Every now and then, a new venue opens up in New York City that you know will just change the hospitality landscape and make everyone step up their game. Both bars inside the new Freehand New York and teams involved are making us do just that.
The new hotel in the Gramercy area of Manhattan has two separate bars both operated by Gabriel Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality – George Washington Bar and the bar Studio. The two venues are separated by a “lobby,” called The Gallery, that bridges the two very different concepts and serves as a fun-loving holding area complete with a game room fully embraces the essence of Freehand.
George Washington Bar
Stepping inside the sexy dark wooden former library, your eyes are immediately drawn to the large painting of George Washington behind the bar who carefully looks over the room. The brilliant, Ben Rojo, formerly of Angel’s Share, is at the helms of the cocktail and spirits program. Rojo has clearly put a great deal of thought and care into each of his creations and George Washington Bar is his moment to shine. The small bar brings it across the board with a classic chic space, cool kid crowd and a stunning beverage program, it could easily fall into feeling intimidating, however, the team here are true hospitality veterans and ensure everyone feels welcome once you get into the room.
George Washington Bar’s Philosophy by Ben Rojo:
“I love that contemporary drinkers are more mindful of what they’re drinking and that the bar has been raised industry-wide. But I also think that as attention shifts towards the craft of cocktail-ing, every bar runs the danger of allowing an arm’s length to creep between the bartender and the guest. To address that, we run a very prep-heavy program. By using the tools and techniques we have available to us and putting in work behind the scenes, we allow ourselves time and energy during service to share with our guests and with our colleagues.”
I think my approach to this cocktail menu comes from a place of levity. The drinks were each inspired by figures in American Revolutionary history and American pop culture. Many of them are ideas I’ve had in my head from sometime: the Medianoche comes from my love of Oaxacan xocolatl; the Smoke and Melons is the culmination of every wedding reception hors d’oeuvre hour I’ve ever attended. Organizing our list by style (Aperitif, Long Drinks, Sours, Spiritous, Savory, After-Dinner) is a decision made to help our guests zero in to their mood.”
Studio Restaurant & Bar
If you are looking for more of a buzzy restaurant vibe, then Studio is for you. The lovely and talented, Karen Fu, former Beverage Director of Donna Cocktail Club serves as Bar Manager. Fu put forward a menu that is tight enough to make each drink shine while varied to ensure there is something for everyone. We tried some of the bar snacks from the food menu that serves as an homage to Stulman’s Jewish-Moroccan heritage.
While GW Bar is dark and mysterious, Studio feels bright and energetic. The wine and beers lists are curated by Aaron Thorp, Beverage Director at Freehand NYC, who also made selections for the other bars on property. During the day, the window-wrapped room will be a great meeting place and by night, a glowing energy takes over the space with seating for 100 including 18 at the bar.
Studio’s Philosophy by Karen Fu:
The inspiration for the Studio bar beverage menu is sparked by freshness and color. The eight cocktails on the menu are meant to be approachable, balanced, and sessionable, whether in sun-drenched day or enchanting night in Studio’s window-wrapped room, luscious plant playground that is Gallery, or the whimsical Game Room.
For example, Mish Mish Cup is anchored on a spice blend created by Lior Sercarz of La Boite of crystallized honey, saffron, lemon, and the cocktail itself is a split base sour with Jameson, Torres 15-year brandy, yellow bell pepper juice, and Tamworth tamarind. I also had fun creating cold-pressed juices served during the day, and available all the time: GAZOZ, or traditional Israeli Mediterranean soda inspired Tel Aviv’s Cafe Levinsky that is a flourishing (non-alcoholic) soda made of an assortment of herbs, spices, and fruit with garnishes seemingly exploding out of the glass like a peacock’s tail.
Pro-Tip from Gabriel Stulman
Come early and make friends with the staff! But if you come by Studio or George Washington Bar and find that there’s a wait, you can grab a seat at Gallery – the lounge area on the second floor of Freehand that connects the two spaces – and order the full Studio menu, including food and drinks. Drink service is also available in the Game Room (adjacent to GW Bar), where you can post up and play Shuffleboard, giant Jenga, or Ms. Pac Man until your table is ready.
Editor’s Note: The team at Freehand New York consists of some of the truly nicest and most hospitable in town, ask for any of the rockstars mentioned here by name to introduce yourself and tell ’em thirsty sent you.
Freehand New York Details
23 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
@freehandhotels | @gwbar | @studiofreehand
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