New Yorkers have no trouble trekking across the city for their favorites—bagel-and-schmear spots, loyal hair stylists, expert tailors—but go out of their way to drink at a hotel? Not a chance. Except at this dark Ludlow Hotel den, the boozy annex of Gallic newbie Dirty French from Carbone heavyweights Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick, that forges downtown grunge with at-home living-room appeal. Armed with a long list of zesty libations spanning the globe and plenty of food-world cred, this drink slinger could change the face of lobby bars for good.
ORDER THIS: Internationally spiced cocktails like the Chai Matsuda, Thomas Waugh’s of (ZZ’s Clam Bar) play on a Manhattan. Radiating sweet orange, it later fires up with chai-kicked bourbon. But for $16 per glass, some shake-ups fall flat: Skip the syrupy Grand Prix, overseasoned with ras el hanout, and sip a tequila-tinged Zaragoza that cuts creamy vanilla yogurt with clove and a zing of lime.
GOOD FOR: Retreating from the Lower East Side’s sardine-packed boîtes. There’s an obvious attempt at rock & roll—vintage amplifiers hang from the ceiling’s exposed beams by punk-rock chains—but the roaring fire, orange-tinted lighting and fluffy faux-fur couches wrap the space in cabin comfort. The lounge
is set back from the hotel entry and, even with ’80s pop pumping, stays fairly quiet so you can sink into a fireside seat to unwind or, better yet, heat things up with a lover.
THE CLINCHER: Not into dark corners and PDA? Escape to the ivy-covered brick garden. Crowned in wrought-iron arches and a sea of Moroccan lanterns, the patio is candlelit at night and sun-soaked in the afternoon—ideal for fleeing the late crowd and soaking up noontime rays in warmer months. Tourists will no doubt float in and out, but Gothamites should claim this haven for themselves. —Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo