49 W. 44th St btw 5th and 6th Ave, Midtown West
The Place: A small, serious cocktail bar in the back of the Iroquois Hotel. Random, I know.
The Time: Tuesday June 7, 6pm. I bought myself a ticket to see The Humans on Broadway, because I know when it wins the Tony for Best Play, I won’t be able to get one. I picked up my new headshots (weeeeee!) and had a sec to drop in somewhere for a drink. Because I hate everywhere in this area, I checked Yelp for cocktail bars. Miraculously, Lantern’s Keep popped up, and it was only a few blocks from the theater! Solid.
The Vibe: I’ve never been to the Iroquois Hotel before, because why would I, but the doormen point me to the back of the hotel when I ask where Lantern’s Keep is. It’s one small room, with a cozy and intimate feel save for the light flooding in from the gaudy lobby. There’s a sign right in front of the entrance saying “please wait to be seated” that I choose to ignore. Everyone else (aka every white man between the ages of 40 and 60 wearing a suit and thick rimmed eyeglasses) gets puzzled by this and idles awkwardly, peering in, seeing who will seat him. The one server, a woman with ombre hair wearing a dark plaid shirt, gives no fucks about this, calling out to them from wherever she is and showing them where to sit by pointing. This bar must be a big after-work spot, because there are only men on business meetings or whatever sitting at the tables. I’m alone at the actual bar. 20 minutes in, and I am the only woman in the place, except the server. JK, not the only woman, because there are two large faux Degas ballerina paintings. One is mostly just her chest. The other is just of her tutu. Another woman walks in at one point, but she's the manager because she hands the bartender a check. 40 minutes in, and it's still just me, the server and the ballerinas’ body parts representing women.
The Bartender: A tall guy with glasses, tattoos and a khaki baseball cap named Fiaco. He's quick to whip me up something when I ask for a negroni-style cocktail, but before he does, he asks me if there are any spirits I don’t like. Good man, Fiaco. He also works at Featherweight, one of my local haunts, so I’ll be seeing him again soon, I’m sure.
The Drank: They have a good looking cocktail menu, but I want a negroni variation in honor of Negroni Week. The bar isn’t doing anything special, but I ask Fiaco, and he makes me a Right Hand cocktail, a riff on a boulevardier with bourbon, campari and chocolate bitters. It’s delicious. For such a small bar, and seemingly one station, they have 11 shakers. That’s a stupid amount of shakers. They’ve got all the right stuff–a whole tray of amaros (amari?), a juicer to press citrus to order, big ice, frosted mixing glasses. WTF is this bar doing in the back of this no-nothing hotel? At one point, I overhear a guy ask for vodka, and the server tells him this is a vodka-less bar! WHOA. I look at the bottles and, it’s true! There’s no vodka in sight. I wonder how many businessmen have been pissed off by this.
Was I Hit On? Surprisingly no, considering I'm actually the only woman my entire time here. As I'm ready to leave, the bar has filled up; the 3 other stools are occupied by lone men fitting the same description as the other guys. Maybe if I stay longer, one of them will say something to me, but maybe not. I can’t say. I'm leaving.
Should You Drink Here Alone? I guess so. A bar of this quality is rare in the theater district, so it serves that purpose. If you’re around and hankering for a good cocktail, by all means. But otherwise, leave that bar stool for the next businessman who walks through the door. He’ll fit right in.