When one thinks of elements in a cocktail, several things leap to mind: spirits (of course), sugar, or other sweeteners, perhaps citrus of some sort, and a dash or two of bitters for good measure. Mace, recently opened in the East Village, challenges you to first think of a spice and the cocktail will follow. This new collaboration between Cocktail Kingdom’s Greg Boehm, Nico de Soto (formerly behind the bar at the Experimental Cocktail Clubs in London, New York and Paris) and Zach Sharaga (owner of the bar that previously occupied the space, Louis 649) use spices as their libation muses and pack a world of flavors into an elegant, sophisticated spot in the East Village.
Perusing the beautifully illustrated menu, the namesake cocktail may be an ideal place to start. The aromatics of the mace reaches your nose even before the first sip — a mace tincture is spritzed atop the drink as the final ingredient. The Mace is a stunning fuschia and beautifully balances the sweetness of beets and coconut with the bitterness of Aperol and the subtle herbaceous notes of Aquavit.
Moving on, the Ambrette is an elegant stirred cocktail comprised of rye, Ambrette bitters, sherry, and the unique touches of soy sauce and a tobacco essence.
The Cocoa Bean is an ideal closer — a flip made with a base of banana-roasted and cocoa nib-infused Avuá Cachaça, pecan orgeat, which adds nuttiness, olive oil and a touch of salt. It’s dessert in a glass, just rich enough, but not overwhelmingly so.
Chef Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney, Maharlika, and Boilermaker has developed a menu of small bites to accompany de Soto’s cocktails, including spiced nuts, a variety of toasts and flatbreads, cheese and charcuterie, and a tantalizing chocolate chip bacon cookie.
Spice jars align the walls filled with spices procured by Boehm and designer Jeannette Kaczorowski from their recent travels; some are used to make tinctures and syrups, which are featured in the drinks. The new zinc-topped bar somehow magically extends the old Louis 649 space, giving it the illusion of being bigger than it was previously, despite the additional seats at the bar. The addition of banquette seating in the back lends a sleeker, more elegant look, and for those of us who had spent time in Louis 649, makes it feel like the bar has grown up and come into its own. For those who stopped by in the brief time the bar was Miracle on Ninth Street — a kitsch pop-up holiday bar — the space is practically unrecognizable.
Mace is a chic yet comfortable spot to try something new or perhaps plan your next trip to an exotic locale — you might just be inspired to head to Thailand after a Thai Chili or Pandan cocktail. Time to dig up that passport.
New York Contributing Editor Laren Spirer is yet another lawyer (and freelance writer) obsessed with food and drink, who also blogs at Sweet Blog o’ Mine and tweets at @sweetblogomine. She has written for Gothamist, Serious Eats, Time Out New York and Tasting Table.