Forty. It’s a good round number. Granted, it’s also bandied about as a daunting hallmark age for humanity-at-large. But it really need not be seen as such. Rather, it is an age by which one should measure personal achievement, celebrate the accomplishments of life thus far, move away from trendy and turbid club scenes, and on to something with a little more secrecy and style. And let’s face facts: quiet joints and hideways afford a brand of privacy that only experienced adults can truly appreciate.
— By Kevin Byrne
Old Town Bar
45 E. 18th Street
New York, N.Y.
One look at the ancient oak fixtures inside this place, and you’ll know why the bar’s name is synonymous with “old school.” An absolute classic and a bona fide New York City landmark, the Old Town first opened its doors in 1892. Over 100 years of patronage later, its all-mahogany bar is still open, having outlasted and outserved (even during Prohibition) some of the city’s bigger, more famous watering holes, including the Waldorf-Astoria bar, the Stork Club and the Rainbow Room. Go for a burger and a beer, and just soak in the atmosphere. Nobody in their 20’s is smart enough to do that.
113 St. Mark’s Place
New York, N.Y.
As hard as this may be to believe, PDT (acronym for “Please Don’t Tell) is actually hidden behind a hot dog joint, and if you consider PDT’s decor, a pretty high end one at that. Entry to this sexy hot spot is something even Maxwell Smart would envy: you go into a old vintage phone booth inside Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s Place, pick up the receiver, and the back wall of the booth opens into lounge, where a skilled mixologist like Jim Meehan (formerly of Gramercy Tavern) will make you high-quality, custom drinks infused with everything from allspice to bacon-infused bourbon. The average drink will run you $12, and they go amazingly well with the franks being fried next door. Best libation by far: the Staggerac, which is made with 140 proof whiskey and absinthe.
Frederick Douglass Blvd. (at 121st St.)
This cool and clever joint is the tasteful creation of Jai Jai Greenfield and Eric Woods – a couple of savvy ex-Wall-Streeters who sought to bring high end vino to Harlem (having previously done so with their shop Vintage in 2004). Their main list boats an adventuresome selection of 40 reds and whites, with an impressive scope of varietals that go outside the zone of the usual cabs and chards, plus champagne and rosés for those looking to play the bon vivant. By the glass purchases are welcome, as are tastings, with the former’s price ranging from $6 to $19 and the latter in $3 to $4 splashes. Go there in the evening with a date and enjoy the jazzy vibe.
124 Old Rabbit Club
124 MacDougal St.
New York, N.Y.
This hard-to-find hot spot has a secret entryway that actually serves as a deterrent to rowdy and raucous NYU students, who are easily thrown for a loop when they show up at the above address only to find an Ethiopian restaurant. But if you’re a smart fortysomething who knows a trick or two, you’ll easily find (and go through) a nearby black door, traipse down a short set of steps, and push the buzzer. That alone gets you into a dark, quiet, brick-walled bunker where over 65 delicious imported beers (all brewed by Trappist monks, each priced at about $10 a bottle) are secretly served. Down the rabbit hole, indeed. Now if only the bartender was named Alice …
The Clover Club
210 Smith St. (Cobble Hill)
If you or your significant other are into the idea of taking a glass together in the grand old tradition of turn-of-the-century New York, this Victorian-styled cocktail parlor has been hailed as one of Brooklyn’s newest and best. Originally used as a monthly ribbing place for a gang of gadabout Philly journalists in 1882, it’s mahogany bar is, like Old Town, straight out The End of Innocence, where classic, aptly-named concoctions like “daisies”, “fizzes”, “mules”, “punches”, “sours” and “smashes” are typical and affordable fare ($12 is the average cocktail price), as well as bubbles and vino, both bold and fruity. But remember: this is for serious drinkers only. So if you’re one of those fortysomething’s still hellbent on quaffing Jack & Coke, Long Island iced teas or appletinis, stick to T.G.I. Fridays.