One Year in, Harlem Speakeasy 67 Orange Hits Its Stride

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Selena Ricks

Just northwest of Central Park, behind an unmarked storefront with purple velvet curtains, sits one of the most surprising success stories from an otherwise rocky year for New York's hospitality industry.

67 Orange Street, located at 2082 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, celebrated its first anniversary on December 4. The cozy, vintage-inspired speakeasy--consisting of a 10-seat bar, an elevated banquette, and a small basement-level lounge--is an anomaly in a neighborhood that has more liquor stores than drinking destinations, let alone bars serving $13 cocktails.

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Owner Karl Franz Williams (also owner of Society Cafe) and his team of budding mixologists have worked hard to create a selection of new and classic cocktails that evoke the spirit of Harlem. Named for the Five Points address (now Baxter Street) of NYC's first black-owned bar, 67 Orange pays homage to Almack's Dance Hall, where tap dance was born in the late 1800s when the Irish jig met the African shuffle.

When the speakeasy first began serving drinks like the Whisky Bang (Balvenie Single Malt Scotch, Barenjager Honey Liqueur, hard cider, ginger beer, and an apple slice), the complexity and prices of the cocktails were a shock to some in the neighborhood, said Williams.

"We were told by some people that we were too expensive," said Williams. "Not everyone understood what we were doing."

Williams, a Yale graduate who said he enjoys the vibe at East Village hotspots Death & Co. and PDT, says he hopes 67 Orange will serve as a "jump off" for locals seeking a nightlife alternative. "The idea here isn't gentrification--it's about broadening experiences," he explains. "I don't think in terms of race as much as mindset."

The bar now offers a daily happy hour between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., serving $8 cocktails. The recently revamped cocktail menu is a collaboration between former general manager Kali Irwin and current head bartender Asa Scott. Highlights include the "Madame Almack's" (Bison Grass Vodka, Cynar artichoke aperitif, mint, and champagne) and the "Upper Manhattan" (Rittenhouse Bonded Rye 100 proof, Carpano Antica, Angostura and orange bitters, and a brandy-soaked cherry).

If you're seeking a relaxing vibe, go during the week--on weekends, the intimate space fills with a more party-seeking crowd while a DJ spins a mix of world beats and hip-hop.

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