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It was the Roaring ’20s that drove New York’s bar scene into the underground, heralding the golden era of cocktail innovation and the birth of the modern-day speakeasy. Around the same time, a pair of criminal bankers, Marcus Garfunkel and Max Tauster, faced prison time at the notorious Sing Sing for charges of embezzlement and mass fraud. Those law-breaking legacies reunite in the 21st century at this second-floor Lower East Side speakeasy from restaurateurs Tim Gashi (Rocky Slims) and Valentino Gjekaj (Arte). Housed in the actual former offices of Garfunkel and Tauster—the bar owners are in the process of installing a functional bank vault as the main entry—the 40-seat lounge-like room is fitted with vintage family portraits, old cartoon sketches from Connecticut antique shops and 1920s-era New York Times clippings about the bar’s namesake money men.
ORDER THIS: The menu of Prohibition-era classics ($14) is the work of consulting drinks dame Lucinda Sterling (Middle Branch), including the stiff, bourbon-charged Fancy Free brightened with maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, or the easy-sipping Butterflies with gin and applejack. While those concoctions adhere closely to their traditional make, Sterling and head bartender Ivo Diaz (the NoMad, Dutch Kills) employ a more freewheeling approach to original drinks like the All the Loot, countering bittersweet Byrrh quinquina and curaçao with a spicy kick of rye, and the Buzzword, fizzing floral Pavan liqueur and light rum with fresh lemon juice, tart raspberries and bubbly prosecco.
GOOD FOR: A romantic rendezvous...with your side piece. The hidden entry is primed for sneaking a low-key lover through, and the bar’s breathable floor plan leaves ample distance between tables to allow for semiprivate boozing and intimate conversing away from prying ears. On a recent night, couples locked eyes at window-side two-tops while larger groups cozied into pillow-covered loveseats and sprawled over plush chaise lounges.
THE CLINCHER: Cocktail savants and rookies alike can geek out with the Bartender’s Choice ($14). Rather than order off the menu, boozers can opt to name their spirits and flavor profiles of choice to receive a bespoke cocktail built specifically around their preferences. On a recent night, a request for something citrusy with gin yielded the Poison Dart, shaken with yuzu juice and orange bitters and topped with a cabernet franc float. Set with steady jazz and such finely crafted drinks, Garfunkel’s makes it easy to turn back time, if only temporarily.
67 Clinton St
|Cross street:||between Stanton and Rivington Sts|
|Transport:||Subway: F to Delancey St|
|Price:||Average drink: $14. AmEx, Disc, MC, V|
|Opening hours:||Mon-Wed, Sun 6pm-2am; Thu-Sat 6pm-4am|
|Do you own this business?|