Sunday, April 29, 2012

Barfly's Beat: Experimental Cocktail Club LES

The Jack O'Lantern Cocktail at ECC LES
Loungerati's cocktail gal about town, Zoe Werner, has been a fan of the Experimental Cocktail Club ("ECC") Paris and its offshoots Curio Parlor and Prescription Cocktail Club since a visit to the rue Saint Sauveur original several years ago. So impressed, she established online correspondence with the proprietors, Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon, and Pierre-Charles Cros, and made their bars a destination when she traveled to the French capital. When ECC opened its New York outpost on the Lower East Side this past weekend, Zoe was one of the lucky few on the "Friends and Family" guest list. The following is Zoe's report of the much anticipated opening of ECC LES.

"I managed to be the first guest at the soft opening of Experimental Cocktail Club Lower East Side on a misty April evening.  Unfashionably early was no accident since [any Loungers'] objective is securing that  much coveted piece of New York real estate - the bar seat! So, my party and I took choice seats close enough to watch the artisans at work and put in our order. Looking around, it is clear that the action will not just be at the bar. There is no rush in the shadows, no "We meant to" details covering up or blithely glossed over in the former Kush nightclub space. ECC LES is ready for business and seems very comfortable in its new digs on Chrystie Street. There were delays in opening the bar but you would never know it.There are many intimate cozy nooks as well as plenty of room for groups. A service second bar graces a back corner near additional sitting room. Like their Paris original, ECC nods to France are evident in the decor from the dignified wallpaper, to the flirty light fixtures, marble topped bar, and subtly etched fin de siècle style cocktail glasses.

From a service perspective, the barkeeps Xavier Padovani and Aaron Butler took good care of us and talked us through their process while they prepared our beverages. Nina, the gracious and lovely hostess checked in just often enough to make us feel welcome. As the space got more crowded, they did not miss a beat and kept the esoteric cocktails and welcoming conversation flowing all night.

The first drink officially served at ECC NYC was my Kelpie's Julep,  a smokey, spicy julep with a scotch whisky base. The julep is served in traditional silver beaded julep cup with a generous heaping handful of crushed ice and bouquet of mint for garnish. The first few sips offered a very strong return of smokey scotch, and the flavors opens up nicely allowing Sechuan pepper to emerge. A true qualifying round!

For the second cocktail, I opted for the Jack O' Lantern, which is autumnal inspired flip with butternut squash infused 5 year old aged rum mixed with lighter than cream coconut milk, and traditional ingredients such as egg, and grated nutmeg.Being a guinea pig next tasted so good and smooth!

The star of the evening was the a tipple called the Mancora. This libation was exceptionally well balanced with vodka and Peruvian pisco as base spirits and featured rooibos herbal tea, Malbec syrup, plus a Fernet Branca rinse prominent in the nose of the drink. It was my favorite of the night and I will admit it was nice to see vodka being used in a drink that did not involve cranberry or tomato juice.

For the night cap, we opted for the French Can-can, a sharp, refreshing swizzle with rhubarb front and center thanks to Zucca Amaro. The very en vogue purple dyed Himalayan salt on the rim will please foodies looking for a civil introduction to summer.

There are numerous adventures to be had on this extremely flexible menu. Become part of un joyeaux bordell experiment!"

Experimental Cocktail Club LES - 191 Chrystie Street at Rivington, L.E.S, New York - phone and website to follow - Open nightly until 4am. 

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