Post Office Bar's Alla Lapushchik On Strong Booze & The Backlash Against Brooklyn
A new bar in Williamsburg gets its inspiration from a darkly funny book by one of America's most booze-fueled authors. The Post Office (188 Havemeyer Street) is the brainchild of Alla Lapushchik, who is no stranger to what makes a great drinking establishment, having helped open Death & Co. This time around, however, the focus is less on fancy drinks than on good old-fashioned straight whiskey.
How did you come up with the name?
The chef actually came up with it. We named it after Charles Bukowski's book Post Office. It was his first book and it's my first bar (that's partially mine). He likes whiskey, we like whiskey. It kind of fit.
Why do you think writing and drinking go so well together?
It's a contemplative experience, to down some whiskey and really think about things. It's such a national tradition, especially whiskey and American writers. They just go together so well. When Simone de Beauvoir came to the U.S., she kept a travel journal. She was drinking whiskey every day. It was her American experience to drink whiskey at night.
What was your vision for the bar when you were planning it?
What I really wanted was just some place nice in the neighborhood where you could get a drink and some food. I live around the corner and I wanted something that I wanted to go to. I really like drinking things straight. I think it's really important to know what you're drinking before you start mixing with it. Cocktails are great; I love cocktails. I've been watching amazing bartenders with cocktails for like six years now, but if you don't know what's in there then there's no way of understanding it. You might as well be drinking Jack and Coke.
But you can get a cocktail, if you so wish it?
We do cocktails at the bar, but right now we're only doing sours, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds. We'll probably add a Sazerac and something else, but those are drinks that are really, really spirit-focused. Changing what you put in there changes the cocktail.
Tell us about your whiskey and spirits collection.
The whiskey collection, I'm still building it. I've been calling a lot of distilleries and trying to get them to distribute here in New York. There's a lot of stuff going on that we're just not getting out here. Right now, my favorite stuff is the stuff the Willett family is producing. Like Noah's Mill, which is one of the greatest bourbons ever. It's dark and chocolaty and delicious.
What's the best way to enjoy high-proof spirits?
The best way to enjoy it is to put it on the rocks. It's nice to get high-proof spirits. Like when there's an 80 proof, a 90 proof, and a 100 proof, I'm going to get the 100 proof. You can customize it. Anything above 90 proof, unless you're used to it, your taste buds are going to be like, "Fuck you. What are you doing to me?" You're just going to taste alcohol. So, depending on how much your palate can handle, water it down. There's nothing wrong with that, adding some water to whiskey.
You guys are also doing food?
We have a really good food menu. The chef is Sam Glinn. He was at the Brooklyn Star for a while. It's a small menu -- sandwiches, oysters. Right now, we have a pretty killer borscht on the menu. It's something that will change constantly.
What's your take on pairing food with booze?
I think that they go great together. The food menu we have right now goes really, really well with whiskey. The pork sandwich, the chicken liver bacon -- these are big heavy flavors that pair really nicely with bourbon.
What do you say to grumpy types who say Brooklyn isn't worth the hype?
It's kind of silly. You can't write off an entire borough just because you don't want to cross the river. I don't think that because there's a lot of places opening up here there should be a backlash. There's a lot of great places in Manhattan and nobody backlashes that.
Do you think you'll stop at the one bar or are you poised for a mini empire like the Death & Co. folks?
We've only been open four weeks. This bar is my entire life. We are going to work on expanding the top-shelf program, but still keeping it spirit-based. Just keep playing with what we have until we get it right.
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