A low lit sign that reads "BAR" lets you know you've arrived. Once inside the Dutch Kills bar in New York's Long Island City neighborhood, the thing that hits you is that someone has been paying attention to the details. Richie Boccato and his partner Sasha Petraske have been successfully getting the devil in the details right since they resurrected the art of cocktailing nearly ten years ago. I won't list the bars they have opened - you know what they are and understand their mission. But I can tell DK (as we call it) is Richie Boccato's baby. I am talking pride and joy. And he talks about the place like a gushing father.
It all starts with the ice. When he talks about the process, you marvel at the knowledge of a true craftsman. Boccato and company brought fresh ingredients and artisanal liquors back to the bar. Now he aims to do the same for ice, and clearly he is not relying on the magical Kold Draft machine to keep your drink cold. Each day a 30 pound block of ice arrives at DK. They take an ice pick to the block and scar into eight sub pieces, then break it down further, until one gets the hand chipped piece that ends up making the cocktail. And it makes a difference. The solid chunk of hand cut ice melts slowly in your drink and certainly does not bruise the liquor. The result - a crisp refreshing drink that isn't watered down. The ice keeps the cocktail's consistency and taste profile throughout the imbibing experience.
The attention to detail doesn't stop with the ice. You can see it in the hand typed menus. Hand typed on a vintage Soviet era East German typewriter. Yes, there is an umlaut key!
Item: There is an ATM machine hidden inside a black wooden case in an alcove by the door hidden behind curtains.
Item: There is a turn of the century saloon feel to it. From the saw dust on the floor, to dark varnished wood, intimate booths, high ceilings, and low lighting.
Item: Five star cocktails at outerborough prices. Most of the specials (written on a chalk boards behind the bar) are nine semolians! That's right. Nine hundred pennies will get you a Queens Park Swizzle (Rum, Lime, Mint, Sugar, bitters)! Believe you me, these drinks are a steal.
Item: World Class barkeeps - Giuseppe Gonzalez, formerly of Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge, and recent winner of the Tales of the Cocktail 'On the Fly Competition' is behind the stick with Boccato on most nights. So is Alex Day of Franklin Mortgage Company in Philadelphia and Death & Company. The veterans and new bartenders like Amanda P and Abe keep the quality high and you staying for "one more."
Once you have sampled the exquisite special cocktails. Go off menu. Get creative. Ask for a Charles H. Baker, Jr. classic such as Turf Cocktail No. 2 and get into a discussion on whether it is just another name for the Tuxedo. These fellows know their drinks history. Further, they can take you on a historical tour that will be a treat for your taste buds.
Turf Cocktail # 2
- 1 1/2 oz Dry Gin
- 1 oz Dry Vermouth
- 1 bar spoon Absinthe
- 1 bar spoon maraschino
- Dash of orange bitters or Abbots bitters (they have it)
Stir ingredients in bar glass and serve up in cocktail glass senza garnish.
Or ask for a G. Gonzalez original:
- 2 oz Plymouth Gin
- 1 bar spoon Velvet Falernum
- 1 bar spoon Yellow Chartreuse
- Dash of Aromatic Bitters
Build cocktail in a chilled rocks glass, add a hand carved block of ice, garnish with freshly cut lemon peel. For the Scottish Dandy substitute Chivas Regal for the Gin.
The bar is located two blocks from the subway and many taxi depots which makes it very easy to visit..and visit..and visit...
27-24 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101
Hours of operation: 5pm to 2am, Seven days a week
(photo of the bar at Dutch Kills courtesy of Giuseppe Gonzalez)