3 of New York City’s Best Gourmet Cocktail Bars

Written by: Fruzsina Molnar
Mayahuel interior

The interior of Mayahuel, a gourmet cocktail bar specializing in mezcal.

If you’re looking for a night out on the town this weekend but are sick of the regular sports bars, dive bars, or loud dance halls, try something a little bit classier and more subdued. Go with one of New York City’s best traditions: a gourmet cocktail bar, or speakeasy. Around since the Prohibition Era of the 1920s (or at least pretending to be), these little bars will serve you distinctive, expensive cocktails (don’t go unless you’re willing to shell out) with a side of old-fashioned charm and candlelit ambience. Many of them have hidden entryways that lend not only an air of romantic secrecy, but also makes you feel kinda special for knowing “where to get in.” Here are my favorite picks:
1) Little Branch.Located at the corner of South Seventh Ave. and Leroy St., this charming spot is run by the owners of Milk & Honey. Ask for the bartender’s choice–just pick your liquor and tell the bartender your mood and he or she will whip you up something extraordinary. Come on a Thursday or Sunday evening and you might catch a live jazz set, too. And don’t try to skip the line, because it won’t work.

2) Mayahuel. Not your grandparents’ traditional speakeasy, this joint on East 6th St. and Second Ave. is known (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the name) for its cocktails made with mezcal. A veritable book of menus will be presented to you upon taking a seat, so, again, don’t be shy about asking the bartender for his or her choice. If you’re not a huge tequila fan, there are plenty of cocktails made with other liquors, too.

3) Angel’s Share. Not far from Mayahuel at 8 Stuyvesant St. in the East Village, Angel’s Share is a real treat for those who want some mystery and intrigue with their drinks. When I mentioned secret entryways, this is the bar to which I was referring. You’ll have to enter through the Japanese restaurant on the second floor, through a secret doorway that’s the transition between the brightly-lit sushi joint and the candlelit, old-fashioned bar lying behind it. Take a seat and bask in the velvet armchairs, admire the gorgeous decorations, and sip at one of hundreds of speciality cocktails, including one that uses bacon-infused bourbon!

So next time you’re in the Big Apple and looking to treat yourself or a loved one to some masterfully-concocted potions, try one of these enchanting little cocktail bars. You might have to search for it, as none of them have any visible signage, but it’s worth it!

Carsten Holler Exhibit at New York’s New Museum Turns Art into Interactive Fun

Written By: Catherine Wolinski

Last October, the New Museum in New York City presented Carsten Holler: Experience, the first New York survey of works by Carsten Holler, a German scientist-turned-artist who resides in Stockholm, Sweden. The exhibition, which will be open until Jan. 15, transforms multiple galleries into a world of research experimentation crossed with childhood fun. A firm believer in utilizing the architecture of the building where his art, its space, and its viewers will interact, the collection even includes a 102-foot slide that patrons can ride from the fourth to the second floors of the building.

Born in Brussels in 1961, Holler left his career as a scientist in 1993 to instead apply his knowledge and lab experience to

Carsten Holler: Experience slide installation at the New Museum

artistic concepts. Exploring themes such as safety, love, and doubt, Holler presents scenarios that force museum and museum goer into a conversation, connecting visitors to the environments he creates. By engaging the building as well as its inhabitants, Holler sends each person into multiple roles as they pass through each section of the exhibit, where they are faced with innovative structures, scenes, and tasks. Visitors are both the watchers and the watched as they make their way through the Experience Corridor, a stretch of space scattered with thought provoking activities that bring into question the conventional understandings of space, time and self.

