Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Marysa0
Sneak Peek: Golden Cadillac
by Regan Hofmann
To filmmakers and kids who watched too much TV, 1977 was a time in which all bars looked like Golden Cadillac. The new bar’s ostentatiously faux wood paneling, mirrored surfaces, and exceptionally flattering warm lighting scheme are the stuff of movie makers’ dreams, the kind of shiny glamour that only exists in children’s fantasies of grown-up-ness. And yet here on a corner of First Avenue it’s real, inspired by movies like Mean Streets, yes, but also by the men and women who made bars like this real for a decade.
Co-owner Giuseppe Gonzalez, of the dearly departed PKNY, has made restoring the honor of those men and women the goal for his new bar. To do so, he and co-owners Greg Boehm, of Cocktail Kingdom, and the Pegu Club‘s James Tune, art-directed every piece of the equation, from the tufted dark leather booths to the stained glass light fixtures. Bar staff was instructed to watch Mean Streets before their first shift. The restrooms are wallpapered with Playboy covers from 1977. Even an opening night gift from the Attaboy staff fits – a baseball bat for bartenders to wield if trouble comes calling (though this one lives above the bar, on display, not tucked away behind it). The only things missing are the too-sweet drinks shaken up up with sour mix and bottled fruit juice, those wonders of convenience that ruined cocktails for nearly 30 years.
Everything here is scrupulously fresh, even the “sour apple” in the Sour Apple Bellini, which does not, as your college roommate might expect, contain the Pucker brand, neon green liqueur. It’s a simple, light combination of fresh green apple juice and champagne, a shock for those of us who have been conditioned to see the words “sour” and “apple” and expect Jolly Rancher levels of artifice. It’s crisp and bright, the perfect day drink.
You’ve definitely never seen a cocktail list so heavy on Benedictine and Galliano. While these out-of-fashion liqueurs – both flavored with complicated, guard-it-with-your-life secret herbal blends – have been lurking in the background while new attention has been lavished on other spirits like Fernet and Cynar, Golden Cadillac has forced them into the spotlight. Turns out they were ready all along. In the Fort Point, the bar’s take on the Manhattan, Benedictine stands alongside Carpano vermouth and Rittenhouse rye in a spirit-forward drink that’s still dangerously easy to sip. In the eponymous Golden Cadillac, Galliano lends an herbaceous depth to a mix of heavy cream and creme de cacao that is destined to become a dessert favorite.
The rest of the menu teems with the sort of drink nobody has ordered since Saturday Night Fever: Buttery Nipples, Grasshoppers (served hot, astonishingly, it’s a perfect winter warmer), Rockettes. There are slushy machines to dispense the Miami Vice, a combination of both a piña colada and strawberry daiquiri. There is a Long Island Iced Tea, and it is delicious; the usual high-proof blend somehow given depth with the small addition of Tomr’s Tonic syrup, topped with Mexican Coke.
That Long Island Iced Tea holds the key to what makes Golden Cadillac a real bar you want to go back to, not just a gimmick. It’s not that they’ve changed the drink or tried to prove they’re better than the originals in some way. Instead, by thinking seriously about it, they’ve figured out the exact proportions, the weight, the significance to give to each ingredient to make it good again. They’re restoring these drinks’ good name, and the good name of a generation of drinkers who enjoyed them. They’re restoring a piece of our history.
The Golden Cadillac is at 13 1st Avenue at 1st Street.
Featured image by Daniel Krieger courtesy of Wagstaff Worldwide.