Bar Spotlights Grub/Spirits — 22 November 2013
The Penrose- Upper East Side: Drink Here Now

Our correspondent vowed to have a drink at every single bar in Hoboken and did so successfully with Spirits in the Sixth Borough.” Every Friday morning, we’ll pick up where he left off, showing you distinctive bars in each New York City borough perhaps for the very first time, perhaps to refresh your memory of a fun place you’ve ducked into, or perhaps to suggest a new spot for you to check out as you gear up for the weekend. You can follow our sudsy travels every week with’s “Drink Here Now.”

The Penrose
1590 Second Avenue near 83rd Street, Upper East Side
Getting There: 4,5,6 to 86th Street

Its sister bars are some of the most sought out in the City, and yet Upper East Side haunt The Penrose still feels both dynamic and unique. The Wren and Wilfie & Nell are among the downtown area’s most popular, similarly inspired cocktail bars, but in the upper 80′s there is perhaps no peer for The Penrose’s layout, its cocktail program, and its throwback appeal, all of which combine for a unique and stellar drinking experience in an otherwise sports bar laden area.

Although the continued construction of a certain Second Avenue subway line has shrouded The Penrose’s old-New York style exterior, the fully packed three room bar proved quickly that guests know exactly where they’re headed when they seek the place out. The place’s sheer size is almost startling if you think about it. From the amount of wood paneling it must have taken to piece together the eye catching ceiling overhead to each immaculate bar stocked in marvelous fashion with an array of distinctive liquors and ingredients for cocktails, there is much to see inside The Penrose. But what makes the bar/restaurant stand out is its innate ability to foster conversation. Whether standing beside the bar or at an intimate table, there’s no televisions or loud music here that drowns out the reason you’re grabbing a drink in the first place. Self-dubbed “The Upper East Social,” the name is as fitting as the drinks are delicious.

Despite the much welcomed appearance of the “Pickle Back Shot” ($7) owning its very own spot on an otherwise refined menu, much of the drink list revolves around whiskies, where they’ve got dozens. But going into a cocktail bar and not tasting a cocktail is a bit of drinker’s sacrilege and as such, we were in no mood to sin. The “Itty Bitty Pretty” was a sweeter selection pairing lemon and honey with some Tito’s Vodka but you can’t really go wrong with the remainder of the picks, each priced at $11-$14. With a “Dirty Pickle Martini” and their tasty “Ginger Lee” combining fresh pressed ginger and Blanco Tequila, the mixologists here base each drink around your palate. The way it should be.

The Rundown

Bar Type - One of New York City’s best new(ish) cocktail bars.

When to Visit – Although the brunch sessions are in full swing, any night of the week is bound to be packed. Depending upon your mood though, you might prefer one of New York’s quieter nights of the week to really enjoy the place.

Value - Where the atmosphere looks like they could really price gauge you if they wanted to, the cocktails are small in stature, but are reasonably priced- and most importantly, delicious. The beer list similarly has a few dozen selections in bottle and draught form, with most priced at $7- a New York City standard. Regardless, if you’re looking for $3 drinks, you’re in the wrong place.

The Lowdown – At The Penrose, whether in a suit or in a baseball cap, you’re made to feel at home. The bar’s throwback vibe is evident as soon as you walk through the front doors. And surprisingly, despite some scaffolding out front that blocks much of the signage of the neighboring businesses, The Penrose is a place that’s perpetually busy even when out of sight. That makes for a bar that people know about. And one that you should too. The Penrose is a place where you need to drink at, now.

-Alex Corrine

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