Ahh… Tek-EE-la! No! Mes-KAL! No, Tequila! WTF’s the difference? Up until a few years ago, I’d be damned if I knew because in truth - none - of the bars I’ve worked over the last 20 or so years ever bothered to carry any Mezcal whatsoever. It just wasn’t “a thing” or in demand. Well folks, times have changed. With the proliferation of speakeasy’ish throwback bars in NYC the last few years, obscure, off-beat, and unique spirits are all the vogue and Mezcal is no exception. In other words, Hipsters and wealthy urban professionals are demanding here in The Big Apple are blowing this previously unpopular spirit up making it the next “thing.” But don’t the fact that douchebag-central loves them some Mezcal stop you from enjoying an utterly enjoyable off-the-beaten-path bevie come bevie time.
Y’all know how much I heart me some [relatively] low-key, prohibitionist, revival type anti-hotspots, right? Well, Employees Only is just one such jewel, among an ever-growing NYC contingent, that’s been somewhat littered with “throwback” themed venues over the last 10 years. Honestly, many of them suck ass or slowly degenerate into suckery. E.O. hasn’t (yet) been terribly overrun with Porsche-loving, douchebag financiers, nor Staten Island Ed Hardy types, nor Jersey spiked-hair and lobster-tan dudes, nor plastic-faced Dix Hills L.I. rich bitches – thankfully. Likewise, nary have they deviated from their initial mission statement. Their raison d’être: atmosphere and vibe, combined with quality and trend-setting cocktails hasn’t suffered one bit since opening day. Those are just a few such reasons it remains popular with Hospitality industry employees.
I spent 14 years living in LIC/Astoria beginning in 1995. My folks had sold the house I grew up in and fled, like so many other New Yorkers, to Florida’s Gold Coast. It became, and still feels like, my home. For two or three decades now, Astoria has been overun by Eurotrash cafes, where everyone is rolling deep in Benzes, BMWs and Range Rovers, incessantly smoking Marlboro Reds, and indulging in a massive overuse of hair product and Drakkar Noir. Among them, there is an unnatural obsession with image and name brand recognition. At the dime-a-dozen sidewalk cafes, you can often see a table of clowns sipping espresso in the morning, only to return from work in the evening, and see the same ones guzzling crap-ass Heinekens. The M.O. there is to collect rent money from suckers – no one actually holds down a real job.
For a long, long time, nightlife there consisted of nothing else but a sea of Ed Hardy-sporting Greeks, Croats, Serbs and the odd Albanian, all fist pumping to obscure, crappy, repetitive house jams. Few of them have any desire to intermingle. Thrown in for good measure, were a handful of trashy, old-man, Irish pubs – none that you would dare venture into – remnants of another time.