Where to find Milk & Honey–caliber cocktails in the land of the lame office party.
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It’s not that there aren’t plenty of places to get a drink in Midtown, but that the options tend toward noisy pubs, power restaurants, and a few grand hotel bars. Some of those spots are amazing, no doubt, but in a city 10 years deep into a cocktail-culture renaissance, it’s still oddly difficult to find evidence of artisanal drinks amid the office buildings.
Enter Lantern’s Keep, at the Iroquois Hotel, which offers a dimly lit intimate space with few tables, fine art on the walls, and a bartender who wears thick-rimmed glasses and a vest while muddling his mint.
The head bartender and bar manager of Lantern’s Keep, Theo Lieberman, came up to the Iroquois from the cocktail-culture epicenter, Milk and Honey, and he brought with him a slew of downtown-quality drinks. There are no flavored alcohols here, and all the ingredients are the real deal, like homemade grenadine made from fresh pomegranate juice.
The space is quieter than your typical after-work bar, and if it feels exclusive, that’s because it is. There are only 30 seats—mostly at small bistro-size tables—so if you come between 5 and 9 p.m., you’ll be best off making a reservation. And when you do secure a seat, there’s no rush. Most people sit for at least an hour and half and take their time savoring the drinks.
About those drinks: The extensive menu has a heavy Prohibition-era influence along with some more current cultural references. For instance, the McKittrick Old Fashioned was named after the fictitious hotel in which the play Sleep No More takes place. (It was fashionable to name cocktails after plays in the early 1900s, says Lieberman.) The drink contains bourbon, mole chocolate bitters, and Pedro Ximinez sherry.
Other options include the Northside Special, with dark rum and lemon juice shaken with an orange wedge and topped with club soda, and the Expat, with bourbon, lime, mint, and bitters. And, of course, there are a few favorites borrowed from Milk & Honey and Little Branch, so you can sample downtown’s greatest hits without ever venturing below 42nd Street.