New York City’s best bartenders don’t have a lot of time off. But when they do get a chance to go out, they know the best bars, the best places to eat, and all the late-night spots. In VinePair’s Night Out series, we’ll be speaking with some of the top bartenders in the city to learn what they do when they aren’t hard at work. Consider this your guide to the perfect night out.
Allen Katz is a busy man. He’s been working in the food and beverage industry in some capacity for around 25 years, doing everything from bartending to running a cooking school in Italy. Since 2011, he’s run his distillery, New York Distilling Company, and adjacent bar, The Shanty, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
His experiences in gastronomy both at home and abroad sparked what Katz calls an internal philosophical conversation: “What, if anything, is authentic American gastronomy?”
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“There are two thing in my opinion,” Katz tells me. “Barbecue in the American South, and the other is cocktails. They’re not 100 percent American, but they’re very much influenced by American life and American culture.”
We’re sitting in The Shanty facing a window that looks out onto the distillery floor. Bottles are being shot on one side of the distillery against a backdrop of barrels, while someone else runs around figuring out a shoot for a hair product.
New York Distilling Company and The Shanty are everything at once, and they’re distinctly New York — just like Katz.
Katz lived in East Village for 17 years and now lives in Brooklyn. Here’s his guide to the perfect night out in the City.
Where to eat
Katz is a family man with a passion for fine food and cocktails, so even when he goes out with his kids, he likes to have a drink. In Brooklyn, he’ll go to Junior’s, where he gets a Negroni made with New York Distilling’s Dorothy Parker Gin or a Manhattan made with New York Distilling’s Ragtime Rye for $8.
If he’s going out for a casual meal, he’ll go to Bar Sardine in the West Village, or pizza at Di Fara. For a nice place he has to make a reservation for, he’ll go to Union Square Cafe.
Where to get a cocktail
“If’ I’m going to the East Village, then I’m going to the stalwarts that everyone knows: Death & Co. and Pouring Ribbons,” Katz says. “For two reasons: One is that you see the historical arc in the long context. Two is you’re putting yourself in the hands of really skilled bartenders who know in exacting detail not only the ingredients they’re working with in terms of distilled spirits, but also seasonal ingredients that they have on hand at any given time.”
Another one of his favorite spots is Dear Irving, where he knows many of the patrons are bartenders and there’s a vibrancy that’s hard to match.
Where to get a beer
The East Village has some of the best places to grab a beer, Katz says. Number one is d.b.a., a dimly lit bar with a curated beer and bourbon list. For day drinking, nothing beats McSorley’s, one of the oldest bars in New York City.
Where to go in Brooklyn
After getting a drink at The Shanty, Katz suggests people go to The Richardson, a speakeasy-style bar in East Williamsburg, and Basik, a sleek cocktail bar in Williamsburg. For food, hit up the Southern Italian restaurant Leuca, Reynard, and Sunday in Brooklyn, a three-story restaurant, coffee shop, and cocktail bar. For dessert, head to Patisserie Tomoko, a Japanese-influenced French pastry shop with wine and coffee.
What to get at The Shanty
“If someone was to come in here for the first time, I would have a 700 Songs Gimlet to start,” Katz says. “It’s a signature house staple with Perry’s Tot 114 proof gin.”
“My deathbed cocktail is a Manhattan,” Katz says, “so anytime I see an interesting whiskey or a vermouth, I say, “O.K., I’ll have a Manhattan. They’re not complicated, but I can make 10 different Manhattans with 10 vermouths.”
The Shanty uses a house vermouth that’s a split between Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth and Punt e Mes with Ragtime Rye and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters.