Existing Conditions Brings Modernist Cocktails and Casual Vibe to the Heart of Greenwich Village

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The Canary cocktail at Existing Conditions contains gin infused with the help of a cream whipper. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Behind one of 8th Street’s unprepossessing façades, they’re milk-washing the aquavit, clarifying the juices, carbonating the margaritas, and bottling the martinis — all of which can mean only one thing: Existing Conditions, the new bar from the mixology dream team of Dave Arnold (Booker and Dax), Don Lee (formerly of PDT and Ssäm Bar), and Greg Boehm (founder of Cocktail Kingdom), is finally opening its doors next Monday. The mission here is to improve cocktails via science and serve them without a hint of frippery or intimidation (meaning all of the technological advances will remain behind the scenes, not reflected in gimmicky presentation or setting). All will cost $15, including soft drinks meant to simulate the experience of drinking hard ones and three bottled cocktails sold out of vending machines at what Arnold deems the ideal dilution and temperature (minus-4 degrees Celsius).

The Waffle Turkey 101: waffle-infused bourbon and maple syrup. Photo: Melissa Hom

While a few vintage Arnold and Lee creations will be available off-menu, the focus is on new drinks: the Waffle Turkey 101 (Arnold’s answer to Lee’s bacon-infused bourbon old-fashioned); the Remedy (a tiki drink with acid-adjusted orange juice); and the Saratoga Paloma, which uses mineral water drawn from Saratoga’s most saline spring. To prepare these elixirs, the bartenders have at their disposal tools and methods that have become common (directionally frozen clear ice) and some that haven’t (Arnold’s own inventions the Spinzall centrifuge and Red Hot Pokers). For The Canary, a Tuxedo variation, Lee and Arnold use cream whippers and nitrous oxide to rapidly infuse Plymouth gin with saffron, which they combine with fino sherry and yellow Chartreuse. As in all their high-tech cocktails, the technique isn’t for show. “You get the top notes without the earthy plant flavor,” says Lee.

The Canary in its finished form. Photo: Melissa Hom

The team will also collaborate with chef Josh Eden on the food, which exploits technology both for the sake of flavor and speed of service, a crucial component of any bar menu. To wit: a Ziploc-sealed, low-temp-cooked steak that’s ready in ten minutes, and a savory snack mix containing Korean anchovies and freeze-dried kielbasa. Existing Conditions is New York’s most experimental new bar, even if you can’t tell by looking at the food and drink (which is entirely the point).

Strawberry Carborita, a carbonated strawberry margarita. Photo: Melissa Hom
The White Flag combines rum with cream syrup, Frangelico, and cold-brewed coffee. Photo: Melissa Hom
Portfolio: Scotch, mezcal, Ramazzotti, and acid lemon cordial. Photo: Melissa Hom
The nonalcoholic Doyenne melds carbonated clarified Comice pear juice with Mt. Olympus tea. Photo: Melissa Hom
Chicken-liver mousse on Ritz Crackers nods to McSorley’s liverwurst and a favorite scene from Godfather 2. (“Canapés? It’s chopped liver on a Ritz cracker!”) Photo: Melissa Hom
Rather than fish sticks, shrimp sticks, molded with meat glue and served with lemon-ginger cocktail sauce. Photo: Melissa Hom
Slow-cooked Newport steak, with chef Eden’s grandfather’s latkes. Photo: Melissa Hom
Partners Don Lee and Dave Arnold. Photo: Melissa Hom

35 W. 8th St., nr. Macdougal St.; 212-203-8935

*A version of this article appeared in the May 14, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

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