WHY HERE: Veteran NYC barman Giuseppe González (PKNY, Dutch Kills) combines his passion for old-school NYC, comfortable London pubs, high-quality food and drink, and grand fun in this labor of love on Houston Street. Cocktail concepts shift with González’s creative moods and have included elevated Vodka Martini services, drinks “stolen” or “attributed” to other notable bartenders around the globe, and so on.
WHY NOW: It’s going to be a long four years. Consider this bar both shelter from the storm and contextual proof that New York can survive anything that’s thrown at it, as long as there’s a good drink in hand.
The influences at Giuseppe González’s Lower East Side tavern is devoid of any tiki touches, but the mai tais turned out by his bar staff are impeccable. Served in a sturdy rocks glass with a couple of huge ice cubes, the drink is dynamic enough to inspire fantasies of cruise ships, even on dark winter nights. The mai tai here is sweet, and fruity enough to recall a gourmet Hawaiian punch, but an aggressive sour kick from the citrus keeps it in check. In a lot of ways, this is a mai tai where all the attributes are cranked as hard as they can go, including the extra-potent floater of Bacardi 151 (mai tais are supposed to be fun, guys) and base of Hamilton Navy Strength, and an overproof blend of Guyanese Demerara rum and spicy Jamaican rum, which lends the drink its coup de grâce of sugar-cane funk.
A previous tenant of the Suffolk Arms space was the dingy sin den Local 269. And maybe it’s the specter of bars past, but there’s still a hint of transgression about here — just in the drink menu instead of in the spilled-Budweiser smell of Local 269. That transgressiveness is on display with the Duke of Suffolk, a cocktail that’s almost confusingly good. Take a sip: The Fruit Loops note is the Earl Grey tea, which is hot and sweetened and poured over the cucumber-y gin into a sherry-style glass. This is all topped with cream, which the bartender shakes aggressively in a squeeze bottle before layering it on top of the drink. That way it doesn’t seep down into the drink (avoiding that coagulated, milk-in-booze look), and when you sip, it’s as soft on your lips as marshmallow fluff.
When it comes to cocktails, simplicity is key—especially when it's the end of a long workweek. And because today just so happens to be World Cocktail Day, we tapped third-generation barman Giuseppe González, owner of Suffolk Arms, an English pub-inspired mixology bar on New York City's Lower East Side, for a refreshing spring beverage that can be easily fixed at home, sans fancy accoutrements (though you will need a juicer). This drink, dubbed the "Horse Apple," literally only requires a green apple and a spirit of your choosing. "I have yet to taste a liquor that doesn't work with this drink," González tells InStyle. Read on for the two-ingredient recipe you never knew you needed.
1 1/2 oz vodka ($20; luekensliquors.com), or your spirit of choice
Freshly juiced Granny Smith apple
Horseradish, for garnish
Juice one whole Granny Smith apple into a double rocks glass. Add vodka and ice. Stir lightly. Garnish with fresh grated horseradish (optional).
There’s hardly a name in New York’s bar scene more polarizing than Giuseppe González. The Bronx-born, Cornell-educated barman has worked behind the stick everywhere from Julie Reiner’s Flatiron Lounge to Audrey Saunders’s Pegu Club to his own short-lived PKNY, building up a rock-star notoriety and a no-fucks-given attitude along the way. With his sharp wit and sharper tongue, González has a straight-shooting M.O. that is, according to those who’ve worked with him, an acquired taste. It’s no surprise, then, that this long-anticipated, highly personal Lower East Side project, taking decor cues from humble English pubs (namely, Churchill Arms in London) and co-owned by former college classmate Ruben Rodriguez (Havana Café), aims to make cocktail culture more accessible than ever for the average drinker while simultaneously challenging industry norms through both drink and design.
