Experimental Cocktail Club

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Experimental Cocktail Club

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Experimental Cocktail Club

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Experimental Cocktail Club

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

The Last One at Experimental Cocktail Club

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Kinkakuji at Experimental Cocktail Club

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Black Heart at Experimental Cocktail Club

Lower East Side

You don’t have to look too hard to see the influence that Americans have had on the Parisian cocktail scene. Back in the early 1900s, the legendary Harry’s New York Bar established itself as the de facto clubhouse for a growing expat community in Paris, including luminaries like Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart. And the recent mixology boom in the City of Light has been largely engineered by three French drink-slingers—Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros and Romee de Goriainoff—who were inspired by their trips across the pond. When they opened their inaugural bar, the Experimental Cocktail Club, in 2007, they took direct cues from Gotham trailblazers like Pegu Club and Death & Company. Now, after launching a collection of boîtes back home, as well as a successful ECC spin-off in London, the trio have brought their brand of refined boozing back to the source, opening an NYC outpost in the Lower East Side neighborhood that they’ve long considered a spiritual home. Parisians rooting for a subversive coup—the student becoming the teacher, if you will—shouldn’t hold their breath. Perhaps not surprisingly, the import seems vaguely out-of-date, closer in feel to the decadent, speakeasyish parlors that kicked off NYC’s tippling renaissance than the more democratic joints that have defined its recent evolution. Still, it doesn’t lack sexiness or flair: The baroque cocktails are wildly creative even when they don’t quite hit the mark, and the sumptuous setting—complete with pressed-tin ceilings, fireplaces and an ornate wall mural depicting ancient explorers—provides a fine escape from the ’hood’s increasingly debauched bar scene.

DRINK THIS: While many of the city’s nouveau cocktail joints can nail a Negroni, the ECC has a different raison d’être. In keeping with the bar’s name, head bartender Nicolas de Soto is more of a tinkerer than classicist, shunning simplicity in favor of flamboyant concoctions that lean heavily on infusions, house-made syrups and esoteric spirits. It’s nearly impossible to decipher the long list of ingredients below each drink on the menu, so choosing something you’ll enjoy can depend heavily on the guidance of your server—a dance that, thus far, is still a bit shaky. We loved the Last One, a lush stirred drink that balances rich, nutty Spanish brandy with bitter aperitifs and a carrot shochu that delivers a dry, vegetal finish; a passionate host helped bring the cocktail to life by pointing out its kinship with a boulevardier, as well as the oloroso sherry casks that give the brandy its sweetness. But another staffer’s bumbling description of the Kelpie’s Julep failed to prepare us for the brow-furrowing bitterness of the drink, an unpleasant shouting match between blended Scotch, Szechuan peppercorn syrup and wormwood bitters. Withmost options going for $14 to $16, drawing a dud can be frustrating. But those willing to get into the whimsical spirit of the place are just as likely to be delighted by novelties such as L’Americain, a carbonated Americano riff flash-infused with orange zest and served in a bottle.

GOOD FOR: Francophiles looking for a break from the wine bar. You’ll want to avoid the awkwardly low-slung chairs and ottomans in the main room if possible. Try your luck at walking in and snagging a spot at the bar, or make a reservation (e-mail madameandmonsieur@experimentalcocktailclubny.com) and request a table in the more intimate back room.

THE CLINCHER: Weekday drinkers should stop by on Tuesday nights, when live music (sometimes ’50s-style jazz) sets the nostalgic mood. And soon, a few bar bites from fashion-mafia hang the Fat Radish will help you abide by that old French credo of never drinking on an empty stomach.—Chris Schonberger

Venue name: Experimental Cocktail Club
Contact:
Address: 191 Chrystie St
New York

Cross street: between Rivington and Stanton Sts
Opening hours: Daily 6pm–4am
Transport: Subway: F to Lower East Side–Second Ave; J, Z to Bowery
Price: Average cocktail: $16. AMEx, DC, MC, V

Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|9
1 person listening
alicia

Amazing place, very cool crowd and great music. A must if you can find it ;-)

Bob

I think the best thing about ECC is definitely the atmosphere created by great music, cool crowd and décor. As for cocktails, the presentation is amazing, but some of them do not taste great (some are very good tho). And yes, the bouncers can be a pain, which is totally unwarranted, as this is a bar after all, not a club and the people who go there are generally polite, well-off and do not cause problems. Bob

Julia

What an amazing place! I have recently developed a taste for cocktails and have made it a mission to try out as many of the speakeasies/bars as possible. This one is without a doubt, the best! The atmosphere, the music (djs and live band), the extensive cocktail list and the staff all create a place that is exciting EVERY time. The attention to detail should be noted. Genuinely love this place. Enjoy it. J.

Joly

Great venue and great vibe. Drinks are good (a bit expensive) and the music AMAZING! New York needs more places like that!

Sony

Really good first time experience. Welcoming, and more than helpful staff. To watch the cocktails being made is in itself fun alone. Only criticism (if any) was that they could possibly do with extra hands behind the bar - as we had a dinner reservation elsewhere, and waited nearly 15 minutes for our first round.....hence no 5 stars. The cocktails were however, excellent and the music great!

Billal

Great bar, Good experimental cocktails and Amazing music selection. Avoid the week-end because it's too packed.

Sarah

I really like ECC. Beautiful design and nice crowd. Good cocktails (a bit expensive) and cool DJ (different from the NYC scene who is really GREAT). You should go!

Josh

Love this venue, GREAT music! This is one of my favourite night time hangs. Great location in an area of town where actually there aren't a lot of other particularly exciting choices. The decor is stylish, the staff extremely friendly and the bartenders, with their Harry Potter potions, are the type of guys that appear to take genuine pleasure in their artistry. I would take half a star off if Time Out would let me because sometimes the cocktails can be so outrageous in their invention that they can miss the mark every now and then, however they still get an A for effort in my book and so deserve to get rounded up to 5 stars. Now, shhhh! Don't tell anyone about it!