Labor Day weekend in the City and it can feel as if the world has fled to the beach.
For the less privileged, this is prime playtime in New York, however — packed restaurants are emptier, exclusive bars suddenly become accessible.
With Hurricane Earl nowhere in sight, the sky is a saturated cerulean; a light breeze cuts through the waning warmth. We are in Williamsburg, my writer friend Mr. B and I, for an afternoon of nursing our disappointments at not being at a beach ourselves. But mostly, to catch up on this Writing thing that we do.
“I want you to check out this bar,” he says, “I think you’d really like it.”
And so we find ourselves sliding into seats outside the Hotel Delmano, watching the too-hip rompers and ankle boots and tousled-just-so hairdos amble by.
The thing here is the cocktails. It’s mid-afternoon — but a holiday weekend, we reason — so we decide to oblige …
In the two years that it’s been open, this Milk & Honey meets (Insert Keith McNally restaurant here) place has been attracting cocktail acolytes looking for a comfortable yet chic neighborhood boite. Despite its name, it’s not a hotel — just a bar.
The space, a former tattoo parlor, has a self-conscious antique feel to it …
… complete with a long bar that, by many accounts, is often crammed on weekends.
The setting is lovely, though, filled with little nooks for an evening cocktail. The spacious and stylish bathroom, with its communal sink and stark white Subway tiles, is a deadringer for those at McNally’s Pastis and Odeon.
Our waitress — with the fetching name Coriander — counsels us to try the Delmano Michelada ($8), saying the combination of tamarind-grenadine, fresh lime, smoked Tabasco and Negra Modelo topped with hickory salt is appropriately light for a summery afternoon.
After a huddle, however, we decide on gin and vodka instead of beer.
The St. Helen’s ($10; at left), a combination of vodka, lemon and crushed mint, is delicious, tart and fresh. The Brooklyn Beauty ($12; at right), made with gin, elderflower liqueur and lemon, is a little sweeter and deeper but the citrus notes give it a pleasant lift.
Next, we are torn between two gin drinks — Coriander gets the deciding vote, so a San Francisco Handshake ($12) it is: thyme-infused gin combined with St. Germain, fresh lemon juice and a dash of Fernet-Branca, the bitter Italian digestif.
Artfully topped with a fresh sprig of time, this cocktail immediately hooks us. The taste is slightly savory, sour and just a little sweet.
Brunch is now a distant memory and the food on the menu starts to beckon. The rabbit pate and smoked trout are tempting — true cocktail food.
As is the display of oysters and lobster that we spot just around the corner from the bar.
But meat is what we crave — and the $5 plate of jamon serrano, unfussy and satisfying, hits the spot.
This afternoon, it’s been good. There have been cocktails, some ham, fine and tasty, talk of Hemingway, Amy Tan, James Baldwin — and no small amount of Dachshund flirtation.
This beach thing? We’ll just let the rest have it.
Hotel Delmano, 82 Berry Street, 718.387.1945