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2013 New York Times

2013 New York Times

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Published by: Frank Caiafa on Mar 26, 2013
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WORLD U.S. N.Y. / REGION BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY SCIENCE HEALTH SPORTS OPINION ARTS STYLE TRAVEL JOBS REAL ESTATE AUTOS

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Peacock Alley, a Bar that Lives Up to Its Name and Setting

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The Bull and the Bear

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The Bull and Bear at the Waldorf-Astoria has distinctive trappings, if less distinguished cocktails than its fellow bar Peacock Alley.
By STEVE REDDICLIFFE Published: March 7, 2013 Comment FACEBOOK TWITTER GOOGLE+ SAVE E-MAIL SHARE PRINT REPRINTS

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Sometimes, a cocktail bar in a landmark hotel really can be as impressive as its setting, and Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria is, happily, one of them. The bar sits off the enduringly grand Art Deco lobby of the hotel, just steps from the bronze clock made for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 by the London firm Goldsmith (one of its eight plaques features Queen Victoria; Grover Cleveland, if you were wondering, is on another).

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Frank Caiafa, who as the manager at the Peacock Alley bar is responsible for its drinks, said he is well aware of what comes with the location: “People have expectations that are so high because they’re in the lobby of the Waldorf. I find it a good challenge to meet them, and exceed them.” His cocktail list says as much; the drinks are excellent, including the nicely calibrated Peacock (cranberry-infused vodka, fresh sour, Marie Brizard apricot brandy; $18); a

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deeply flavored highball named for a former Waldorf resident, Cole Porter, (Willett rye whiskey, Lustau Almacenista Oloroso sherry and sour made in house; $18); and a particularly well-made 1860 Manhattan (with Elijah Craig 12-year single-barrel bourbon, Noilly Prat sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, house-made bitters; $20). There are a dozen featured drinks on a roster that has real range: a Champagne cocktail (this one with peppercorninfused Galliano), a big-deal martini (made with either Double Cross vodka or Berry Brothers & Rudd No. 3 gin), and a milk punch (vanilla-bean-infused bourbon, nutmeg and simple syrup). The beers fit the profile: Four on tap, including three from New York (among them, Six Point Bengali I.P.A. and the Long Ireland Breakfast Stout, both $9). Wines too, from a White Rock Vineyards Chardonnay from California ($20) to a Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir from Oregon ($18). All of these are served by efficient waiters in a contemporary, comfortable space that offers a good view of the lobby but also functions as something of a retreat. It’s relaxed, but not overly casual; there are lots of suits here, and not many jeans. On a recent Friday night, the pianist Emilee Floor’s selections ran from the Earth, Wind and Fire hit “After the Love Is Gone” to “My Favorite Things.”

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Peacock Alley

Frank Caiafa, manager of the Peacock Alley bar at the Waldorf Astoria, strives for a classic New York bar with firstrate cocktails. Enlarge This Image

Peacock Alley

Peacock Alley, off the enduringly grand Art Deco lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria.

But it’s the drinks that are the most memorable aspect of Peacock Alley. Mr. Caiafa, who has been in charge since Share y our thoughts. 2005, clearly is a committed cocktail guy. In addition to his Post a Comment » Peacock Alley position, he is the consulting bar manager at the Vault at Pfaff’s in Greenwich Village. He has had a cocktail blog (handlebarsnyc.blogspot.com) that he has put on hiatus while he finishes work on an updated version of Albert Stevens Crockett’s 1935 “Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.”
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(Sample wisdom from Crockett’s book: “Moderation is the secret of enjoyment of anything, if one wishes to retain the faculty for enjoyment.”) Mr. Caifa said he was a devoted fan of the classics, within reason. “I don’t want to get carried away,” he said. “There are many people today who are taking these old books and these recipes to the extreme, and I kind of liken it to, if these guys were able to live 150 years, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be making the same drinks that they made back then. It would be an evolving of the practice. So that’s the angle I come in and try to keep it at.” The second of the Waldorf’s bars, the Bull and Bear, is not as much fun (a third, Sir Harry’s, is being renovated). It is well-known for its rectangular, highly polished mahogany bar and the brass bull and bear statue in the center of it, as well as the oversize ticker that reports stock prices and sports scores. But on a Friday night when Peacock Alley seemed festive, the Bull and Bear seemed to have little energy. The ticker, which looks like a colossal version of the crawl on ESPN, offered N.B.A. and spring training scores. A guy at the bar, whose cufflinks also qualified as colossal, alternated between loudly flirting with the woman to his left and checking his phone (which may have been more interested in what he was saying). The sound system played Faith Gibson’s version of the Guess Who song “Undun” and then, continuing the evening’s Cole Porter theme, Frank Sinatra singing, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Even with all its hallmarks, the Bull and Bear seemed as if it could it could be a pricey bar just about anywhere on a relatively quiet night. At 9:15 there were plenty of seats to be had, and a waiter who at first was pleasantly all-business pretty much vanished. In the bar’s favor is a fine hamburger — as a $29 burger should be.

The drinks here seem interesting enough, although the Fig “N” Stormy ($19), made with fig-infused rum and ginger beer, was short on effervescence. Bull and Bear has a reputation for making a first-rate martini, and a Stoli edition ($18) was just that. Mr. Caiafa does not do the drinks at Bull and Bear. For those you have to go to Peacock Alley, where, he said, he wants customers to know that “they’ve certainly been to a classic New York bar and that it’s on par with any other cocktail bar in the city.” Consider it done. The particulars: Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue (212) 872-4895. Web site: peacockalleyrestaurant.com. Hours: Daily 5 p.m. to midnight. Bull and Bear, 570 Lexington Avenue (212) 872-1275. Web site: bullandbearsteakhouse.com. Hours: Daily 5 p.m. to midnight.

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