It’s hard to know where to look first at Beatnik. Even on a Tuesday night the West Town bar and restaurant thrums with activity, nearly every seat filled. Lavish crystal chandeliers hang in the dining room and the covered courtyard, elaborately carved teak dominates one wall, and there’s tile everywhere, with an array of geometric patterns competing for attention. Plants dominate the space, making it feel like a greenhouse almost as much as a restaurant. The overall effect is more opulent than bohemian, but faded rugs and exposed-brick walls temper the elegance a bit.
The bar area is equally verdant, with more tile, striking glass racks that dangle from the ceiling, and a shiny brass bar top. The beverage program lost some of its talent when bar manager Jacyara de Oliveira left last month for El Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina—but beverage director Liz Pearce (who also co-owns the Drifter) has things well in hand. The drinks are as international as the decor, with spirits and spices from around the globe. Turmeric and tarragon are background notes in the Second Fiddle, a jazzed-up whiskey sour that balances sweet pineapple with lemon and tart sumac salt. Similarly, the coffee and lavender in the rye-based Multitasking at Its Finest—two flavors that can be overpowering—are extremely subtle, taking a backseat to the Spanish vermouth.
Another whiskey drink, the Scottish Spice Trail, doesn’t go easy on the five-spice powder—but as with the other cocktails, it’s well balanced, softened by a touch of maple syrup and banana liqueur. The Melange of Modern Culture (green chile vodka, mezcal, celery, lime, walnut) is intensely, almost aggressively savory and vegetal, with the celery and green chile dominating. It tastes distinctly green, but as the ice melts the flavors open up and the mezcal and walnut come through.
The drinks menu also includes a well-edited wine list, several draft beers and fortified wines, sake and shochu, and a small selection of “no proof” drinks. Between the surroundings and the cocktails, at Beatnik it’s easy to imagine you’re relaxing on a patio in a Mediterranean country. It’s a welcome vacation.