As Helen and I waddled ourselves to Chinatown, after our gluttonous feast of desserts and ramen to burn some calories, I wanted to show her my family’s favorite place for baked pork buns and dai bao (literally translated as “big bun” because eating one will hold you down for a meal or two!). Alas, it was 8 PM and as expected, the buns were sold out for the day and we’re left broken-hearted. But we wanted to do something since it’s still early, that’s when I remembered reading about a swanky bar that’s opened very close to where we were, Apothéke.
It’s not surprising that it’s relatively quiet on a Monday night. (Personally, I like bars or any public places that aren’t packed with a ton of bodies.) As we walk down past the banquettes, we met the hostess and she said we could sit anywhere we want (which were the tables) or stand at the bar. The latter bugs me, isn’t the whole experience of being at a bar is to sit at the bar? Even I asked her if it’s possible and she said no. Oh well. Helen and I chose a two-top and it’s relatively close to the marble topped bar and we’re given a copy of their cocktail menu.
As Helen was reading the menu, I can’t help it but snap photos of the interior. The reason is, I don’t know when I will be coming back here. It’s not like I go to Chinatown for drinks and/or the fact I drink often.
Once I was done with my crazy antics of taking fifty photos or so, the hostess gave Helen and I a complimentary drink, muddled peach with gin. Of course, this made Helen happy since she never turns down a free drink. (Actually, who wouldn’t?)
I still consider myself a cocktail/drinks neophyte, despite going to a few lounges, I discovered I don’t like gin. It’s sharp, bitter and herbal. The drink’s flavor is basically starts out from the fresh, sweet peach juice (and pulp) then it progresses onto the gin’s tones of bitterness. I would have liked it more if the gin’s notes were tempered down a bit. At this point in time, one of the bartenders, James approached to our table and guide us through the menu according to our likes (sweet and fruity) and dislikes (bitter, strong, too floral). We’ve entrusted his acumen and follow his recommendations and Helen added an extra drink out of her curiosity when she read the specialty house elixirs, Opium.
As Helen loves anything and everything sweet, she opted for the Sparkling Star, as James indicated that it’s the sweetest cocktail they have. According to the menu, it’s made of muddled star fruit, fresh aloe jelly, vodka, Elixir #5 (their house made bitters), and Champagne. It tasted pretty sweet with flavors of pineapple and pear, doesn’t taste alcoholic, per se, and it finished with bubbly effervescence that tickles the palate.
I went for the Strawberry Fennel since it’s still sweet but it has a savory twist to it (the fennel). It’s made of fennel infused vodka with California strawberries soaked in orange liquor, and fennel oil essence. I tasted sweet strawberries initially then it kind of balanced out a bit from the fennel infused vodka. When I ate a slice of the strawberries alone (it’s floating around my drink), the orange liquor was definitely present there that it bombarded my tongue with ALCOHOL. Not exactly what I want to taste but when I passed it to Helen, she agreed that one can taste the alcohol and she was delighted.
While we’re waiting for Helen’s Opium, I saw this [points left]. I found out later when I overheard the bartender was explaining to one of the guys hanging out by the bar was that it’s part of the process of making Helen’s drink. I didn’t hear why but at least I sort of know this was it. Sorry for the lack of descriptions here; it’s been several weeks, ya know?
So what did I think of Opium? Just from the appearance, it does look dangerous with the clear gray-white glow in the candlelight. When Helen offered me to take a sip, it tastes citrus-y with an undertone of bitterness and it has a floral finish. It’s intriguing but my body couldn’t handle any more alcohol for the evening. I’m definitely a lightweight since I couldn’t even finish my entire strawberry fennel cocktail and gave it to Helen.
Eventually we asked for our tab and we found it quite adorable with the antiqued prescription form and the wooden slab as it’s backing. After paying it off, we walked out and sort of gotten lost in Chinatown. Our intentions were to walk back to Canal Street and take any uptown train but we gotten a bit lost and managed to walk along Bowery and up to Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. Hmmm…perhaps that opium did affected our brains.
9 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10013 (map)