In many ways, a visit to the Empire Room feels like a trip to days gone by. A modern interpretation of Art Deco, the lavish decor recalls the early days of the Empire State Building—dark wood, silver accents, tufted leather and velvet, and gorgeous teardrop chandeliers—with a little bit of a late 1960s flair. The staff were elegantly dressed in classic black and white, the ladies in black cocktail dresses and pearls, the bartenders wearing black vests and ties; even the music seemed to fit the era, until swing gave way to Stevie Wonder.
Though the crowd was bustling on a recent Thursday night, many of the patrons didn't take advantage of Jonathan Pogash's cocktail menu, featuring carefully curated classics like the Waldorf (Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano Antica Formula, absinthe and Manhattan bitters) alongside house specialties. Definitely a mistake on their part. The menu includes a beer and wine selection in addition to bar snacks (the truffled popcorn smelled delicious), as well as a few house-made sodas for the non-alcohol drinkers.
Jonathan's Mezcal Martinez ($13.50) is a modern variation of the classic Martinez cocktail, which some believe to be the precursor to the martini. In this recipe, the smokiness of the mezcal is tempered with chocolate and orange notes and accented with with two different types of bitters, which pull the drink together in that magical way that only bitters can. Sit in a cushy leather barstool near the middle of the bar, order a cocktail, take a look around the room, and soak in a bit of the past.
1 oz. Sombra Mezcal 3/4 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth 3/4 oz. Combier orange liqueur 1/2 oz. white crème de cacao 1 dash The Bitter Truth aromatic bitters 1 dash The Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel, twisting the peel and rubbing the oils around the rim of the glass.
350 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10011 (map) 212-643-5400