On a recent evening at Hudson Malone, the new dimly lit, bi-level saloon in New York’s Midtown East neighborhood, a regular grabbed an open stool and immediately apologized to the bartender for having had one too many the night before. “Don’t you worry about it,” the good-natured barkeep responded. “It’s a bar.”
The man behind the stick is Doug Quinn, Hudson Malone’s proprietor, best known for his near-decade of stellar service at Manhattan institution P.J. Clarke’s, which is located just blocks away. In 2012, patrons were shocked and heartbroken when Quinn was abruptly fired. Today, his most loyal fans have switched to Quinn’s new joint, seeking that familiar comfort and conviviality they missed without him.
“Hudson Malone is not a revenge bar,” Quinn is quick to point out. “I have a need to create and was planning this for a long time.” I’m inclined to believe him, given that he had several years ago named his sons Hudson and Malone with the intention of ultimately opening an establishment called Hudson Malone.
At his own watering hole, Quinn, of course, dons his array of colorful bow ties—“It’s part of my brand,” he notes. He also continues to remember a staggering number of customers’ drink orders off the top of his head, all the while managing to shake a hand, answer the phone and remedy a Hot Toddy short a few squeezes of lemon. That’s not to mention that the ever-congenial Quinn typically greets female guests with an endearing and retro “doll” or “baby.”
No one would blame you for thinking the bar had been around for decades. The walls are cluttered with vintage ads, signs and sketches of big New York personalities like Joe Allen (a legendary restaurateur whose eponymous eatery is popular among Broadway performers), as well as a chalkboard featuring Quinn’s Laws—“Always Keep Your Word, And Always Show Up” among them.
While many of the after-work orders include glasses of Chardonnay and pints of Guinness, in this frat bar-laden stretch of the city, Quinn’s precise, swiftly made classic cocktails, including the Boulevardier, Dark ‘n Stormy and Bobby Burns, are a pleasant surprise. They’re also the perfect aperitif before you tackle one of the Big Apple’s juiciest burgers.
“I wanted to keep things simple. It’s a place for people to come three times a week,” Quinn says. And given the clubiness of the place, that formula seems to be working.
Quinn, a native of Rockland County, New York, was a Vassar College student planning to be a doctor when he fell severely ill. After that experience, “I didn’t want to be around hospitals anymore,” he explained. Instead he started modeling, acting and bartending while still in school. “I had lot of fun at the bar and just stuck with it,” he adds.
And he’ll get to further show off his mixological talents in the soon-to-open “cocktail room-meets-bordello” upstairs called The Siren Room, which will specialize in craft elixirs. “But it’s about the guests first, not the bartenders. These drinks can’t take 15 minutes to make,” he assured me. For Quinn, hospitality always comes before house-made tinctures.