It's been a love affair for the past few years. Phil and I. A bartender and a cocktail nerd patroness. The bond was undeniable from the moment we met years ago at Flatiron Lounge. Then it shifted to Pegu Club and moseyed on over to Death & Company.
But, as with all relationships, it'll only survive if it changes and grows. And, I think our "on the rocks/straight up" romance can make it through Phil Ward's transition from mixologist-for-hire to bar owner -- with the birth of his new East Village tequila and mezcal cocktail haven Mayahuel.
It won't officially open its doors until May 1 (just in time for Cinco de Mayo), but I stopped by for a soft launch sampling of his new Mexican-inspired tipples.
Stepping inside after being greeted by Phil's partner Ravi DeRossi of Bourgeois Pig, Desnuda and Death & Co fame, I was impressed at the work that had gone into transforming the Moroccan spot Zerza into an alluring, cozy cantina. Then came the shake and stir...
The Loop Tonic, made of blanco tequila, green chartreuse, vermouth and celery bitters, went down so smooth, I had to order up another cocktail right quick. A Whoopsy Daisy came next, with blanco tequila, joven mezcal, lime and pomegranate molasses. Mouth-puckering, lightly sweet and potent all at once.
With a second drink under my belt, it seemed time to explore. The second floor beckoned with its stained-glass parasol chandelier catching my eye from ground level. Upstairs was scarlet red with crushed velvet banquettes and enough sex appeal to make the tequila and mezcal almost unnecessary in order to inspire a canoodling session with Mr. Wrong -- almost.
It all appeared a bit too dangerous for a Saturday night with two strong drinks already making their effects known. Still, I couldn't leave without at least one more for the road. I went for a Phil Ward classic, the Fresa Brava, with its muddled strawberries, jalapeno peppers, yellow chartreuse and blanco tequila. Spicy, juicy and spring-like, it qualified as a proper dessert on a warm late April night.
Can't wait to come back once the kitchen is in order and continue to see where this cocktail courtship leads.