I was recently invited to sample the menu at a new cocktail lounge that opened on in the Upper East Side. Never one to decline such an invitation, I promptly scheduled my visit and made my way to Sugar East.
Sugar took over a downstairs space that has been a cigar bar for the past 20+ years. By the looks of it, the space has had a complete remodel, with plush velvet couches, big booths for groups, a sleek and well-stocked bar, with the only nod to its past being a fun revamp of the former cigar lockers.
I met Jeremy, the head mixologist in charge of the bar program, who has spent time training with the greats in New York and becoming one himself, opening the Mulberry Project a few years ago. He excitedly told me about the renovations, the concepts behind the menu, and the progress they had seen in the little time they had been open.
The first thing he gave me was an amuse bouche, which was a spoon of tequila caviar. Since I have never heard of tequila caviar before, I learned that it was simply tequila molded into little semi-frozen balls. What a treat! Much like bubble tea, the balls popped – with tequila – upon first bite. This was an unusual but much appreciated welcome.
All cocktails on the menu are named after their main ingredient, a departure from the sometimes cheeky, witty menu item names that have gained popularity on the cocktail circuit. We started off the tasting with their most popular and most boast-worthy cocktail, the Coconut.
The drink was high on presentation (just the way I like ‘em), served in a hollowed-out coconut shipped from Florida. Inside were two types of rum, fernet branca, absinthe, coconut juice, and a squeeze of lime, and a stick of cinnamon was stuck through and lit on fire to give the drink a little cinnamon spice aroma. Upon first sip, I was surprised that “the pretty drink” was pretty damn boozy!
The drink was sweet and refreshing, similar to a piña colada. The coconut juice was refreshing and added a lightness to the heavy-handed serving of booze. I mentioned this to Jeremy who said that he was previously in charge of the piña colada at Death & Co., and that this creation came from his time working on that.
Our night continued with many more cocktails, which I plan to share in future posts.
Sugar East is a can’t miss cocktail joint located in an area severely lacking them. With a creative menu, there is sure to be something for everyone in this plush underground lair of boozy goodness.
1125 1st Avenue
New York, NY