One tucked away cocktail den wasn’t enough for the folks at Mulberry Project (149 Mulberry Street, 646-448-4536). So last week they debuted Project 1919 — a back patio turned prohibition-themed pop-up, a speakeasy within a speakeasy, or the Russian nesting dolls set of bars, if you will.
But you won’t find any vodka on the menu here, and you can leave your newfound gin appreciation at the door. The menu, which was curated by head mixologists Sam Ziar (Orient Express, The Bourgeois Pig) and Jasper Soffer (Pegu Club, Soho House), is monopolized by dark spirits, from the usual suspects — bourbon and rye — to unassuming options, such as aged rum and Calvados.
“The idea was to introduce stirred cocktails to consumers who otherwise would not go that route,” explains Ziar. “[We incorporate] a lot of vermouth and infusions to smooth down a drink that might be too stiff for some people.”
The cabin-meets-city premises (which offer no standing room) also worked as a motivation for the dark liquor focus. “It’s such a warm space,” notes Ziar. “It’s outside, basically, and we wanted to [focus on] spirits that represent warmth.”
The drinks list features 20 cocktails that are equally split into “Proprietary” and “Classics” categories; the former includes concoctions that exhibit the bartenders’ fondness for vermouth and infusions, and the latter, a grouping of true to spirit quaffs. “Back then there was no infusing, no vermouth, no tea,” notes Ziar. “All of the help that we have [now] to smooth down drinks on the proprietary list couldn’t be used for the classic cocktail list because we wanted to stick to the real recipes.”
Whiskey drives both sides of the menu, showing up in classic form as a sazerac or mint julep or in proprietary style as the bourbon-based George Reymus, leveled by Cocchi Bianco and infused with Lapsang Souchong black tea. Other spirits do make an appearance: Rum gets attention via classics corn n’ oil and el presidente, and cognac shows up in the house-conceived Frank Yale, a stirred and strained coupe with yellow chartreuse and Earl Grey syrup.
And while clear spirits aren’t menu placeholders, the team will ensure guests receive a buzz they can leave happy about — but not first without a little brown spirited exposure. “First we will try to guide them with our menu. Then, if really nothing works out, we’ll bring them the drink that they would like,” says Ziar. “We try to stick to the concept as much as possible, but of course, we’ll accommodate anyone.”
Project 1919 is open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until late. Reservations are required and can be made through the Project Group website.