Not all spin-offs are created equal: The best retain what you loved most about the original, with enough new material to keep things fresh—Frasier from Cheers, The Jeffersons from All in the Family—while others simply crash and burn. (Remember the Hoff-as-detective train wreck Baywatch Nights? Didn’t think so.) Luckily for Gotham’s cocktail-swigging masses, this Milk and Honey offshoot—sweeping into the old space like a series takes over a stock time slot— falls into the former school, boasting characters as familiar as Frasier Crane to the Cheers crew, but with a livelier, lighter air than Sasha Petraske’s dim big-league cocktail den. From the up-tempo retro tunes (a little more Etta, a little less Ella) to the brightly lit, lived-in digs (whitewashed brick, tarnished a sign hanging on the wall), Attaboy proves a breezy evolution of the form.
DRINK THIS: Pretty much whatever the heck you want (though don’t expect jock schlock like Red Bull-and-vodka). The tucked-away Chinatown haunt, inherited by acclaimed M&H alums Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy, keeps the same bespoke protocol as its forebear: At the brushed-steel bar, suspender-clad drinks slingers stir off-the-cuff riffs (cocktails $16) to suit each customer’s boozy preference. A call for a citrusy, whiskey-based quaff yielded the Paper Plane, a bittersweet balance of bourbon, potent, herbal amaro, grapefruit-like Aperol and lemon juice that deftly hit on the fruity nose without being cloying. A barstool comrade, looking for something a little sweet, a little spicy and with a lot of tequila, found every criteria met with the Torch Light, brimming with honey and lime notes and pepped with a vinegary back-of-the-throat kick of hot sauce.
GOOD FOR: Nostalgic Milk and Honey regulars and high-minded drinkers. The skeletons of the former bar still rattle around the space—the knock-and-buzz door system, the dusty tailors m&h alterations window—and wistful boozers can seek solace in Petraske-era standard-bearers, like Ross’s signature Penicillin, a still-inspiring blend of Laphroaig ten-year, honey-ginger syrup and lemon. But like its precursor, Attaboy is fine-tuned to boozehounds who know what they like but aren’t afraid to branch off, a testament to the attentive, savvy crew. With cocktail virtuosos like Ross and McIlroy tending to your desires, tipplers won’t be afraid when seemingly simple pineapple-rum sips come laced with swarthy, unexpected swirls of bitter Campari. They’ll be too busy trying to gulp every last drop.
THE CLINCHER: The railroad-slim space is as intimate as ever, but a lengthened bar encourages a more laid-back, hang-at-the-bar type of feel. Ross and McIlroy scrapped many of the intimidating M&H statutes—the reservations-only door policy, the much-ballyhooed rules of conduct (no hats, no flirting)—in favor of accessible add-ons like a credit card machine, cans of Coors and a slight price drop. In their wake is a new kind of cocktail drinkery, an easier affair with all of the prestige and little of the pretense. If Attaboy were a TV show, you’d want to Netflix the hell out of it.—Christina Izzo