Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New York Christmas Trip 2015: Please Don't Tell

I've already shared with you our favorite East Village spots from my Christmas trip to NYC, but there's (somewhat ironically) a bit more to tell when it comes to the place I was most excited to visit: Please Don't Tell.

I've been obsessed with Please Don't Tell ever since I first heard about it years ago. I mean, it's supposed to be one of New York's best cocktail bars and, on top of that, its entrance is hidden behind a panel in a phone booth in a divey hot dog joint. What's not to love?

I'd been to New York a few times since my obsession started, but had never been able to make a visit to PDT work since getting in is a significant time commitment (more on that shortly). My work-around was to hire a bartender who worked with PDT for our wedding, but I knew this trip was finally the time to make my PDT dreams come true. 

On our first full night in NYC, Doug and I made our way to Crif Dogs, said divey hot dog joint. I managed to play it pretty cool when using the phone booth ("Doug, it's ringing!! Take a picture, take a picture!!") and got our name on the waitlist. This was beyond exciting to me even though it was already 10pm and the wait time was quoted at 2.5-3 hours. I prematurely posted this on Instagram:

Bad move, self. When we still hadn't received a call three hours later ("Doug, do you think I gave her the wrong number??"), we headed back to the phone booth to see what was up. We were informed that the bartender wasn't seating anyone else that night, but the hostess did give us specific instructions about how to make a reservation so we wouldn't have to sweat it out again with the rest of the waitlist plebeians. The Crif Dogs hot dog and tator tots we ordered helped numb my disappointment slightly, but did nothing to satiate my growing thirst for a PDT cocktail.

The next day, right at 3pm, Doug and I each began calling PDT non-stop, as instructed. Actually, the hostess recommended that we gather a large group of friends to help us call, but that seemed excessive. We called a combined 75 times before finally we got through and made our reservations. We were in!

That night, at 11pm on the dot, we were led through the secret panel of the phone booth and into PDT.

It was magical. We were seated at the end of the bar which was perfect as it would give us direct access to the bartender.

We started things off with two drinks from the menu. Doug had the Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned with bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, Angostura bitters, and an orange twist and I got the Cranberry Cobbler with gin, sherry, cranberry simple syrup, lemon, and macerated cranberries. Doug's was pretty amazing but I felt a little meh about mine. This was my own fault though because cobblers are 90% crushed ice and they always make me feel meh.

For my second drink, I decided it was time to break out the big guns... aka, let the bartender do his thing and create something on the fly. It was my favorite thing to do at Drink when I lived in Boston, and it doesn't usually let me down at Portland craft cocktail spots either.

"I like drinks with gin that are floral and citrus-y," I said. This was going to be so much better than my cobbler, I just knew it. It was, in fact, probably going to be one of the best cocktails I had ever had.

So imagine my horror as I watched the bartender pour gin, St. Germain, and lemon juice into a shaker, give it a whirl, and place it in front of me.

Gin. St. Germain. Lemon Juice. That's it.

It took a moment to set in. I had waited years to get the most literal, basic interpretation of my request at one of the best cocktail bars in the country? Something that anyone could make themselves and frankly was a little heavy-handed on the St. Germain? Nope, nope.

That's when I started to tear up a little and Doug gave me this look like "are you really having a breakdown because you don't like your cocktail?", which was fair enough.

I eventually ended up asking the bartender to make me something a little more complex because I just couldn't let that be the last drink I had at PDT. He did make me something better... but the experience was already sullied.

A month after the incident, I'm slowly coming to terms with it. Maybe I shouldn't have had such crazy high expectations. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to go off-menu. Maybe the bartender was just trying to give me exactly what I was asking for (but um, an Aviation also fits that description and is way more interesting...).

In the end, here's my advice: save yourself some heartbreak and a million phone calls and just go to Booker & Dax, Death and Co., or any other great cocktail bar in New York. And maybe at least visit PDT to use the phone and watch the hostess swing open the secret panel. Cuz it is pretty cool.