Where to drink this week: Orient Express
A cocktail bar channels the legendary train.
Mon Nov 29 2010
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
If your idea of train-carriage tippling is a tall boy on the Metro-North, it's time for an upgrade to the luxury car. Start your boozy journey by bellying up at Orient Express, a narrow cocktail bar inspired by the legendary rail service that originally ran between Paris and Istanbul. For Osman Cakir, a Turkish-born antiques dealer and owner of the adjacent wine bar Turks & Frogs, the drinkery reflects a childhood obsession sparked by Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Literary and locomotive geeks will get a kick out of quaffs named after the route and those who wrote about it, while antiquarians can admire Cakir's personal collection of travel-related relics, including brass luggage racks, tattered passports and vintage trunks.
DRINK THIS: House-made sodas, freshly squeezed juices and infused liquors form the backbone of 14 potables. The mint-crowned Agatha ($12)—strawberry-sage soda spiked with Old Tom gin and served over slivers of hand-chipped ice—is an easygoing refresher. For something with a little more heft, try the Herkules ($14), which draws out the sweetness of Irish whiskey with Yellow Chartreuse and Carpano Antica. While the short food menu won't hold you over until Strasbourg, no visit is complete without an order of pastirma ($7), salty tufts of Turkish cured beef balanced by a slightly sweet pomegranate reduction.
GOOD FOR: Date night. Two-top tables, glowing lamps and swing-era jazz set the scene for an intimate tte--tte. The best seat in the house is a cozy window nook facing West 11th Street—the view may not rival a dramatic passage through the Alps, but the quiet West Village corner is pretty charming in its own right.
THE CLINCHER: The first-class interior is matched by a customer-is-always-right graciousness among the barkeeps, who are happy to chat about spirits and take drink suggestions. The From Russia with Love cocktail (Luksusowa vodka, ginger, lime, rosewater rinse) was dreamed up by a regular, and Cakir is currently sorting through more than two dozen other suggestions to fill out a patron-inspired portion of the menu. Invent a recipe called the Miss Marple and we'd happily buy your next round—we're guessing she's partial to gin.
325 W 11th St between Greenwich and Washington Sts (212-691-8845). Mon, Sun 5pm--1am; Tue, Wed 5pm--3am; Fri, Sat 5pm--4am.