The Up & Up
By Sara Kay
Photos by Gregory J. Buda
When we hear the words ‘bottle service’ mentioned in a nightlife atmosphere, a lot of thoughts immediately come to mind; for instance, will we be paying for a drastically over-priced bottle of vodka this evening? And will we have to combine that price with the price of a table as well, plus a cocktail waitress, and the variety of other amenities that come with one hell of a price tag? Bottle service can be daunting as a result of these thoughts. However, the creative minds behind newly opened cocktail haunt The Up & Up in Greenwich Village have given bottle service a bit of a facelift. Or perhaps, an un-facelift.
Matthew Piacentini, owner of recently shuttered bar known as The Beagle, and head bartender at Inoteca e Liquori bar is the owner of The Up & Up. Piacentini has managed to bring a lot of fairly unique and fantastic bar elements to the Greenwich Village, an area that doesn’t get to bask in the glory of exciting cocktail bars very often. However, not only does The Up and Up bring outstanding cocktails to the neighborhood, thanks to Piacentini and his head bartender Chaim Dauermann, this neighborhood has hit the jackpot. A cocktail bar with this caliber of drinks and approachable atmosphere is something that this part of town has been craving.
“Why do a cocktail bar on MacDougal Street?” Piacentini asks. “There are people around here who want a good bar and there’s nothing for them. It’s a nice place with nice people, and people are happy to have a choice like this without having to go somewhere fratty, or leave the neighborhood.”
Piacentini’s bar track record in New York City has been a successful one, however it is not where his passions lie. With every establishment he opened, the focus always seemed to go towards the food, rather than the stellar cocktail program. However, with The Up & Up, there’s no denying that this is a bar. From the giant bar that spans across most of the space, to the menu that is more cocktails than anything else, this is most certainly a bar.
“What I’ve tried to do here is build a place that is as beautiful as I can get it, while still being comfortable, relaxed and friendly,” says Piacentini. “That’s what people want; people love the really good drinks and the friendly people and the nice rooms, but they don’t like to jump through hoops. They don’t like the impenetrable door. In all these years of working in bars and hanging out with bartenders, this is a place where bartenders want to hang out.”
The cocktails and small bites at The Up & Up are worth doting on for hours, there’s no denying that. However, the real shining star here comes in their bottle service. Whether you’re a party of two, a party of four or just enjoying a solo cocktail, you have the option to order a bottled cocktail to pour at your convenience. Large format (375ml or 750ml) bottles are available, as well as Individual (100ml), and are served with chilled glassware and ice cubes for the table. Take your pick from a variety of bottled cocktail options, from The Carlson Martini (courtesy of Laura Carlson, bartender at The John Dory Oyster Bar), The Messier Manhattan (courtesy of Max Messier), The Greenbaum Negroni (courtesy of Dan Greenbaum, bartender at Attaboy) or The Teague Old Flaskoned (courtesy of Sother Teague, head bartender at Amor y Amargo).
“The heart of the bottles is the large format,” says Dauermann, the brains behind the bottled cocktail operation. “I was thinking about an idea where cocktails could go into a bottle and still be in prime condition. The ideal scenario is the smaller bottle for two people, and the larger bottle for 3-4 people. They have enough for their first round and their second round. It’s unlike any other bottled cocktail because it’s not deconstructed in any way when presented.”
Piacentini and Dauermann see the bottled cocktails not just as an innovative cocktail presentation, but an efficient one as well. Rather than have several staff members running around on the floor taking cocktail orders all night, a server can deliver six drinks to a table with just one bottle and a set of glasses, and spend more time working on other things. Customers can spend more time on other things too; like talking to one another rather than ordering a new cocktail every 15 minutes.
“The question is always how do you do high volume and high comfort, but maintain quality? It’s hard because in bars with a lot of people, it becomes about time. That time has to get less and less, and the only way to do that is to take shortcuts somewhere,” says Piacentini. “This allows us to make 1/3rd of our menu in 30 seconds. It takes less time to pour the bottled cocktail than to open a beer.”
The dynamic between Piacentini and Dauermann, as they describe it, is a sort of musical collaboration. Piacentini sees Dauermann as the composer; creating and making and discovering. He sees himself as more of the first chair violinist; where he is good at what he does, but his real goal is to figure out how to make the best harmony with what is already made. Together, their balance is unbeatable.
“We have so many different styles. So many interesting, intriguing, culinary drinks that Chaim does, and we’ve got the elegant, stirred intense drinks that I do,” says Piacentini. “In between, we have our own style of refreshers. So far, there’s something for everyone here.”
With the opening of The Up & Up, a night of bottle service with a group of friends doesn’t sound nearly as daunting as it once did. Approachable and casual, the unique experience comes without the unreasonable price tag that we as New Yorkers have become accustomed to, and to that we say: it’s about time.