The Bonnie in Astoria: A Log Cabin in the City Bar

IMG_4408New York winters are tame, well, at least they have been since I moved here. Of course, by saying this, I risk being called out by my gf (afrosty apartment is different, ok?). It’s cold here, sure. But after one or two blankets of snow, the streets clear and Brooklyn metamorphasizes back into the unique, beautiful butterfly that it is. New Yorkers jump to all types of conclusions when the weather hits above like 42 degrees.

Honestly, I like wintertime.

Ipuddo’s Shoyu ramen, Raclette,  DOUGH donuts, and recently porridge, are my staples. At night, there’s nothing like a nest for drinks and sub-par trash talk about your roommates. The drinks are important, the trash talk is more important, but the place is, dare I say…sacred.

During one of the two snowstorms this winter, I find myself in the backwoods of Astoria, Queens leading two bankers to a promised land to spend stacks. In the snow, streets seem large, and avenues swell like rivers in the wet season. After a 25-minute walk (5 blocks) we arrive. We’re half frozen and red-faced, but safe in the log-cabin-in-the-city bar: the Bonnie.

Vibe: Lumberjack, Affluent, Warm, 90’s Rap, Notorious

IMG_4409Warmth sets the Bonnie apart. It’s like checking into a Finnish sauna for a couple of hours. Literally, the entire place is built of planks of wood. The four walls, the ceiling, the bar, the table–aka that shit is cozy af.

The people are friendly, the atmosphere is full of warm tones, and you can get some gooey, top-tier mac-n-cheese (with shells).  The ideal setting is in the afternoon, as it’s a place you can post up on a cold day, sip cocktails, nibble on finger food and forget about the dregs of wintertime.

To me, the decorative highlights include the spacing and atmosphere of the different sections within the bar. There are four distinct areas: a lively front bar,  a romantic parlor, an intimate back bar, and a spacious beer tent.  On that snowy day, it felt like a fortress, a respite from the desolate tundra of hipster Queens.

I make the distinction ‘Hipster Queens’, because for a beginner, NYC-Queens really has three different regions.  The 7 Train. Old School Greek-Italian Astoria. And Hipster Queens. (LIC is really an extension of Manhattan). Hipster Queens, to me, feels a lot like the ‘little Seattle’ of NYC. You can find great gastropubs, flannel-shirt people, content-with-where-they-are people, and good coffee, just like in Seattle.

Curiously, Astoria has some of the best restaurants, bars, and places that you’ll find in the city, but you won’t hear about them. The community is modest and close-knit.

Savvy dress-down clothes, a couple of lowlifes and a Saturday is what you need for the Bonnie. It’ll be great you tell yourself–

You may discover poignance in an afternoon where there is no place you’d rather be. Your mind becomes lucid and present. You unwind. You forget about the city life. You lose the concept of ‘waiting.’ Minutes become hours. You may ask yourself, how did I get here? The Talking Heads will play right as you ask yourself this question.

This is an Astoria day, a voice from the darkness tells you. Stay, another whispers, Stay with us. You begin to panic. The N train will be backed up, an uber ride estimate will show up on your screen as $50, Google shows the nearest option is a 40-minute walk. It’s dark. People’s laughter seems to turn towards you. It’s too late. You’re stranded in Queens. But it’s all good!

The Drinks: Seasonal, Craft, Aromatic, Mezcal, Subtle

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Winter Punch #2

The drink menu is a stand-out, certainly one of the best in the neighborhood.  Elegant nuances and complex notes build off of classic cocktails like a well-composed jazz quintet. A large sprig of Rosemary rises from a highball glass.  A dried grapefruit ring drifts on the surface of a rocks glass. A stack of cinnamon sticks, a plume of mint leaves, a bouquet of basil, these arrangements hit you like a loverboy on Valentine’s day.

The cocktail director, Mike Di Tota is the romantic, and yes, he has a background in botany.

A Whiskey drink named: the Pursuit of Happiness, embodies the light, yet addictive sentiment anchored by a historic darkness. To me, the mix of Maker’s Mark, honey and pomplemousse juice is a tad too sweet. So, I rotate after the first, to a heftier drink called Winter Punch #2. Ironically, it is a whiskey drink with honey, and grapefruit (the same thing). However, it consists of a darker whiskey, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a twist of lemon juice, which turns it into an aromatic affair. It’s spiced, well-mixed, warming, and what you need on a cold day.

Winter seems to have passed in New York, but the cold, bitter individuality remains in each of us–just kidding…Or am I? I have yet to see if the Bonnie turns into the lush-beach-resort-and-day-spa-in-the-city bar during the summer, but I can leave that to the immeasurable tiki bars that exist year-round.

Con Amor,

Mr. Cohiba

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Suit The Occasion: Astoria Boutiques

Belief: @beliefnyc
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Atlantic Tee – $34
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Parachute Cap – $36 $22
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Midnight Hoody – $68
Other Boutiques in Astoria:
The Stonework: @thestonework
Lockwood: @lockwoodshop

 

Paris Isn’t Much of a Jungle, But There’s Always Tiger

I’m telling you–it was another misty winter night in Paris, same as all the others. Accompanied by sneakers and patterned socks, flowing overcoats and black-brimmed hats with pluming feathers, we arrive. It’s never so cold in Paris to not dress with elegance; life is never so challenging to not act with the same sentiment. Tip the bouncer. Hold the door for Mlle. Remove your garments. Fold them over your arm.  Send a signal from the entrance to the bartender. Here, this is the way to do things, but maybe, and finally, that’s changing.

IMG_4251Location: Saint Germain des-Pris, 6th arr.

