New York City's tableside cocktails
At Noir in New York’s midtown, drinkers can buy drinks from an antique-looking cart that is wheeled to your seat. (courtesty of Thrillist)
Always eager to offer something new, Big Apple restaurants and bars are turning to an old and elegant ritual: drinks made tableside.
In a nod to the US custom of preparing everything from beef tartare to crepes Suzette at your table during haute cuisine’s mid-20th century heyday, your cocktail is made right in front of you on a wheeled cart, and in some cases you’re invited to play bartender as well.
When 16-year-old midtown steakhouse Maloney & Porcelli opened this spring after a revamp, it rolled out roving wooden martini carts. As you relax in a burgundy leather booth, waiters in plaid ties and white vests mix martinis to order ($14 each) atop gleaming two-tier stations with compartments for liquor bottles, cocktails glasses and a tray of garnishes.
The arrival of the NoMad – a spectacularly baroque hotel and restaurant, full of opulent dining rooms with plush carpeting and heavy draperies -- heralds the rapid changes occurring in New York City’s grungy garment district. Chief among these is the big improvement in drinks options, particularly for those who order the updated spin on bottle service available in the restaurant's burnished Library bar. Purchase a bottle of liquor ($250 to $275 for the equivalent of 15 cocktails) and a custom-built cart will be wheeled to your seating area, complete with shakers, spoons, mixers and garnishes, plus an insulated drawer holding special long-lasting ice cubes made from purified water in a special ice machine. The cart is designed for do-it-yourself cocktailing, but if you're a mixology novice, staff will fix drinks to order or even stage an impromptu lesson.
In the upstairs lounge of Noir, a newly opened bi-level restaurant and bar in midtown, drinkers can purchase scotches, cognacs and whiskeys by the ounce ($25 to $45 per fluid ounce) from an antique-looking cart that is wheeled to your seat. Drinks ordered on the rocks are chilled via large spherical ice cubes that both look elegant and melt more slowly.
Cuban-themed Cienfuegos, in the East Village, is painted in weathered shades of pink and turquoise, evoking a faded tropical paradise. The bar is known for its fruity cocktails and shareable punches, and Hemingway himself would surely approve of the new tableside daiquiri cart ($15 each), where every step of the process, from squeezing lime juice to chipping ice, is performed in front of the customer, who is able to select from a choice of several rums.
In the Financial District, the Andaz Wall Street's spacious Bar Seven Five has plenty of room for the roaming caddies where cocktails ($13 to $18) are finished tableside. Both the many-shelved carts and the miniature shakers are modelled on those once used in Pullman train cars during the US railway boom of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Bartenders get each drink started at the butcher block bar area, then do the rest at guests' tables for an up-close experience.