When Blue Inc. opened a few years ago, the Financial District spot had promise, and demonstrated a sense of playfulness with their cocktail concepts, but something about the space never clicked. For all of the things it did well, there was something too fluorescent and stylized about it. The new offering in that same small space, Broad Street Riot, has taken the vibe in the exact opposite direction, from sparkling and effervescent, to distressed and moodier. It's a welcome improvement.
“I think the number one thing that people say that have been here before and after is it's just comfortable,” bar manager Kobie Ali, recently of Beat Hotel and the Rattlesnake explains. “I think the kind of earthy tones just warm the room. It's definitely a lot more inviting, even the lighting. Everything we did just completely changed the dynamic of the room.”
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While not necessarily the type of period specific decor you get from a lot of history-minded bar rooms down here, or that you might expect from the name itself, a reference to an 1837 riot that took place nearby, immortalized in a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, "Riot on Broad Street," it's close enough. The bar itself, and some of the tables throughout the cozy (or cramped, depending on your mood) space is made from reconstituted wood from a WW1 supply vessel, for example. The lighting is low, with a attention-grabbing marquee style light of the name doing most of the atmospheric work.
The drinks coming over that bar tend to focus around whiskey, Ali explains. “Whiskey is a big part of what we do. Because the room is kind of a warm, comfortable throwback, we do old pre-Prohibition classics, with a couple of wrinkles of our own sprinkled in.” Nothing too outlandish, however. “We wanted to keep it simple and let the components shine for themselves. Whiskey is so good you don't need to do much.”
Among those are variations on the greater Manhattan template, like a Green Point I had, made with bourbon, Punt e Mes, yellow chartreuse and Angostura bitters, or the Red Hook, made with rye, Punt e Mes and Maraschino liqueur. “I just like the balance, the overproof rye with softness of Punt e Mes and Luxardo gives it a nice cherry finish,” Ali says. “It's just a little sweeter, a little more refined than a regular Manhattan.”
“I think when it comes to the classics, everyone likes a play on a Manhattan,” he says, but his current favorite, and it's a good one, is another classic, the Alaska. Here he uses an Old Tom gin to imbue a little more of a whisky barrel feel, along with yellow chartreuse and orange bitters. “People are always shocked at the components, but it's as simple as it gets,” he says of guests he turns on to the cocktail. “It's simple, with each component highlighting the other thing. That's the kind of cocktails we gravitate toward.”
“I think we're always going to be a simple bar,” he goes on. “You can ask for any of those classics and we'll have bartenders that are well versed in executing them. For the most part we're a bartenders bar, we're not really a mixologist's bar. It's about making good drinks first and foremost.”
If you go
Broad Street Riot
131 Broad St.