The atmosphere on Rue de Princesse, a small stone road in St. Sulpice, is enchanting. People spill into the street, chatting, buzzing, percolating with energy. (Later, I found out this street is considered touristy, but personally, I believe that any street with greater traction than locals is considered touristy by French definition.)

In blue cursive, a neon sign illuminates the word ‘Tiger’. The banker looks excited. She turns to me with big eyes. ‘It reminds me of New York,’ she says. But I’m not as easily impressed. We push open the heavy wood door.

Tiger labels themselves ‘the first (or premiere) Gin bar in Paris,’ and WorldsBestBars.com labels them ‘not a normal cocktail bar.’ Phrases like these are tricky and distracting. They’re nothing but marketing tactics that convince you how you’re supposed to feel about a place before walking in.

Vibe: Trendy, Colorful, Rowdy, Modern

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When we walk in, it’s packed. Orbs of light dangle overhead, ferns, and potted plants line the walls and nooks. A DJ spins near the entrance, dance hall. We thread through the vicious crowd, bobbing to the cramped space near the bar.

A flamboyant man behind us becomes impatient as all six of us order.  He’s opulently chubby, salt and pepper hair, red-faced wearing a black turtleneck, and thick directorial glasses. ‘Attends!’ I yell. It diffuses the situation.

We head upstairs to the nook area.  People are laughing and chatting, a great vibe rings throughout. It’s loud, the good kind of loud. A loud where you can’t hear the people across the table, but encourages yelling, shouting.  One of the girls in our group climbs on the table and starts dancing. Two others stand on the booth to join her. I chat with the hotelier.  She speaks of how the France is in freefall, and how the young president might not be up for the task. Politics aren’t faux-pas yet in this country. It’s a nice change. The waiter asks if we’d like another drink. Sure, why not?

The price, of course.

Drinks: Gin-Based, Aromatic, Flavorful, Expensive

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In spite of appearances, Tiger takes Gin seriously. 6 types of Gin & Tonic, more than what would ever be necessary.  They use a soda stream method, spraying the tonic from afar, and cascading into the goblet. I had never seen such a technique until now. The bartenders are young, friendly, but they are showmen. The drink prices reflect a bar that takes itself ‘seriously,’ but a showman should never be taken seriously.

My girlfriend orders a gin-take on a bloody mary. It’s sumptuous, full, really an outstanding cocktail. I order a gin, mezcal, blood orange, honey drink. At 16 Euro, I have one-shot and it misfires. The drink is average at best, tart, smokey, but overall not what I had hoped. Two of the other Mlles order a gin-cranberry-lavender drink that doesn’t far surpass a good Capecodder.  The last two had one of the six Gin-tonics.

I’d say I loved the place if it wasn’t for the price, but the bar was packed, so I guess…they can get away with it.

Con Amor,

Alexander Cohiba

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A blurry pic of me trying to look French.

ig: @tigerparis_


Suit The Occasion:

Scotch
Scotch & Soda – $undefined
Chevignon – 195 €

 

Everlane – $135

 


Drink Like the Bar Owner:

Sipsmith
Sipsmith Gin – $40
Drumshank
Drumshanbo Gunpowder – 32£

 

Bobbys-Gin
Bobby’s Gin – $46

 

 

The Perfect Negroni at Dante NYC

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from Pinterest

During Negroni week, arguably the dopest week of the year, me and the gov’na rendezvoused over libations at this quaint, yet highly recommended Italian Bistro. It’s a joint that I’ve read much about, but up until now, I hadn’t had the pleasure.

At first impression, the inside makes you want to redo your sorry excuse of a kitchen.  Plants, white accents, natural light, classic tiling oozes vintage Greenwich Village, but rings contemporary as well. The outside makes you want to judge with  distinguished authority.

Breezy Parisian seating on the south end of Macdougal provides ample space for relaxation, and enough traffic for people watching. The houses across the way are painted vibrant hues. Every once in a while a UPS truck will block your view, and a dog from the far table will bark at the delivery man. The wind picks up, and dares to swipe your napkin from the table. The glassware is sparkling, vintage looking, but is actually new and from the supplier cocktail kingdom.

The drinks are crisp, tart, impressionable.

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I took this vermillion baddie of a drink.

The Negroni moves across your palette like models on a Milanese runway. Smooth, practiced, and full-bodied this cocktail was awarded the prestige of a Triple Crown Drink, which places it alongside the company of the Manhattan and Martini.

Originating in Florence, when Mr. Negroni asked for Gin instead of soda in an Americano. Bold move. The bartender, feeling himself, threw in an orange wedge just because. And like magic, Mr. Negroni slated his own gold star in the walk of cocktail fame.

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This tall, tan and handsome drink is the Garibaldi.

We got the juice, forreal, we got Orange juice. Blended until fluffy, then they pour Campari into polished glass. Easy to assemble, but noteworthy. Its another of the bar’s favorites, but has proliferated throughout the world as a distinguished summer beverage.

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from Pinterest
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from Pinterest
Dante is a place that has, with evidence backing it, a mastery of its craft. To me its a perfected version of what it embodies, a laid back, but visually tickling tavern that specializes in Italian Food & Drink. You can get a banging Espresso, Bolognese, or Flatbread, but I’d always recommend one of their drinks.

Negroni

Pile in an Old Fashioned Glass filled with ice, stir 5 times, and garnish.

Garibaldi

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Campari
  • Fresh Orange Juice
  • Orange Wedge for Garnish

Blend the OJ until foamy, pour into an iced Collins Glass and garnish.

Con Amor,

Alexander Cohiba

 

Insta: @Dantenewyorkcity