By way of his participatory installations, Holler challenges human perception and logic by igniting, and perhaps overwhelming, the senses with interactive experiences.  Using the architecture of the building to map out these sensory events, Holler engages viewers with

The Mirror Carousel by Carsten Holler

the works of the past eighteen years of his career, chronicling numerous ventures that push the limits of human sensory perception. Such works include the untitled slide installation, which he describes as an “alternative transportation system,” Double Light Corner, a disorienting light installation that gives the impression the room is flipping back and forth, Mirror Carousel, a full-size swing merry-go-round that reflects and illuminates the space around it as it turns almost imperceptively, and finally, Psycho Tank, a “sensory deprivation pool” which literally puts the viewer into a pool—stripped naked—for a mind-altering out-of-body experience.

Carston Holler: Experience employs multiple disciplines to destabilize and reinvent viewers’ knowledge of the world around them, and how they fit into it. By using the scientific method in conjunction with his futurist design, Holler’s art forces viewers to see, feel, and understand art and space in a new way.

Mayor Bloomberg Brushes Off Newt Gingrich Criticisms as Gingrich Campaign Faces Challenges


Newt Gingrich criticizes Michael Bloomberg

Written By: Anatole Ashraf

Despite mounting campaign challenges, Republican candidate for the 2012 presidency Newt Gingrich continued to aim criticisms at New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg for a second day while Bloomberg chuckled at the jeers.

At a “Mom’s Matter” forum in Des Moines, Iowa on Dec. 30, Gingrich cited Bloomberg as a reason for wanting to overhaul the entire electoral system, claiming he did not have the mayor’s personal wealth to buy a seat.

“The current system is a disgrace,” Gingrich said. “When Bloomberg can buy the mayorship of New York and nobody can compete with him because they’re all under various contribution rules, when millionaires go out and have huge advantages, there’s something profoundly wrong with the system.”

Bloomberg in turn brushed off the comments at a press conference designed to advertise New York City’s efforts to increase pedestrian and bike safety on Dec. 29. When asked about the comments, Bloomberg laughed and replied, “What, did he say something?”

“My job is have more events like this to be able to say that bike safety has gone up dramatically,” Bloomberg said, “[that] crime has gone down, deaths by fire, deaths by traffic, that schools are improving, and that is what I am going to focus on.”

Gingrich’s criticisms come at a time when the candidate’s campaign is facing increasing challenges. According to a CNN poll of 452 Republicans conducted from Dec. 21 to 27, Gingrich ranked fourth among voters likely to caucus on Jan. 3 with 14 percent. A similar poll conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6 found the candidate enjoying a 13-point lead over current front-runner Mitt Romney with 33 percent. The issues plaguing Gingrich’s campaign are attacks from other campaigns which the candidate has called “negative,” or super PACs which are supporting other candidates such as Romney.

Following Gingrich’s surge in the polls a month ago, rival candidates Romney and Ron Paul launched several attack ads that some estimate costing as high as $10 million worth. One point of attack has been Gingrich’s mid-1990s affair with Republican staffer Callista Bisek while still married to his second wife Marianne Ginther. The pressure resulting from these ads have led Gingrich to say, “I can’t do modern politics.”

The forum in Des Moines, Iowa also found Gingrich “becoming emotional” about his mother.

“My whole  emphasis on brain science comes indirectly from dealing with…the real problems of real people in my family,” Gingrich said. “So it’s not a theory, it’s in fact my mother.”

GlobalFest 2012: International Artists Gather as New York’s Musical Melting Pot Gets Richer

Written By: Anatole Ashraf


New York—New York City enjoys a widely-held reputation as a melting pot for a variety of cultures, food, and art. The city’s music scene, in particular, is about to receive one more reason to cement its reputation in 2012 as artists from around the world gather here for GlobalFest 2012.

On Jan. 8 2012, 12 musical artists from at least 12 different countries will gather in New York City for GlobalFest 2012 at Webster Hall. The concert will take place over five hours from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. with artists playing between 30 and 60 minutes on each of the venue’s three stages. It will mark the ninth year that the concert has been featured at the historic downtown Manhattan venue.

GlobalFest 2012 continues in the tradition of featuring musicians from around the world. The list of artists this year includes musicians from Southern Italy, northeastern China, Yemen, France, Brazil, and Haiti. The concert will also feature the American debuts of The Gloaming—a collective of American and Celtic musicians—and the Chinese jazz artist Wang Li, who notably features the jaw harp, an instrument native to Asia and all tribes of Turkic people.

In addition to artists from other countries, GlobalFest 2012 will feature international artists from American cities such as Boston and, of course, New York. The Debo Band, based in Boston, delivers an eclectic mix of Ethiopian music and funk influences, while M.A.K.U. Soundsystem celebrates the Afro-Colombian musical traditions that are found in the New York City borough of Queens.

GlobalFest 2012 also acts as a platform for discussing social and political issues. The Haitian artist, BélO, for example, says he was chosen to be an “activist artist.”

“It would be easier to earn more money or be more popular doing love songs,” says BélO. “But I was born an activist musician. I live it, I feel it, and I have a vision.”

One group of artists attracting attention from news outlets such as National Public Radio is the Silk Road Ensemble, a collective of fourteen artists from countries that include India, Iran, Azerbaijan, China, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. The group is especially notable for being personally chosen by founder, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. GlobalFest 2012 will mark the collective’s tenth active year.

In addition to curating a showcase of international artists in New York, the organizers of GlobalFest 2012 time the concert to coincide with annual Association for Performing Arts Presenters conference, when thousands of concert promoters will seek new talent for upcoming programming seasons. The organizers call the conference “the most important booking even in North America.”

With such an eclectic but energetic collection of artists that spans a multitude of countries and cultures, GlobalFest 2012 promises to brighten up an otherwise quiet winter month in New York City.

New York’s Musical Melting Pot Gets Richer While International Artists Gather for GlobalFest 2012

New York City Prepares for Gigantic New Year’s Eve Party

Time's Square New Year's Eve

Time's Square New Year's Eve

Written by: Anatole Ashraf


New York City is expected to host an estimated one million people in Times Square on the New Year’s Eve ball drop for the biggest party night of the year. Record-breaking numbers of crowds are anticipated to gather for a star-studded lineup for entertainers, including Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

The party—which officially starts at 3 p.m.—will mark the culmination of days of police preparation. In an interview with NY1, Police Commissioner Ray Kelley detailed the process of securing the Times Square area.

“The manholes have all been sealed, the mailboxes have been removed, observation posts have been at least established or identified as the ones that are gonna be occupied, there’ll be several thousand police officers, not only here, but there are other events as well that are going on at the same time,” Kelley said.

As part of the heightened security measures, police officers will be barricading off the area from 41st to 58th Streets between Sixth and Eighth Avenues between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Jan. 1. Visitors are warned not to bring any alcohol, large bags or backpacks. Anyone who leaves their spot for any reason will not be allowed back in after 3 p.m.

Most visitors are expected to be tourists. According to a NY1 poll, 97 percent of New Yorkers admitted to not being interested in attending the Times Square celebration. To accommodate local and native New Yorkers, many restaurants and clubs are offering memorable experiences.

Some of the finest restaurants in the city such as Daniel and Per Se are offering New Year’s Eve packages. On his blog the Price Hike, food critic Ryan Sutton has compiled a list of the “Real Cost of New Year’s Eve Dining,” which tracks the often-inflated cost of New Year’s Eve meals after tax and tip for two. Per Se, for example, $1,633 after tax and tip for New Year’s Eve, while regularly a meal will cost $642 for two. Sutton called these markups “an intangible emotional play: you’re paying more because you and your significant other don’t want to be alone when the clock strikes midnight.”

For a more affordable celebration, various bars and restaurants are offering events with no cover charge. The popular Brooklyn destination Huckleberry Bar, for example, is hosting a masquerade ball with free hors d’oeuvres and complimentary champagne toasts at midnight.

