Give me your number and I’ll call you as soon as a seat becomes available. That seems to be a common refrain at East Village speakeasies these days. We started in the phone booth at Crif Dogs, a.k.a. the “secret” entrance to PDT. We lifted the handle on the phone and a woman pulled open a secret door. We never saw the entire room because the bar was at capacity. It was just as well, because there was another equally notable cocktail emporium just blocks away: Death & Co.
David Kaplan and Ravi DeRossi opened the low-lit bar about two years ago. The dark but comfortable room hosts black walls and banquettes, a wood ceiling, chandeliers and 10 seats at the bar. You’ll never find people two-deep at the bar. Death & Co. is more refined than that, focusing on personalized attention, and attention to detail. Alex Day, who guested at The Edison in L.A. earlier in the week, was behind the bar, dressed to the nines and intently focused but friendly.
Death & Co. features an extremely stylish bound menu with seven categories: Flips, Indian Summer, Brandy, Rum, Tequila, Whiskey and Champagne Punch.
If you’re looking to learn about the name, you can either ask a bartender like Alex or visit the bathroom, which features a framed flyer on the wall. “In 1919 the Volstead Act brought a swift end to nightlife and the refined craft of the American bartender was outlawed. It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death…It’s taken us nearly a century to restore flavor to the drink and class to specialty cocktails.” Death & Co. is clearly helping to lead the cocktail restoration.
Alex prepared two well-balanced cocktails made with fresh fruit juices and syrups. Whirling Tiger ($13) combined Buffalo Trace Bourbon, fresh apple and lemon juice and ginger syrup. Autumn Daiquiri ($13) was a little sweeter and more intensely flavored, utilizing Mount Gay rum, fresh pineapple and lime juice, Demerara sugar, cinnamon bark syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters.
Midway through our drinks, PDT’s hostess called to say two seats just became available, but we only had five minutes to claim our prize. We were content at Death & Co. and weren’t tempted in the least. Another speakeasy, another time.