When you think of the word reception, do you think of a warm welcome at someone’s home, where the hostess takes your coat, inquires how you’ve been and—oh, while she’s in the kitchen—asks whether you need anything to drink? Or do you think of a fabulous party, where all the gussied-up guests are indulging in equally gussied-up gastronomic treats? At the cocktail bar named Reception, you’ll find neither.
Instead, you’ll enter a candy-coated, retro-futuristic space with nary a greeting. On a recent Wednesday night, all four tables were filled with groups of friends in beanies and thick glasses. Even parked on a barstool, I had trouble flagging down one of the two bartenders who seemed to be constantly preoccupied and slightly ticked that I was interrupting them. The downtown bar serves cocktails but touts its Korean-inspired “elixirs”—a nebulous buzzword for non-alcoholic drinks that harbor Gwyneth Paltrow–approved health benefits. We went to see if these stone-cold-sober options could cure our winter blues.
Out of the five elixirs, four are indistinguishable from chilled, off-brand seltzers. The exception is Aphrodite’s Milk: As a libation intended to “increase libido,” it’s appropriately thick and nutty, mixed with egg white and black sesame. However, the Skinny Shroom (“aids in the breakdown of fat”) with sparkling buckwheat, shimeji mushroom shrub and quince honey is thin on flavor, and Queen Min’s Botanics (“balances hormones”) with white lotus, ginseng honey, sparkling jasmine and egg white, is insipid by any other name.
It’s the type of bland reception that makes you want to go back on the bottle.