My friend and I roamed the narrow streets of Chinatown and skirted past crowded rows of noodle stands and massage shops. One unexpected turn, and we stumbled upon Doyer Street, a cobble stone alleyway tucked away from street vendors and downtown traffic. There were few active stores – or people – in sight, only a poppy red sign on an abandoned eatery reading “Gold Flower Restaurant.” That was it, the front we were looking for, and we decided to scope it out.
Behind the heavy doors lies Apotheke, a hidden speakeasy with a taste for elaborate cocktail cure-alls. The place is imaginative, designed after old world opium dens and featuring dim lighting, gauzy curtains, and futons for the languorous patrons. Medicine is their specialty, and if you tell one of the lab-coated men behind the counter what your health may need, they will mix you a potent drink.
Isidro, the bartender, showed us jars full of fresh botanicals he keeps on store, from vanilla beans to marinated mezcal. He mixes these to create the drinks listed on a “Prescription List,” which are categorized as painkillers, aphrodisiacs, stimulants, and beauty enhancers. Painkillers use a balance of tequila and hot spices, like cayenne pepper, while beauty enhancers use cucumber and rose water. The key to a love potion? Cognac and champagne, paired with chocolate.
Finally we challenged Isidro to brew a new beverage, decadent and fruity. He studied us curiously and then produced a metal shaker. In a flash, he mixed, gin, champagne, strawberry puree, and cognac. The results were tangy and smooth, sweet and flavorful. Blown away, we asked him why it was that the bar had to be kept secret. He smiled cryptically, and he gave us the answer that this speakeasy is really for “those who appreciate.”
And you just might. Head down to Chinatown, and see if the folks at Apotheke have an elixir for you.
Stress Reliever: Guava mamma
Euphoric: Kissed by absinthe
Therapeutic: Pygmy gimlet
9 Doyers Street, Chinatown, New York; jazz on Mondays and Tuesdays.