The Head Bartender at NYC’s New Rooftop Just Needs a Margarita Sometimes


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The Head Bartender at NYC’s New Rooftop Just Needs a Margarita Sometimes

Amir Babayoff, the cocktail innovator last seen at NYC’s Barley & Grain whiskey bar, was recently tasked with creating the drinks menu for Ophelia, a swish new Manhattan rooftop lounge atop the Beekman Tower.

This wouldn’t be just any menu. It had to complement its location in the Beekman Tower, an Art Deco landmark with stunning views of Manhattan. Ophelia’s predecessor, Top of the Tower, opened in the 1930s and counted Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis among its fans. The space had been unoccupied since 2013, but loomed large in many New Yorkers’ memories.

To that end, Babayoff crafted a two-part menu featuring reinventions of classic cocktails as well as signature drinks. All are inspired by the glory of the lounge during its heyday, and filled with international flavors and artful presentations.

Babayoff has been busy since opening Ophelia last month, but he sat down with VinePair to discuss what drink he would marry, and the bar he would go to again and again for the rest of his life.

What’s your desert-island drink?

Assuming it’s a hot temperature island, I would probably go with Greek ouzo, mint, and orgeat on crushed ice.

What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?

In Israel, where I’m from, [the legal age is] actually 18, but the drinking experience started way before. At lunchtime, my dad would drink dark non-alcoholic malt beer, almost like root beer. The first one I bought might have been a local beer like Macabi or Goldstar.

FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?

F: The Margarita, ’cause sometimes you just need it. K: The Negroni, not always in the mood. M: The Manhattan, ’cause I can live with it.

You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?

Coke.

You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?

La Otra in Tel Aviv. To me, it has the best drinks, best food, best hospitality, and the best atmosphere!

What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?

Depends on your definition of best. I would say best, Del Maguey Pechuga Mezcal. As for the worst – I’m trying to ignore it, but I think I saw Captain Morgan somewhere in the liquor room.

What cocktail will you never order again?

Purple Motherfucker.

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