PDT – Perfecting the modern speakeasy

The modern speakeasy is something that was mostly unheard of ten years ago in New York City.  This speakeasy concept is mostly prescribed to any bar in which there is no sign and the door is hard to identify. Yet a true speakeasy was a place that served illegal hooch and had a hidden door in order to keep the clientele and ownership safe from the local authorities during prohibition.  These days, the hidden door is done mostly to add a layer of intrigue and the illegal hooch has been replaced by delicious flavored cocktails.  New York seems to be teeming with bars that have adopted this concept but very few have been able to master it.  One such bar, PDT, has been solidifying its place as the go to cocktail bar in the city since it opened in 2007.  Really one of the first bars who led the NYC cocktail revolution, PDT has been reinventing how patrons drink at a bar and have been delighting alcohol drinkers from all over the world.

The origin of PDT is almost as unique and interesting as the cocktails that they serve.  The most famous part of the bar is that it is located in the East Village and can only be accessed by first entering a local hotdog spot called Crif Dogs.  The entrance is not a traditional door but is actually a phone booth with a false wall.  One needs first to pick up the phone where you are connected to the hostess on the other side of the wall in order to enter.  If there is space or if you have a reservation, the door will open and you will be ushered inside.  This unique door location is no longer a best kept secret but the reason behind this unique setup is.  The door is located in this hotdog stand as PDT is using the liquor license originally given to Crif Dogs.  If a separate entrance had been created, PDT would have needed a new liquor license and because these two establishments share the same address, that was never necessary.

When and if you do get to enter PDT, the bar décor might slightly alarm you as it doesn’t look like the fancy 1920’s bar you would expect.  Instead it has the feel of someone’s dark and recently renovated cabin, with large half circle booths and more taxidermy on the walls than most hunting lodges.  The odd decor gives PDT a unique feel among all the other similar bars in NYC.  That difference is not just seen on the walls but on how PDT approaches its drinks and its patrons.  There is no standing room in this bar, so if there isn’t a seat, you are not getting in.  This ensures an experience where the drinks and the conversation take precedent rather than just fighting to order your next cocktail.  Then there are the drinks, which are like drinking liquid ambrosia, as if the gods drank whiskey to attain their powers.  The drink menu consistently changes with the season, so that each and every visit involves a new flavor and taste.  Each drink is compiled with painstaking detail, so that sight as well as taste is involved in the experience.  While one wouldn’t expect it, they also have a small food menu to complement their drinks.  The menu consists of unique hot dogs that you aren’t able to order from the next door sister restaurant.  As you might imagine, nothing brings out the flavor of bourbon, quite like a hotdog.

So if you are a cocktail lover yearning to experiment with a huge palate of flavors, then PDT is a bar that you must visit.  Not only will the unique entrance and location give you a story for your friends, but the drinks will leave you in a state of mixology bliss.

New Yorker Tip: It is highly recommended that you call before hand to make a reservation as the only non-reservation seats are the 8-12 seats at the bar and those fill up fast.  Reservations can be made starting at 3pm for that day only, and if you call don’t be frustrated if you receive a busy signal as everyone is calling at the same time.  Unlike most bars PDT takes their cocktails extremely seriously, so if you show up late don’t be shocked to have your reservation terminated.