After kicking around the New York City bar scene for several years each, Tim Cooper — who slings drinks at GoldBar — and Justin Noel, a proprietor at 1534, spotted a gap: There are few places in the city where you can get a high quality cocktail but also have a lot of fun. “If you want fun and entertainment, you’re scrimping on quality of drinks,” says Noel. “But with quality, you’re giving up fun atmosphere.”
So the guys set out to take cocktail culture where they thought it should go — away from the stuffy, rule-heavy spirit shrines and toward spots where you can kick back with a group of friends and even get loud while sipping top-notch libations. They’ll open Sweetwater Social (643 Broadway, 212-253-7467), the product of that effort, this Wednesday, March 12.
The bar lies below Bleecker Kitchen & Co., and it aims to capture the atmosphere of a rec room in a space designed to pay homage to ’80s and ’90s New York City. “There’s an industrial component to it; there’s a lot of subway tile on display,” says Noel. And the room is filled with classic video arcade games, shuffleboard and foosball tables, and TVs, where the bar will show sporting events and movies. “It has a social vibe,” says Noel. “After a hard day’s work, you can come have a drink and have some fun.”
The cocktail list also riffs on the subway theme; it’s laid out on a map of the subway, and drinks are inspired by different stops. See the Big Trouble, Little China on the Delancey stop, for instance, a tipple that channels Chinatown with toasted sesame-infused bourbon, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, cucumber, salt tincture, and club soda. Up near Lincoln Center lies the Symphony, a blend of apple brandy, mescal, and Pedro Ximinez sherry. And Coney Island concoction will pour from the frozen drink machine.
Sweetwater will also serve a small bar bites menu, a board Noel describes as “plays on New York street food” (there are mini corndogs on the list) along with more traditional bar offerings, like a pork bun slider and sweet potato fries. That list is available when the bar is open, which is currently from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.