An Early Sip of the Ludlow Hotel's Lobby Bar, Now Open on the LES

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If you're in town this weekend, you should make a point to head to the Torrisi team's Lobby Bar (180 Ludlow Street, 212-432-1818) at the Ludlow Hotel. It was quiet when we dropped in last night, and that's not going to last -- you can bet that this place will be rammed as soon as word gets out that the cocktails here are both interesting and pretty stellar. And besides, it's Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick. When's the last time you saw one of their spots quiet? Exactly.

The guys worked hard to make this feel like it's not a hotel bar -- the place is behind a barricade that separates it from the check-in desk; it's littered with couches so plush you'll feel like you're about to be swallowed when you sit, and chandeliers made of old saw blades hang from the ceiling, casting a warm, muted glow over the space. Servers roam the room taking orders, which is helpful, since the bar itself is actually fairly small -- we can only imagine the clusterfuck that would ensue once this place really gets rolling.

ZZ's Clam Bar vet Thomas Waugh is in charge of the drinks menu, and he's put together a tight, inventive list that doesn't immediately look summery -- it's heavy on brown spirits and bitter liqueurs. Look closer, though, and you'll note that banana, coconut, chile, and fruit liqueurs are common themes, although they're used subtly, so that each drink is still a refined lounge sipper rather than a poolside pounder.

Our server sold the Grand Prix hard, and it was probably our favorite of the night, too: the blend of Japanese whisky, coconut vermouth, and ras el hanout was immediately voluptuous on the palate, tapering into a clean, crisp edge that didn't linger. Masterfully balanced, it went down as easy as kiddie booze -- shockingly easy to guzzle despite the heft.

You'll likely be tempted by the Zaragoza for its use of vanilla yogurt, which blends with reposado tequila, creme de peche, lime, and clove, and it's appeal goes beyond novelty. Tart and sweet notes blend nicely with the lightly smoky, verdant tequila, and it finishes slightly more savory. It's a refreshing summer cooler.

We also dipped into the Belmondo, a mix of blanco tequila, pear eau de vie, ginger, gentian, and lemon. It recalls a margarita, tart edges rounded by the pear, but perhaps the comparison only feels apt because the drink is served in a salt-rimmed glass.

The Lobby Bar also has a worthwhile wine list if cocktails aren't your thing, though you can't get food here at the moment. The Torrisi team will open Dirty French, a French bistro, here at the end of the month. Prices are predictably steep, by the way -- each cocktail will set you back $16.

See more photos on the next page.



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