You’ll have to be in the know to find the Financial District’s new “secret” cocktail bar.
Cleverly disguised as the sunny Hole in the Wall coffee bar by day, beginning March 15 the cafe will turn into Sugar Momma by night — an intimate cocktail bar (capacity is just 40 people) lit up in red with a playful Australian sensibility.
“The name ‘Sugar Momma’ comes from a concept that we created for our restaurant,” explains owner Barry Dry. “Sugar Momma pays homage to the countless ‘boss’ women who ignore gender norms in a traditionally male-dominant sector of the city. We don’t know her age, her job title, what she looks like or who she hangs out with. All we know is she’s incredibly smart, witty, generous, wealthy and always up for a good time.”
There’s no signage outside 15 Cliff St., so like any hangout for affluent in-the-know types, you’ll have to know it’s there. Guests are greeted by a red neon “Hello Gorgeous” sign, and Dry purposely chose materials like concrete, copper and wood that “differ completely when the lights are dimmed” so you don’t feel like you’re trying to party in a cafe.
Dry is from Perth and advertised in Australia for the two men who would lead Sugar Momma. Executive chef Brent Hudson’s Aussie-leaning menu includes crispy pork with soy caramel, shrimp and crab crackers with avocado puree, as well as more New York-leaning eats like a truffled burger and roll-your-own brisket tacos.
Mixologist Ryan Byrnes has created 11 signature cocktails like Momma’s Martini (vodka, passion fruit, raspberries, prosecco — guess Cosmopolitans are officially passe?) and the kicky Smoke’n (mezcal, grapefruit syrup, lime, simple syrup, hot sauce and soda).
The music, however, is all New York. Dry is a devotee of ‘90s hip-hop, which he describes as the “pinnacle era” for the genre. “It was an evolving time in music predominantly created in New York City,” he says. “We like the idea of keeping that cool New York feel whilst delivering more eclectic food.”
Unusual for a finance-to-restaurateur career changer, Dry worked his way up from dishwasher to general manager at a local restaurant while studying business at Notre Dame.
He’s been in New York since 2011, first in finance then leaving that world to open the first Hole in the Wall in 2014 before expanding the cafe to the Financial District last year.
“It’s an evolving area where millennials rule,” he says of the increasingly trendy neighborhood. “What was once solely commercial buildings has now moved to a majority being residential.”
Once a place to work and drink cheap beer during happy hour before heading somewhere else, the Financial District is becoming a destination for nightlife, too.
The Dead Rabbit, the Irish bar that needs no introduction to cocktail lovers, has been making the very tip of Manhattan a destination since 2013. More recent is Mr. Cannon, the speakeasy tucked inside the Seaport District, which also houses the luxury dine-in iPic movie theater and an outdoor Garden Bar during the warmer weather.
The area also got its first nightclub late last summer with Mailroom, by the people behind Montauk’s premiere party spot Surf Lodge.
Sugar Momma is open 6-11:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at 15 Cliff St., 212-602-9991, sugarmommanyc.com