When most New Yorkers think of going out to a LES bar on a Saturday evening they expect crowds, loud music and watered down drinks that are surely over priced. But all it took was one visit to 2nd Floor on Clinton to turn my world upside down.
Living in New York people hear about places like Please Don’t Tell, Milk & Honey and Death & Company, but a number of them have no idea how to get into these secret bars. Turns out it’s much easier than you think! Through word of mouth and a little research one could get into just about any of these private bars, except for Milk & Honey which is of course members only and requires patrons to submit applications before gaining entry to the establishment.
2nd Floor on Clinton is following the trend of speakeasy style bars popping up all over the city. Though you do not need a password to enter the establishment you have to know where you’re going, which I learned can be quite tricky. You walk into what looks to be your typical Lower East Side bar in search of a secret staircase and a door marked “Private,” which I imagine becomes a much more difficult task as the bar fills up. Once you’ve made your way to the door you ring the doorbell and the phenomenally dressed host greets and seats you.
The difference between Barramundi, where you enter, and 2nd Floor on Clinton is unbelievable. They have two totally different atmospheres; a person would go to Barramundi for a night out with their college friends, while just upstairs the 2nd Floor on Clinton has a much more intimate feel, perfect for a date or when your parents are visiting from out of town and want a taste of NYC night life.
Owner Tony Powe, who also owns Barramundi and the restaurant Alias located just down the street, opened 2nd Floor on Clinton after realizing he was no longer going into his own bar for drinks on the weekend.
“I decided that I’d turn this upstairs into a really nice place where on a Friday and Saturday you could actually come have a drink and actually relax,” said Powe.
Being that I had arrived promptly at 7 p.m. on a Saturday I was the first to enter the establishment. After checking my coat in I made my way up the stairs and into the dimly lit seating area. The place was done up for the holidays without being too over the top, they had a few wreaths in the window and a Christmas tree simply decorated with a string of white lights.
While going over the cocktail menu we realized that there were stories for a few of the drinks, so of course we had to order the two drinks with the most interesting stories. My significant other ordered The Tauster named after Marcus Tauster (above) who had opened a bank on the site of the bar the year prohibition started, only to close in 1923 for reasons hinted at in the story. This drink consisted of Michter’s single barrel bourbon, Benedictine, Pernod absinthe and fresh lemon.
I on the other hand ordered the Topsy-Turvy (above), which is comprised of ginger, infused Death’s Door Vodka, honey liqueur, fresh lime and club soda. After taking my first sip my face lit up, the drink did not even taste alcoholic; it was sweet and slightly carbonated. The combination of the ginger infused vodka with the lime and the honey liqueur made the cocktail quite refreshing.
The story behind The Topsy-Turvy was that it had been named after a donkey owned by the 2nd Floor on Clinton’s owner. Coincidentally we had been seated directly under a photograph of Topsy in the entrance of prehistoric caves bought by the family in 1903.
Along with our cocktails came three handmade chocolate truffles (3 for $9). The chocolates were from local vendor Roni-Sue’s, who recently came out with a cocktail line of chocolates featuring flavors like Absinthe, Manhattan, Margarita, Portly Fig and Dark & Stormy.
Considering I am normally not a fan of dark chocolate I left raving about these chocolates. The Absinthe truffle had a lovely licorice undertone, which you would normally get while drinking absinthe. The Margarita truffle had a little bit of salt sprinkled on top and a creamy citrus flavored center, you get the slight sting of tequila with out the undesirable tequila flavor.
Finally there was the Dark & Stormy, which had to be my least favorite, but as I mentioned earlier, I am a bit biased due to my distaste for dark chocolate. The Dark & Stormy was topped with a piece of sugared ginger that sweetened the truffle and added some bite without lightening the flavor.
Before leaving I knew I had to try another cocktail so I went with the Maidens Prayer (above). It was definitely not what I thought it would be, though the vanilla, nutmeg and sweet cream give the drink the most amazing after taste, I found the drink to be quite strong.
2nd Floor on Clinton is definitely a great place to go for a relaxing night out. The calm music and four people per table limit encourage patrons to keep their voices down and add to the cozy homelike feel of the establishment. If you’re worried you won’t be able to get a table, try going on a Saturday night, though it may be the busiest night for Barramundi, it is 2nd Floor on Clinton’s slowest night.
2nd Floor on Clinton
67 Clinton Street
Lower East Side, NYC, 10002
Enter through Barramundi!
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
7 p.m. – 2 a.m last seating at 1 a.m.