An Early Sip of Nitecap, Now Open on the LES
Nitecap via Instagram
Nitecap (120 Rivington) isn't a speakeasy -- those fell out of fashion some time in the last couple of years -- but you will have to look hard for the sign, which is stenciled on a brick pillar next to Schapiro's on Rivington Street. You might notice the bouncer standing there, too, and eventually, we imagine there'll be a telltale line -- Nitecap is a project from Death & Co.'s David Kaplan and Alex Day and Maison Premiere alum Natasha David -- though for now, it's hard to distinguish the queue from the cluster of people who've stepped outside from a nearby restaurant or bar to smoke.
If you go early, you'll be able to immediately head down the steps and into this lair, a cozy den with stone walls and dark booths that's meant to be a staple for the last drink of the night.
Kaplan has called the vision for the drinks here "non-fussy," but the menu tells a bit of a different story: Nearly the length of the list at Death & Co., it deals in drinks grouped in categories like "Wash it Down" -- a collection that includes the green thumb made with cachaça, fennel, and egg white, and the rib tickler, a blend of Dolin dry vermouth, Suze, and St. Germain -- and "Hunker Down," full of boozy blends like the jukebox (two kinds of rum, curaçao, cream, and Coke) and the moon suit (calvados, eau de vie, apple brandy, absinthe, and angostura bitters).
The offerings are printed in a booklet that also doles out drinking game ideas, cheeky pick-up lines, and jokes. Be sure to check out the "Shorty Service," which gets you a short glass of beer or wine and a slug of something stronger. See, for example, the lager and Old Granddad bonded bourbon combo or the sherry and Little Kings cream ales for a group. There is a sizeable brandy list, too, plus well-curated collections of rum and whiskey.
Like Death & Co., this feels like a spot where you could easily entertain drinkers of all different stripes and levels of expertise -- our group tasted through all of the Japanese whiskies on the list, delighted in that green thumb, sipped a little cider from Asturias, and finished up on tartan swizzles, which blended a couple of scotches with passion fruit, pineapple, and lime, and served it garnished like a tiki drink.
As for food, though, consider going elsewhere, at least until Nitecap works out the timing with the kitchen. A few bar snacks from Schapiro's are on offer; we liked the hot, soft pretzel with grain mustard, but it took nearly half an hour to hit our table (and a second order never showed up at all).
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