The lao wei are still aflutter over Chinatown's hottest cocktail den, one that has created possibly the most buzz south of Canal Street since Cab Calloway's Smokey Joe took Minnie the Moocher down to "kick the gong" in Chinatown. In truth, Austrian-born Albert Trummer has hit all the right notes with his Apotheke, perhaps the natural evolution and vast improvement on the former Barmacy theme that proved so successful on East 14th Street. Think mad scientist meets mixologist meets opium dispensary, full of fancy laboratory gear to emphasize the medicinal qualities of Trummer's nine types of cocktails: Health and Beauty Stress Relievers Pain Killers Stimulants Aphrodisiacs Pharmaceuticals Euphoric Enhancers Therapeutic Treatments House Remedies
With "over 250 house cocktails and 500 bottles of liquor from around the world," this is indeed impressive. Just bear in mind that unfortunately today's Absinthe likely won't make you insane, though perhaps the price of cocktails here might. Nevertheless, at roughly $15 each we find the cocktails a fair value as their ingredients are carefully sourced, and mixing the various decoctions and concotions is done with great art and skill.
Our favorite recipes are for the James Bond as well as a few we invented on the fly—we asked our mixologist to create a drink including three kinds of ginger, one drink using two kinds of anise and fennel, and another one we simply declared should be the "Chinatown Special". They were all superb. After enjoying about a dozen marvelous creations, we finally called it quits. Our advice: do not hesitate to simply declare what ingredients/flavors you might like in your drinks.
Before you become completely blotto, however, do ensure you stumble around Doyers Street, the crookedest street in Manhattan. Over one hundred years ago in 1907, the New York Times reported that "In all New York City, there is not a more disreputable street than Pell Street nor a more forbidding cow-path than Doyers Street." Together, these lanes were "cesspools of immorality vile enough to bring a curse upon the entire community."
Apotheke is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. Concentrated below Canal Street and populated mostly by Cantonese speakers, the diversity of the new Chinatown reflects large-scale immigration from Fujian province and Taiwan, as well as an influx of Mandarin speakers from the interior provinces of China. In addition, some Vietnamese and a few Tibetans, Malaysians, and Cambodians have made this area in Lower Manhattan home in recent years. As much of what nominally was Little Italy was taken over by fruit and vegetable wholesalers, small restaurants, printing shops, and other businesses catering to the community, more apartment-building conversions and turnovers occurred. Even the stodgy restaurant supply stores and lighting showrooms on the Bowery are being transformed as change brings a fresh new face to some of lower Manhattan’s most eclectic real estate. A shopper and food lover's mecca, you can find nearly anything on Canal Street, from stereo equipment to fresh fish to jewelry to industrial art supplies. It is truly one of America’s most dizzying arrays of products available on one street. Head to one of the small bakeries for a snack, a Vietnamese restaurant for a large bowl of beef soup noodles, a large dim sum restaurant for a great variety of dishes, or a seafood place for great right-from-the-tank fish. Then enjoy some of the great flavors at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Also visit the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, which offers fascinating exhibits that chronicle the history of this community. We've got an entire walking tour of Canal Street and Chinatown that has many more terrific highlights. You'll find terrific new hotels awaiting you in Chinatown as well, some located on the fringes of the adjacent, swankier neighborhood of SoHo. There's the well-known Holiday Inn Manhattan Downtown/SoHo on Lafayette Street just above Canal Street, the Hotel Azure just below Canal, and the Best Western Bowery Hanbee nearby on Grand Street. In addition to the explosive growth of Manhattan's Chinatown, largely thanks to the tremendous economic expansion of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, two rival Chinatowns, one in Brooklyn, the other in Queens, have emerged. You can hitch a ride out to those Chinatowns on one of the many shuttle vans that go for $1-$2 from a number of street corners near the Manhattan Bridge.
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