That well-nurtured appreciation for cocktails is how I found myself at The Woolworth on a recent weekday evening, nursing a Corpse Reviver that could knock an elephant on its ass. The Woolworth, I have discovered, has one mission: to get you snockered.
The building, an elegant downtown structure across from The Joule hotel that looms high over Tony Tasset's eerie Eye sculpture, used to be a Woolworth five-and-dime back in the day. Campisi's now sits where the lunch counter once reigned. But up a semi-hidden, sloping staircase is Brandon Luke's old-school ode to cocktails and class.
Like the best of nights out, The Woolworth starts off quiet and slow and builds to a hazy yet awesome conclusion.
You might say the joint has many leather-bound books and smells of rich mahogany; there is, in fact, a Library Room — which can be rented out for private parties — where Arabian Nights shares shelf space with Glenn Beck and Doris Kearns Goodwin. (There's also a disco ball near the bar's entrance, but let's ignore that for now.)
On this particular Tuesday night the Library was empty, a sofa and chairs sitting stoutly in front of a fireplace and gilt-framed TV anachronistically broadcasting ESPN. Other pockets of seating range from a sleek bar to pub tables to oversize booths and more sofas, creating what interior designers might call "inviting conversation areas."
This emptiness was not necessarily a bad thing. Our adorable waiter, Chad, mentioned that the place really gets hopping late at night and on the weekends. As he brought out the first of many happy hour rounds (the $12 cocktails go down to $8 then), the quiet murmuring throughout the bar transformed into soothing white noise.
The Woolworth is the antithesis of the Dallas bar scene: a comfy, refined nook in which to catch up with friends while sampling a well-edited menu of tasty goodies and sophisticated cocktails.
About that booze. It's boozy. Because the wine list is limited to only 10 choices (plus four sparkling), and the beer options are slim and generic (Southern Star Bombshell Blonde is about as exotic as you're going to get), the focus is most definitely on the strapping cocktails.
One of The Woolworth's most popular offerings is the aforementioned lemony Corpse Reviver — or, as I have started referring to it, the drink that turns me up to 11. It's a teasing mix of gin, Pernod, Lillet and Cointreau that arrives in a dainty glass and pretends to be your friend, but its name ultimately betrays its true intentions.
The Mule Kick puts up no such pretense; its jolt of habañero can be felt all the way down to the bottom of its tall, tall glass. A faintly floral whiff arrives with the Sazerac, thanks to the Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur that mellows the heady cognac. Order a couple of those to nurse near the fireplace, and remind yourself that you're kind of a big deal.
Like the best of nights out, The Woolworth starts off quiet and slow and builds to a hazy yet awesome conclusion (remember that disco ball?). Just try to keep your voice down (you're in a library, after all) and watch your step going back down those stairs.