ORDER THIS: Status-quo–defying cocktails—broken down into Originals ($14), Something Like Classics ($14) and vodka drinks ($13)—dispatched by the talkative González and his fine-tuned team of veterans, including head bartender Nick Wright (Milk & Honey London, the Dead Rabbit) and Karin Stanley (Dutch Kills, Little Branch). In the first section, find new González signatures like the Insta-baiting Tough Room, a black-and-white–hued float of dark, malty Guinness over a sweet whiskey-sour stout made with a blender-whipped egg white, and the Duke of Suffolk, a morning-tea twist fortifying Earl Grey and English breakfast brews, cream and sugar with brightly floral Hendrick’s Gin. The second section touts modern drinks that are on their way to classic status, like a Blackstrap Jungle Bird, riffing on the original by Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Pépé le Moko in Portland, Oregon, with licoricey Black Strap rum in place of the usual dark Jamaican. The final, vodka-based list is González’s defiant statement, which flies in the face of longtime industry enmity toward the clear spirit, offering drinks by bar greats including Douglas Ankrah’s Porn Star (passion fruit, champagne).
GOOD FOR: Highbrow cocktails with dive-bar ease. Bargoers can settle into comfy, four-top booths as expert servers deliver both drinks and cocktail commentary, as well as chef Alex Garcia’s (Calle Ocho) globe-trotting small plates, such as bone marrow lavished with savory-sweet onion marmalade ($15) and Thai chili wings with blue-cheese dressing ($10).
THE CLINCHER: Suffolk Arms serves not only as González’s booze-shaking magnum opus; it’s also a love letter to his native New York. Although trimmed ostensibly like an English pub, the bar’s mascots, displayed on the logo and menu, are the New York Public Library’s twin stone lions, Patience and Fortitude. Walls and pages are adorned with artist Mandilla Blouin’s hand-sketched portraits of 83 Gotham notables ranging from former Mayor Ed Koch to activist Jane Jacobs and rapper Jam Master Jay. Music likewise nods to the city, specifically González’s childhood in the Bronx, with an eclectic mix of ’80s hip-hop, soul and punk curated by the barman. González’s involved and unapologetic approach to bartending is a thing to behold—one that guarantees guests a quality drink every time.
BY: DAN Q DAO
POSTED: TUESDAY APRIL 19 2016
The transformation of a divey live music venue into a fancy cocktail bar with a pedigreed mixologist seems a fitting one for East Houston Street, as the condos move in and the mess of grubbier food shops move out. Giuseppe González, who crafted cocktails behind the pine at PKNY, Pegu Club, Dutch Kills and others, debuts Suffolk Arms inside the former Local 269 space this Thursday. There, González—along with friend and business partner Ruben Rodriguez of the Bronx's Michelin-nodded Havana Cafe—looks to dispel vodka-hatred, celebrate historic cocktails and offer some new-wave creations of his own.
Redeeming vodka in the eyes of mixology purists may be González's toughest challenge. The oft-dismissed spirit has an entire section devoted to shooing away the notion that it doesn't belong in the shakers of respectable cocktail joints. Industry luminaries including Julie Reiner (Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club) and Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club) were tapped for their expertise, which yielded drinks like Saunders's Grapefruit Cooler.
González describes another part of his philosophy as omakase-style cocktails, where imbibers select the spirit of their choice and enter a pact of trust with the bartender to craft something to their liking. But the bar also offers its own cocktail list for the risk-averse, like the B & B & B ($14) made with bourbon, banana and butter, and several classic reinterpretations from other cocktail nobility including Jerry Thomas, also known as the "father of American mixology."
Like its roundtable approach to the drinking, which celebrates González's inspirations, the food and decor follow suit with a who's who and what's what of New York City and Lower East Side lore. Sixty hand-drawn portraits of Keith Haring, Jam Master Jay and other notable New Yorkers like the New York Public Library lions line the wood-paneled walls and windows. The food menu includes a Russ & Daughters Smoked Fish Platter ($22) a matzo ball soup ($8) made with Streit's Matzo, which occupied a nearby site until, ironically, it was purchased by developers.
Say what you want about NYC's dwindling club scene, but the fact remains: the Big Apple is still the nightlife epicenter of America and possibly the world. In our quarterly update, check out 15 new bars, lounges and brewpubs that are currently burning things up with killer cocktails, craft beers and more. Did we miss your favorite new watering hole? Tell us in the comments.
Why it's hot: Opening this week on the Lower East Side, this "cocktail pub" from bartender Giuseppe González, (Pegu Club, PKNY, Dutch Kills) and partner Ruben Rodriguez (owner of the Bronx's acclaimed Havana Cafe) salutes classic cocktails and creations from notable mixologists like Portland's Jeffrey Morgenthaler as well a list of innovative vodka cocktails. There's also the option for omakase-style service, in which the bartender will tailor a cocktail to your preferences.
