To be quite honest, I had never had a Negroni before journeying to the Upper East Side’s latest cocktail den, the Gilroy, which opened late last month. I’m told the drink is having a bit of a moment, and since Negronis are precisely the Gilroy’s specialty, I ordered one. And then three. When in Manhattan.
Nestled on busy Second Avenue, the Gilroy caters to its market: young professionals with expensive taste. The room is quite spacious and has plenty of two-tops for more intimate conversation, but it still feels cozy. I was tucked away in a small corner of the copper-topped bar so that I could better watch the bartenders in their fancy vests.
But this is New York, and stylish bartenders are not enough. So, the drinks. Or, more specifically, the six dynamite iterations of one drink. The signature Gilroy Negroni showcases the classic recipe: gin, vermouth and Campari, garnished with an orange peel. In the Oaxaca, 40-day aged Mezcal in American Oak barrels replaces the gin. A Negroni novice like myself however, may prefer the sweeter, lighter Old Pal, but the standout was the Nutcracker, a rye-and-walnut liqueur version that really does taste like 11pm on Christmas Eve, after all the guests have gone home and it’s just you and the tree.
Although the trip up to the Gilroy wouldn’t be complete without tasting at least one of the six signature iterations, don’t overlook the menu’s “Fancy Drink” section, especially the Cumulus, an appropriately cloud-like cocktail (you can thank the egg whites for that) which also features tequila, Mezcal bitters, grapefruit, maple and my personal favorite spirit in the world, Becherovka. The Bijou satisfies all the expectations one would have of a clear drink (refreshing and citrusy), while the whisky-based Real McCoy lives up to its gorgeous pink-orange color and abundance of freshly cut blood oranges. But if you’re here for business, and by business I mean getting drunk, order the Abigail Sponder. Named for Ellen Barkin’s character in Ocean’s Eleven, it packs an equally pretty punch with gin, cognac, Cointreau, Antica vermouth and absinthe.
No detail goes unperfected at the Gilroy, but it also succeeds in the more abstract measures that make a bar worth visiting. Namely, the staff is friendly (and might just share a shot of absinthe with you, if you’re lucky), and the patrons are the happy type, which is likely a symptom of its atmosphere and, of course, its drinks.