There was a time when Avenue C was a place where you’d be more likely to score crack than a nice cocktail. I don’t even know if crack is still a thing, but the cocktail revolution has apparently worked its way East to joints like The Summit Bar — which, opening in 2009, made it a pioneer of sorts in this arena. And though they didn’t suffer from dysentery, typhoid, cholera or any of the other earmarks of a painful pioneer death, they managed to mint words like “tincture” into the lexicon and make people think a thing like cardamom-infused agave syrup is okay to ingest. So cheers to them.
Now, I’m a simple man when it comes to cocktails. I enjoy a well-made Old Fashioned. But, more likely, I’ll order either a rye or bourbon Manhattan. It’s like I’m 75, but I’m really only 60. The thing is, when a bar knows how to make a real drink, even a simple concoction like these can become a revelation. Skipping down their drink menu past all the shit with red pepper puree, shiso leaves and clove dust, is a nice spate of classics that will do you right. You even have your “fun” drinks, like the ever-refreshing dark & stormy and, unapologetically, a whiskey sour. Granted, I’m sure they’d make you whatever you want, but it is nice to see that you don’t have to only choose from some shit with cucumber or yuzu in it. Yuzu? Ponzu? Oh, wait those are two different things. So maybe yuzu is fine (because putting ponzu in a drink seems singularly disgusting), but yuzu is still not something I want in my cocktail. The thing is, I’ve found that too often these days cocktail bars only include the weird stuff on their menus and then depend on you to order the dependables on your own. At least The Summit Bar realizes there’s still value in the old-school spirits, and there are still those of us old enough to want them.
The bar itself is appropriately Edison bulbed and filled with Rat Pack references. Because all cocktail joints must, must, must pay homage to the biggest booze hounds in pop culture history. But with its long wrap-around bar, exposed brick walls and its genre-busting outdoor space that is oddly reminiscent of a ’70s subway car, it’s a really nice spot to hit up after work with a special friend or two to imbibe some intoxicants in laid-back style.