New York can often feel like hundreds of cities squeezed together. On New Year’s Eve, New Orleans will be represented in a big way when Union Square Hospitality Group’s Southern-inspired cocktail joint, Porchlight (271 Eleventh Avenue; 212-981-6188), opens its doors for a festive Crescent City immersion. Executive chef and NOLA native Jean-Paul Bourgeois will be cooking up a roast suckling pig, fried frog legs, and crawfish pies to pair with a quartet of cocktails made in collaboration with (and served simultaneously at) the Big Easy’s own Cure cocktail bar.
General manager Michael Shain, managing partner Mark Maynard-Parisi, and head bartender Nick Bennett first hit upon the idea when they met Cure owner Neal Bodenheimer (who did a stint at the Modern before migrating down south) at the epic cocktail fest Tales of the Cocktail this past summer.
“After a few conversations, we were able to create a menu that not only represents our own cocktails but also some New Orleans classics and Cure heavy-hitters,” Shain explains. Of particular note is the Champagne shrub for toasts – a mainstay at Cure made with preserved fruit – and the tequila-based yerba agave. “Yerba agave was a standout right away since there are few tequila-based southern cocktails. This one from Cure evokes a lot of comfort and soothes the soul. It’s complex yet incredibly smooth and easy to drink,” Shain says of the concoction, which also contains Benedictine — an herbal spirit that boasts medicinal roots — and crème de menthe.
Bennett describes these as “old school” as much as they are “NOLA-inspired” while noting that he’ll be pouring ten additional cocktails, half lifted from Porchlight’s whiskey-heavy offerings, like the “Flag Day,” made with Rittenhouse rye, Grand Marnier and the digestif amaro, Cardamaro, and an absinthe suisse, a smooth blend of its namesake spirit (specifically Vieux Pontarlier from eastern France), creme de Menthe and egg white. The other drinks are Big Easy classics like a sherry cobbler, Creole julep, and Bennett’s personal favorite, the Café Bruot, made with Louis Royer Cognac, orange, baking spices and coffee. He notes the drink is s a great way to “seal the deal.”
Dubbed “New Year, New Bar, New Orleans,” the border-defying celebration will employ the talents of the retro-jazz group Hot Jazz Jumpers – who could have escaped from a Woody Allen movie – to invoke the Dixieland-spirit of blues and world music that’s at the heart of the city’s famed music scene. The gin-based “Jitters,” featuring the French vermouth Noilly Prat Dry, seems made to be brought out onto the dance floor.
Jugglers, magicians and acrobats will mingle throughout the crowd and a tarot card reader will be on hand to let you know how those soon-to-be-made resolutions will pan out. “Given our Southern roots, we thought it would be fun to celebrate the Big Easy’s exuberant culture of free-flowing drinks, soulful food and incomparable live music,” Maynard-Parisi notes.
The open bar festivities will flow from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. with “churched-up” jello shots to imbibe between drinks and “boozed-up” root beer floats and egg nog because, as Mae West famously quipped, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
Tickets are $175 and are all-inclusive — get them here.