No one knows a bar better than the people behind it. For “My Bar in 3 Drinks,” the people running the best bars around make and discuss three of their bar’s most representative cocktails.
It’s a cyclical bar within a cyclical world: As New York City drinkers mourned the abrupt closing of seminal cocktail bar Angel’s Share, its former head bartender opened a similarly Japanese-style bar eight blocks north. This new bar is perhaps to the city’s modern-day cocktail scene what Angel’s Share was for much of its long life, an elegant yet cozy space hidden in plain sight, in which some of the most delectable cocktails in the city are being mixed.
At Martiny’s, Tokyo native Takuma Wantanabe has repurposed an 1800s former carriage house-turned-artist’s studio. That artist, a sculptor whose creations include the great arch in Washington Square Park, was named (somewhat improbably) Philip Martiny, his surname pronounced the same way as the classic cocktail. It’s as though his former studio was predestined for its current incarnation as a cocktail bar.
Wantanabe compares the sculptor’s work to his own craft, both creating art, albeit in vastly different media. Wantanbe’s favorite cocktail is in fact the Martini, and indeed often half the bar is drinking a Martini of some sort, watched over by moody black-and-white photos of horses in a nod to the space’s original purpose. It’s as though it’s all come together in, if not quite a full circle, at least a three-sided triangle, says Wantanabe. “That’s the whole image of this bar,” he says.
The menu, currently 10 cocktails long, is organized into sections of two drinks each, roughly indicating the suggested sequence, like the courses of a meal. The bar's space comprises three levels. The ground floor is where you’ll spot Wantanabe behind the bar, shaking and stirring cocktails. Upstairs, an enormous arched window serves as a focal point among an array of vintage furniture, prime for lounging. The basement level is expected to handle private parties.
A visit to Martiny’s is a luxury experience, evident not only in the stratospheric prices of the cocktails but also in its details: the impeccably garnished drinks in impressive glassware (largely Kimura) and the theatricality of the care with which drinks are created. Guests are presented with an oshibori upon being seated, as in a Japanese restaurant or a first-class seat on an international flight.
These are the three drinks Wantanabe feels best represent Martiny’s.
1. Grand Martiny’s
Bombay Sapphire gin, La Cigarrera sherry, Churchill’s porto 2016, Hine Rare, St-Germain, grape
Topping the cocktail list, under the “signature” designation, is Wantanabe’s Martini variation. “It’s more elegant” than a standard Martini, he says. “Which is why I named it Grand Martiny’s.”
With its deep burgundy color and rich flavor, it may not be immediately recognizable as a Martini—perhaps a Martinez, if anything—but this drink traces its roots to the trending classic. Wantanabe cites his initial inspiration as the 50-50 Martini: drier than the Martinez, and easier to drink than a standard Dry Martini.
It’s also more grape-forward than a traditional Martini. Dry, saline manzanilla sherry takes the place of dry vermouth; a grape stands in for an olive. Port from 2016, a notably excellent vintage, adds richness, and a touch of brandy lends body and aromatics.
While training as a bartender in Japan, Wantanabe spent three years perfecting his Martini-making abilities under the guidance of his mentor, he says, which instilled in him a perfectionism seen here. The cocktail is poured tableside, and Wantanabe adjusts his stirring time to account for any extra dilution that might take place while the drink is transported, say, to someone seated upstairs.
2. Royal Horse’s Neck
Hennessy V.S.O.P, orange, lemon, egg yolk, Champagne
The bar’s nod to its space’s original incarnation as a carriage house is carried through in the name of the classic cocktail that inspired this drink. Initially, the connection may seem tenuous to a standard Horse’s Neck, which is essentially a bourbon (or brandy)-ginger with a lemon twist—a “brandy Moscow Mule” as Wantanabe puts it—but the two drinks are indeed closely related.
As with some other cocktails (most prominently the Kir Royale), the “royal” in the drink’s name indicates that Champagne subs in for ginger ale as the effervescent component; V.S.O.P cognac lends an additional touch of regal luxury. Orange and lemon provide a softer acidic component for balance, like the lime in a Moscow Mule.
The use of an egg yolk, which brings this drink into flip territory, is a more unusual choice. Taking a cue from the Golden Fizz, a classic gin fizz variation with egg yolk that Wantanabe learned from his mentor in Japan, the yolk is in fact a sustainability measure so as not to waste the egg yolks left over after making popular egg-white drinks like Whiskey Sours.
Wantanabe describes the resulting cocktail as “easy to drink—fruity and a little bit sparkling.”
3. Tea Ceremony
Nikka Coffey Grain whisky, cacao, matcha, coconut water
With a preparation mimicking a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and a flavor inspired by matcha-covered chocolates, this elegant cocktail is one of the bar’s most popular offerings.
To make it, high-grade, intensely rich, bitter, and flavorful matcha is whisked with hot coconut water in a traditional matcha bowl before being combined with Nikka Coffey Grain whisky and cacao liqueur, the liqueur’s sweetness mitigating the bitterness of the matcha.
It’s meant to be reminiscent of a Japanese tea ceremony, says Wantanabe. “I wanted to follow the traditional matcha ceremony because I want the customer to understand the process of making the matcha,” he says.