Ultimately, celebration options are plenty and varied for almost all New Yorkers and tourists on New Year’s Eve 2012.

New York City’s Horse Drawn Carriages Draw Higher Income

New York City Horse-Drawn Carriage

New York City Horse-Drawn Carriage

New York City recently passed a controversial bill to raise the fares for horse-drawn carriage rides. Passed amidst heated arguments from both sides, the rate hike is the first the city has seen in 20 years and will also serve to improve conditions for the horses.
The rate was increased from $34 for the first half hour to $50 for the first 20 minutes. The bill also creates a provision for horse health. They must be boarded in stalls big enough to turn around and lie down in as well as vacation time. In addition, there is an age restriction on horses eligible to pull carriages; between 5 and 26 years of age.

In a time when the unemployment rate is sky high and tourism is down, many disagreed with the changes. Dissenters wondered how the bill would be enforced. The American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the main sponsor of the bill, insisted that the community would help enforcement.
It is a “fair balance between having regulations that protect the horses that are part of this industry, but keeps an industry that supports 300 families,” said Christine Quinn, ASPCA spokesperson. Opposition was so fierce, Quinn was heckled and called a “liar” as she made her case for the bill.
At last count, there are 293 licensed drivers and 68 licensed carriages in New York City. Animal rights activists have longed called for a complete ban on carriages, and the passing of the bill is their lone victory in a long campaign for change.

New York Doormen Demand Fair Pay

New York Doorman

New York Doorman

New York doormen see it all. They serve clientel from the posh to the poor, signing for deliveries and food, assembling furntiure and listening to late-night drunken ramblings. And now, they want fair pay for their troubles.

“On their way home, especially at night, they tell me everything,” said Hector Matias, a doorman in a luxury apartment building near the Hudson River. The 30,000 doormen and concierges (and handymen) have threatened to strike beginning Wednesday. This has tenants in a tizzy over the inconvenience of signing for their own deliveries and trash which may pile up and attract the infamous New York roach.

“What do we do with the trash?” asked Stefanie Howarth, a Greenwich Village apartment dweller. “Do we bring it outside? I don’t know.”
The doormen’s union, Local 32BJ, the Service Employees Interntaional Union represents employees at over 3200 apartment buildings. While employers want lower pay for new hires and fewer sick days, the union feels the $40,000 average salary for these individuals needs to remain at this rate.
“We dont want to strike, but we may have to,” said Upper East Side doorman Seamus McCormick. “We’re just trying to make a decent living.”

Windham Opens New Trendy Hotel In New York City

Fashion26 Hotel Bar

Fashion26 Hotel Bar

The ever-fashionable New York City has received an upgrade to its accomodations offerings. Windham, known for luxurious resort hotels in Las Vegas and other urban and tourist-centric areas, recently opened its Fashion26 hotel in the chic Chelsea district.

The hotel features 22 stories of glass and steel, and the tower is replete with an “art program” which will feature a rotation of sure-to-be-fashion-iconic exhibits. The program will feature photorgraphy from teh neighboring Fashion INstitute of Technology’s students.
Glen Coben, designer, fashioned the lobby’s receiption desk after the type of cutting-room table one would see in a fashion design house.
It goes without saying that the staff uniforms have to be up to stylistic snuff as well. Drab colors and bulky cuts were poo-pooed in favor of merino wool knits from leading designers and Kangol knit hats for the doormen.

“Fashion 26 – A Wyndham Hotel makes an exciting statement about architectural imagination, refined service and unique amenities in one of the city’s most vital and vibrant neighborhoods,” said  Wyndham Hotels and Resorts President Jeff Wagoner.

The chic perks don’t stop in the lobby. The hotel has designed amenities to please the most exacting fashionista’s pallete, including cupcakes from an upscale neighborhood bakery, free wi-fi, luxurious Frette linens and terrycloth towels.

Rooms start at a fashionably-reasonable $299.