A continuing look at new bars to explore in New York City this spring.
There are a few things I look for when you enter a bar for the first time that mark it as a step above the usual neighborhood spot. These “tells” include hooks hidden below the bartop to stow a coat and bag and good music played at a reasonable volume so I don’t have to shout to be heard by the person on the next stool. What puts an establishment on the top tier are quality of drinks, cordiality of staff and atmosphere. Now a lot of places tick off three or four of those boxes, but when I find a bar that hits all five, well that’s a place I’ll gladly add to my regular rotation.
The Up & Up
The new bar from Matthew Piacentini of The Beagle, easily lands in the top tier. A good sized bar with hooks? Check. Music that allows for easy conversation? Yep. Friendly mixologists who care enough about the patrons to discuss and explain the drinks? You got it. But what really puts The Up & Up over the top are the great cocktails and the atmosphere. Now, readers will know that basement bars are in my DNA. The Up & Up’s subterranean location only adds to a nice low-key vibe. The muted colors and low lighting (low enough to be flattering without being so dim you can’t read the menu) only add to the allure. A walk down some steps from the sidewalk and through the threshold somehow feels as though you’ve left your troubles back up on Macdougal Street. And once you’ve taken a stool at the beautiful bar adorned with unmarked bottles of bitters and syrups, or grabbed a comfy booth, you’ll feel the weight of the world start to lift. Then it’s time to drink.
Head bartender Chaim Dauermann, formerly of Gin Palace, along with Piacentini has devised a clever and witty cocktail menu that is divided into four categories: Bottled, Originals, Favorites and Halfsies. Bottled drinks are batched versions of classics—martini, negroni and a Manhattan—made following the recipes of some of the Up & Up team’s favorite bartenders, and come in 375ml (for 2) and 750ml (for 3 or more) portions.
There’s even a 100ml personal size flask, The Teague Old Fashioned, that is the best version of that classic cocktail that I have ever had.
New and Old Favorites
Originals, all priced at $14, range from the deliciously refreshing Taste of Chez Juan made with Cabeza Tequila, Tariquet Armagnac, ginger and lime juice to the sublime Strunk Text, made with Cabeza Silver Tequila, Amaro dell’Erborista, pink peppercorns, chanterelle mushroom and Celery Shrubb. Sounds funky, tastes amazing.
My favorite of their Favorites is the subtly complex, Shaddock & Smoke, made with Ardberg Scotch, grapefruit liqueur, Amaretto, lemon juice and seltzer. It smells like a barbecue, tastes like tart smoke (if there is such a thing). And the $8 Halfsies are shot-sized mini cocktails.
Chef Jessica Meter‘s bar snacks include tuna pate, duck confit and chickpea puree, each served with mini baguettes.
The Up & Up even has location going for it’s a short walk from the West 4th Street station with an Insomnia Cookies right next door and an Artichoke pizza across the street (for those who get a little peckish after a night of revelry)
The Up & Up is located at 116 Macdougal Street and is open Sunday – Wednesday 5pm – 2am, and Thursday to Saturday from 5pm to 3am.