Must-drink: Any of the signatures including the Tough Room: a Guinness with a whiskey sour float
Insider tip: Chef Alex Garcia (Calle Ocho) is behind the quirky food menu which mixes up Latin, Asian and even Jewish influences.
269 E. Houston St.,
As far as bartending goes, it would be difficult to dream up a more impressive pedigree than Giuseppe Gonzalez's. He's a Cornell-educated, third-generation bartender and student of cocktail icon Julie Reiner; he has an unlikely modern classic, the Trinidad Sour, under his belt; and he's done stints at influential bars including Dutch Kills, Pegu Club, and Reiner's Flatiron Lounge. In late 2013, he left the now-shuttered Golden Cadillac to begin work on his own place, Suffolk Arms, and tonight at 5 p.m. he'll open the bar, which he calls "my dream project for the last 14 years."
Located at 239 East Houston Street, the bar is a partnership with his college buddy Rueben Rodriguez, a co-owner of the Bronx's well-regarded Havana Cafe, with chef Alex Garcia (Calle Ocho, Havana Cafe) in the kitchen. The handsomely old-school room is anchored by a mahogany bar that seats 12, with seating for another 63 at the banquettes and tables, and it's decorated with original portraits of influential New Yorkers.
The menu is likewise, Gonzalez says, an ode to the New York he knows and loves, a mishmash of Latin dishes like a Chino-Latino platter and salchipapas (fried sausage and French fries); rethought and classic pub food including Thai chili wings and tater tots; and, in reference to the neighborhood's Jewish heritage, Streit's matzo-ball soup and a Russ & Daughters smoked-fish platter.
Gonzalez, who studied neurobiology at Cornell, is known for his cerebral approach to drink-making, and the menu includes a clever riff of sorts on Irish coffee (the Duke of Suffock, made with Hendrick's gin and two types of tea) and another drink that's equal parts Fernet and Angostura bitters (the Magic Julep).
Drinks are divided into three sections, which include signatures, a.k.a. house originals; modern classics; and a whole set of vodka cocktails. He'll happily riff with you on the clear spirit's virtues and importance to bartending, and there will be several martini variations including the "European classic" Porn-Star (Aylesbury Duck vodka, passion fruit, lime, vanilla, and pink Champagne on the side). But if you want vodka-soda, they'll happily make it for you. What Gonzalez wants Suffolk Arms to be is a place where he can be serious about his drinks, without taking himself too seriously.
A Comfy LES Spot for Drinks and Burgers
This is a classic tale of a couple of college buddies opening a bar.
Except that one’s worked at Pegu Club, PKNY and Dutch Kills, and helped start Golden Cadillac, and the other owns a Bronx Cuban place with a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
So... it’s a little less classic.
It’s a tale of Suffolk Arms, a critical LES corner cocktail spot disguised as an English pub, opening tonight.
We/You’ve waited on this one for a long time, so let’s take a moment before walking in to celebrate together.
There we go. Good moment-taking.
Now walk into that aforementioned English pub vibe (you can walk into the slideshow here). You’ll see a Sardi’s level of famous-person illustrations covering the walls, so grab a booth and start speculating as to whether you’re looking at a circa-1971 Lou Reed or—is that Bob Ross? No, no, it’s neither. You figure it out.
Drinks-wise, start off with the Horse Apple, which is a whole freshly juiced apple, horseradish and whatever liquor you want. We recommend gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka or others. If you’re in the mood for another, this is one of those rare places with a blue drink that isn’t terrible. That’d be the Soyer’s Highball, a combo of gin and Soyer’s Nectar (a soda that was the first blue drink ever made).
Among the booze-soaking devices is a Thanksgiving turkey burger with stuffing and cranberry salsa, a Russ & Daughters smoked fish platter, which begs for this place to start brunch soon, and a guacamole trio.
Which more or less ruins just having one guacamole forever.
Lower East Side: Giuseppe Gonzalez, a veteran of Pegu Club and Dutch Kills, opened Suffolk Arms last week on the corner of Suffolk and Houston Streets. Signature cocktails will be served alongside American fare from chef Alex Garcia. Status: Certified Open; 269 East Houston Street.