|There’s no better neighborhood than the West Village for bar crawling and exploring NYC history and culture.|
I had no idea that pop artist Keith Haring painted a large 20-minute mural at the Carmine Street Pool in Greenwich Village. Nearby, I discovered charming St. Luke’s Place, a tiny street with amazing townhouses and serious celebrity street cred. Plus, I learned where Bob Dylan played his first New York City music gig. On top of feeling just a little bit smarter and more in tune with my city, did I mention that I sipped cocktails too? Okay, so now you’re paying attention –– I blurted out the magic C word. A few weeks ago, my friend Christi escorted my entourage around the West Village using her newly completed app Cocktails & Curiosities. C&C provides self-guided New York City walking tours with stopovers for drinks and nibbles in some if the city’s coolest watering holes.
Cocktails and Curiosities features the best of NYC history, pop culture, movie and TV sights, music, delicious food stops, art, architecture, literature, and more, and all while bar-crawling. Sound fun? Trust me, these tours will be the most interesting and amusing history lessons you’ve ever experienced. And, the cocktails can’t be beat.
I suggest getting started around 1 p.m. but grabbing some brunch or lunch before your fun-fact learning, touring, drinking day begins. (The app suggests a few foodie-approved places nearby.) If you’d rather begin later in the day, that’s fine too. The awesome thing about C&C that it’s on your own time. Want to do half the tour one day and come back for the other half another day? You can do that too.
Our group visited four great bars, none of which I’d ever been to before. Walk along with me on our curious cocktail excursion through the West Village.
Since most of us were in the mood for wine to ease into the afternoon of imbibing, our warm-up began at Sweet Revenge, located at 62 Carmine Street. Part bakery, part wine bar, Sweet Revenge offers cupcake and wine or beer pairings, so you don’t have to make too many major decisions. I started with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It was early afternoon, after all. If you prefer more of a pub, don’t worry, the app suggests an authentic Irish pub where you can get your first drink on instead.
From Sweet Revenge, we wandered on streets like Carmine, Clarkson, and Hudson. Is there really a speakeasy behind that blank door? (You’ll need to take the tour to find out where!) I might add that we chose an absolutely perfect day for a bar crawl. It was sunny and warm but not too hot. And, given the fact that it was Memorial Day weekend, the streets and bars were pretty quiet.
Our second stop was Daddy-O where the owner/bartender mixed up tantalizing libations that took day drinking to an entirely new level. I managed to finish an Elyx Old Fashioned –– Absolut Elyx Single Estate Vodka, Angostura Bitters, and a Lemon Twist. Whoa! This drink was like no other I’ve ever ordered. I sipped it at a snail’s pace.
Daddy-O is known for its extensive bourbon collection (Mike was oh-so-happy!), and keeps “The Book” handy, so you can review the bar’s complete spirits collection. In the mood for several tastes? Try a spirits flight and then pick your fave brand for your next liquor-filled visit. And if you need a nosh, I highly recommend the Daddy-O pizza – a white pie topped with fresh Robiola, Parmigiana-Reggiano, mozzarella, caramelized onions and drizzled with white truffle oil. Delish.
After imbibing for far too long at Daddy-O and struggling to reenter the outside world –– in daylight, no less –– it was time for more touring.
Back to exploring the undiscovered gems of Carmine, Bleecker, and MacDougal, some of the most classic Greenwich Village streets. By now, this tour is getting really fun. And if you’re one of the people who says that the New York of days gone by is extinct…this tour will prove you wrong. I promise.
After snapping our fingers and reminiscing about the Beat Generation, next up was Belgian beer bar Vol de Nuit. I have to say that this might have been my favorite spot on the tour. I felt like I was in Europe and not in the West Village. And, I even drank some beer, which is unusual for me. This beer lover’s paradise offers indoor seating as well as a courtyard for temperate drinking days. And while you’re throwing back a brew or two, be sure to order the frites if you’re feeling peckish.
Now it’s time to stroll along West 4th, another quintessential Village street, and make your way to one of my favorite parks in the city –– Washington Square. If it’s a sunny day, the park will be packed with New Yorkers strolling, hanging out, playing games, music, and just about anything. Here is where you’ll get a sense of the city’s diversity and vibrance.
And that arch. I never grow tired of looking at it. Until 1971, cars could drive through the Arch to the other side of the park. No more! Today the park is only for New Yorkers, tourists, and crazy people. (Some of which are New Yorkers and tourists.) You’ll learn little tidbits like this one, as well as myriad NYC anecdotes that leave you saying, “REALLY?” Trust me, I did.
Our final bar on the tour was the Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor on West 8th where you’ll find a variety of beer selections to quench your thirst, as well as some terrific wines if you’re an oenophile. Feeling the munchies after several hours of cocktailing,? I highly recommend the eats here too. The soft pretzels hit the spot! Arts & Crafts is also an art gallery, which almost justifies day drinking since you’re taking in the culture while you sip. (At least you can tell yourself this.)
Proceed through the final leg of the tour and find out where Janis Joplin once lived, as well as the bar where Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Rudolf Nureyev hung out, and stay tuned for other Greenwich Village trivia along the way.
Arts & Crafts was our final spot for drinks, but if you’re still standing, head for one final beverage at the 65-year-old Kettle of Fish on Christopher Street. I’ll catch you next time, KOF.
C&C is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. I’m not usually a fan of tours, to be honest since I like to meander on my own and not be on a schedule, but Cocktails & Curiosities rocks. We took tour #2, but you could start with tour #1 if you like. Or do both, just not on the same day. If you did, that would end up being a marathon day of drinking and touring. I would suggest allowing at least four to five hours or longer for each tour, so you don’t feel rushed and can savor it all.
For more info about Cocktails & Curiosities, go to the website. You can download the app on iTunes or on Google Play and take the tours at your leisure. Summer is an awesome time to go bar crawling in New York City.