While BlackTail is a crowded, raucous tribute to the American bartenders and expats who made Cuba their home in the 1940s and ’50s, Sugar East harks back to a different sort of Old Havana. The deeply stylish hidden Upper East Side space is rich and transporting with mahogany, bronze mirrored details, leather and low lighting. Updated small bites from chef Stephen Lyle include lobster arepas, sugarcane-tamarind glazed wings and, of course, a to-die-for Cubano sandwich. Drinks from Jeremy Strawn (Mulberry Project) combine elegance and fun using “smoke, ginger, pistachio and charred lemon” as an anchor of sorts for the entire signature cocktail menu.
THE DRINK TO DRINK: Cocktails are identified by a dominant savory/umami note like the Charred Lemon, Smoke or Tobacco. The Pistachio features Royal Elite vodka, pistachio, matcha tea, fresh lime juice and nutmeg.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: One of only seven NYC bar/restaurants with a grandfathered tobacco license (it’s in the former Merchants Cigar Bar space), smoking is allowed inside—perfect for when Cuban cigars finally become readily available in this country.