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Existing Conditions boasts a lot of high-tech, mad-scientist wizardry, but you don’t see any of it. Then again, it’s difficult to physically see, say, clarified fruits, acid-adjusted cordials or mineral water unearthed from Saratoga Springs.
Other bars may use fire and ice, silly glasses and shimmering displays to draw in crowds. Here, seasoned owners Dave Arnold (Booker and Dax), Don Lee (PDT) and Greg Boehm (Cocktail Kingdom) hope the main attraction will be the cocktails’ painstakingly crafted flavors, not the show.
On a recent Thursday night, our waiter was psyched about those flavors. He didn’t feel “meh” about a single cocktail; one drink, according to him, tastes as if it’s “from the gods,” and another brew is “bomb.” Next to us, a man nursing a lowball told his date that his ice cube was “really beautiful.”
Most of the cocktails are good, some are beautiful, and all are strong. After finishing the gin-spiked OG Celery, a bright and crisp concoction with ground parsley and celery juice, you may feel woozier than expected. And the golden-brown Waffle Turkey 101 smells sweetly of caramel before knocking you out with its viscous blend of waffle-infused bourbon and maple syrup.
The jet-black banquettes and paintings imply that this is a place for the serious-minded. The ’80s-style electropop tunes and playful menu text (“Malt and herbs, Oh Yeah!”) scream FUN. The bar works for both categories but doesn’t fit snugly into either. It’s neither here nor there, part “meh” and part “bomb,” it just kind of…exists.