The upper east side isn’t usually a stomping ground for a guy like myself during the week but after finding this amazing speakeasy, my thoughts have changed quite drastically. This wonderfully attired lounge on 62nd and 1st Ave in NYC is an interesting find with more than a few things to tickle your fancy. Please read on.
Sugar East came to life from the vision of Public Agenda as a sleek, midcentury styled upscale lounge that transports guests to another era, reminiscent of a NYC Speakeasy. A secret upscale bar located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Sugar East offers fresh sourced cocktail and menu ingredients, music playing through the early morning hours, and legal indoor smoking. Every element is a modern adaptation of classic design, based on Sugar East’s four pillars: escape, style, luxury and play. Anchored by 4 colors, this hip bar features playful branding and artwork by noted Berlin-based agency Maison C.C. and illustrator Benedikt Rugar.
I’m going to be quite honest here in saying my first time looking for this establishment took more than just a glance over. The lounge itself is tucked away downstairs below a regulars beer bar with a small entrance surrounded by red rope that has you making a second look to ensure this is the right place.
I love that.
After you’ve felt like a VIP walking through the front door, you’re greeted with an amazingly lit stairwell that brings about this somewhat “Disney-world” vibe that gets you all excited inside you bosom – at least for a guy who enjoys his cocktails in a stellar environment.
Make your way inside through the dark, heavy worn curtains and you’re greeted with this magnificent space that could take back an era or two to what a REAL New York speakeasy would feel like.
If I had to put it in lamens terms, this bar screams…
This is probably my favorite date-night grab a drink spot in NYC to this date (end of November in 2018). Once inside, the place is cleverly decorated in leather, brass, and bronze giving that old school speakeasy feel which makes this spot an EASY place to take that special someone if you want to really seal the deal after a month of hard work into that guy or gal.
My first move at any drinking establishment is to hit the bar and meet the man or woman behind the counter. In this case, I had the please of meeting and working with Kelsey from upstairs at the beer bar. She was a newcomer to the cocktails of Sugar East but I had faith in her and if you keep reading, you’ll see she was an amazing help to the whole process.
The goal for this shoot as per usual was to order a few cocktails, a few food items, and just have an amazing time as I would normally do without the camera being in my face.
Without further ado, let’s get it kicking with some KILLER COCKTAILS!
This one here is called,
which I hope couldn’t imply more what the theme or color of the cocktail would suggest but it was, in my opinion, a wonderfully sweet and fresh cocktail that will fit the bill for anyone who likes their cocktails on the sweeter side. Not to mention, it’s served in its own Grey Goose bottle! How cliché. The recipe is as follows;
- Grey Goose Vodka (obviously)
- Rosé Wine
- Raspberry Pureé
- Rose Water
Remember how I said Kelsey was an amazing help? Well she shocked me with an awesome “secret” off the menu cocktail featured here and boy was this OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD!
She made me a fun twist on the famed “Whiskey Sour” which I’m sure you’re all aware of. However, this being a nice twist, she used an interesting pomegranate liqueur that she wasn’t very keen on sharing with me.
That means only one thing! You gotta head in yourself and catch her in the action. Be sure to mention Yancy sent you and to ask for the whiskey sour special.
This flamed beauty right here is their not-so-gimmicky attempt at a stand out cocktail. Glassed inside a literal coconut, I think the name is perfect.
and see how all of your senses are intertwined in this unique cocktail!
- Bacardi Rum (Blanco)
- Coconut Water
- Pineapple Juice
- Cinnamon Bark
- Absinthe Mist
Their try at bringing all of your senses to a head with the flaming of the cinnamon bark was marvelous. It adds texture to the already awesome cocktail and gives you that relaxing beach vibe right here in this urban jungle we call the big apple, not to mention in the company of your special one.
Before I dive into any of the food, I have to make sure I cover a very interesting and unique quality to this bar.
Elements of the decadent Havana High Life are integrated throughout visual and edible elements, including a nod to the fact that Sugar East is one of the seven remaining venues in New York City where tastemakers and troublemakers alike can grab a cocktail and an otherwise forbidden indoor late-night cigarette.
Opening on March 31st, Sugar East graciously “grandfathered” their tobacco license from the last establishment which is literally impossible to come by unless it’s been in place for years before hand AND you happen to have bought the place out.
Now, it’s not much of a cigar spot as it is for cigarette smokers, but I think is a nice touch since I don’t know many gals rocking cigars to begin with anyways.
On top of keeping the smoking tradition on, Sugar East used to be an actual CIGAR bar and they used the old cigar boxes as a touch to add to the atmosphere and I think it looks awesome and keeps the feel as authentic a possible.
If you fancy yourself enough coin, you could pony up some sheckles and grab one of these for yourself if you so desire.
Unfortunately for me, I’m not a smoker of cigarettes (*wink wink*). But what’s nice, is that Sugar East and it’s owners aren’t pushing it to be a “smokers” bar but more one for the occasional smoker looking to get a bit more relaxed while enjoying their cocktail.
Chef John Villa put together an awesome menu of small plates bringing front colors, smoke, and vivid flavors to compliment those interesting cocktails that you can choose from.
Let’s begin with a personal favorite;
“Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare”
- Serrano Chile Pureé
- Dijon Sprouts
- Sea Salt
- Crispy Rice Cake Crackers
If I’m out and I see tuna tartare on the menu, I’m more than likely to take a gander. This gander happened to be one of the best I’ve had in the city.
Being quite honest, I was surprised to get so much for a “small plate.” Most places offer a small baby sized portion especially once the price gets over $16 (which this was). It was very generous and I enjoyed every bite.
The only issue I had was that I wish I didn’t share with my photographer. But don’t let her know I said that!
or should I say truffle WEDGES!
- Truffle Pecorino
- Truffle Aioli
These guy are huge and it took me back to the days when I would head over to Kentucky Fried Chicken and grab me a few of their own potato wedges but these puppies here were magnificent.
Crispy on the outside, soft and hot on the inside, and this truffle aioli brought these fries to life! Please try them, just go.
- Smoked Cheddar
- Caramelized Shallots
- Spicy Mayo
Who can go wrong with some mini burgers?! I know I love them and so will you. I appreciated the light use of the mayo cause the burger patties were juicy as can be which I just how I like them and they weren’t cooked well done.
I also enjoyed that pickle and cocktail onion they used as a garnish on the skewer. It was a cute touch.
Last but not least for me by any means,
these had some of the best tempura breading around. Hand to God.
- King Sized Shrimp
- Thai Dipping Sauce
These shrimp had the perfect crisp to them and whatever they used to season the batter was wonderful. Take a big dip into that sauce and you’re in heaven.
Enough talking, I’m HUNGRY!
Hope you guys enjoyed this one and be sure to swing by when you have the chance or the next time you’re in the big apple. Being one of seven of the only bars to smoke in and having this killer cocktail–tapas style dinner set, you’re guaranteed to have an experience!
Until next time,
“10/10 would recommend, Yancy……OUT!”
Sugar East: 1125 1st Ave New York, NY 10065