With the Covid-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry, many bars and restaurants around the country have pivoted their operations, adapting to stay in business. One such spot of the beloved NYC bitters bar Amor y Amargo.
Originally opened in 2011 by Ravi DeRossi and Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo has now expanded from its original 8-seat operation to a retail shop – simply named General Store – and hidden cocktail tasting room called Reserve by Amor y Amargo, just next door to the original location.
The General Store will be stocked with Teague’s personal favorites including Serrano Cocktail Spice from Boy Drinks World and Scorched Pear & Ginger Bitters from King Floyd’s. Also available for purchase is an array of bar tools, several dozen cocktail books from the foremost cocktail writers of our time as well as Amor y Amargo merch.
“Right now feels like a crazy time to open, but really it’s our only option,” DeRossi shares with thirsty. “We have built this space to be both COVID-friendly, and also a natural extension of the original Amor y Amargo, which is a tiny space. It’s the Catch-22 of the current moment, that the coziest New York corners are now incompatible with our current times, and so Reserve is both a reaction, but also growth for Amor y Amargo.”
At Reserve by Amor y Amargo – accessible through a hidden door behind the General Store counter – guests are treated to a bitters-centric cocktail tasting and food pairing experience, curated by Teague and Chef Alec Gross, formerly sous chef at the plant-based Jean Georges restaurant ABCV. There are two seatings offered nightly, at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
“After almost ten years of love and bitters, we wanted to offer something new—something that challenged the traditional night out for cocktails while also being friendly for the post-COVID world as a seated food-and-drink experience,” Teague explains of the unique format at Reserve. “By introducing an element of food, our tasting menu will really push people’s conceptions of how to enjoy bitters and bitters-forward cocktails.”
The early seating is a “fine-drinking” experience with a tasting of five cocktails with five light bites, while the later seating is a seated cocktail party with passed hors d’oeuvres and eight cocktail tastings. All festivities are wrapped, of course, before the nightly 10 pm curfew.
“Sother and I came together to reflect on how the face of hospitality is changing due to the pandemic,” DeRossi explains of the expansion. “People, including me, are taking less for granted. Going out for cocktails will always be a part of New York City’s culture, but at Reserve, we wanted to give our guests a more in-depth, educational, and memorable experience that they won’t find at any other cocktail bar. Sother is probably the world’s leading expert on bitters and amari, so we were thrilled to create a plant-based food menu that highlights the herbal, spice-forward flavors of his cocktails in a complementary way.”
Design and decor at General Store and Reserve by Amor y Amargo lean into the signature Italian heritage of bitters that also defined the original location, with golden accents and a patchwork of deep blue, cerulean, and white tiles juxtaposing rustic wooden shelves laden with bar goods. At Reserve, thoughtfully-curated serving utensils, whimsical plate ware, and mismatched flatware are meant to be nostalgic and inviting while also intriguing.
“Beyond the adaptation of the space, we have been testing and working with versions of this menu and experience for years — hosting these tastings at events around the world, or small pop-ups in the original space,” Teague tells thirsty. “So, it’s taking everything we’ve learned over the last nearly ten years of Amor y Amargo and putting it together cohesively, working to bring our cocktails together with vegan food to keep pushing the idea of what amari and bitters are all about.”
Reserve by Amor y Amargo details
95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009; 1-833-328-4588www.amoryamargo.com; @amoryamargo
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