a gin-gin mule. Order tequila, and you’re good to go for an el diablo, a rosita and a tequila smash.
A NoMad bartender—called a “librarian,” since the service is available in the lounge area called The Library — can mix your drinks if you wish, but Mr. Robitscheck expects most people will want to do it themselves. “The inner bartender comes out to play,” he said. (There’s also a recipe card with instructions on how to make further cocktails with the booze on hand.)
Bottles service starts at the relatively low price of $250. “For us, it’s not about gouging people and making tons of money,” said Mr. Robitscheck, who is also bar manager at Eleven Madison Park, which is owned by the two partners who run the NoMad restaurant. He notes that, drink for drink, the service is “priced cheaper than our cocktails” (which average $15 at NoMad.)

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