August 14th, 2008

B♭ (B-Flat) is a relatively new bar on the Lower East Side from the bartender’s behind Angel’s Share. Once you enter the customary discrete entrance, and head down a flight of stairs, you find yourself in a fairly small room with a long bar on one side and a small number of booths on the other. The bar is decorated in a sleek and sparse fashion, giving it a slightly more modern edge than a lot of the bars I’ve been to in New York. However, with plenty of polished wood veneer and modern jazz playing in the background, it still felt very upscale.

B Flat

The drinks menu featured a lot of modern drinks, including the heaviest use of vodkas I saw in any of the bars I went to. Many of the drinks featured a Japanese theme, with various infusions and unusual liqueurs, reflecting the heritage of the head bartenders. Interestingly they mainly employed three-part cobbler shakers here, which is I think the only time I’ve ever seen the cobbler shaker used in a bar setting.

The bar seemed fairly quiet for a Friday night, but despite this there were no seats at the bar when I arrived. Thankfully the host was gracious enough to seat me at a large booth fit for six whilst I waited for a seat at the bar, and I made my first drink choice – a Bijou. It had been a while since I had tried this cocktail, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The taste was a lot more rounded and balanced here, though I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on the way the drink was made, or how my palate has developed. Whichever, it was a well made and enjoyable drink.

I took my time over the Bijou as this was my last call on my last night in New York, and observed several of the people around me enjoying some quite unusual looking drinks. Once reseated at the bar the array of Japanese spirits on show also intrigued me and I would have loved to explore some of the drinks on the menu, but with a lot of packing ahead of me before I checked out the next morning I had just one drink left before I would begin regretting my choices the next morning.

Call me sentimental, but I couldn’t leave New York without having a Manhattan at least once, and the last drink on the last night seemed like a good moment. Spotting a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle behind the bar, I became a difficult customer and requested a Pappy Van Winkle Manhattan at 2:1 with plenty of orange bitters, and the drink I got back was a perfect end to the night. I’ve made some pretty indulgent Manhattans with some very good ryes in the past so I wouldn’t go as far to say it was the best I have had, but it was pretty damn good.

B♭ was a great end to my exploration of bars in New York. With an interesting menu full of Eastern influence, and some very talented bartenders just as capable of knocking up classic cocktails as the more modern drinks, B♭ manages to straddle the two trends in cocktails today without compromising on either. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you fancy something a little different.

B♭ is located at 277 Church Street (between Franklin and White). Open 6pm to 2am (Monday to Wednesday), 6pm to 3am (Thursday to Saturday).
Tel: +1 212 219 2970
Web: www.bflat.info

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Photography by Jay Hepburn
Artwork by Craig Mrusek

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