Last month the Hudson Hotel revamped its upstairs bar, turning it into an extremely upscale cocktail lounge with illuminated floors straight out of the final minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The mixologist in charge at Henry, A Liquor Bar is the esteemed London bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, whose menu takes "inspiration from the way plants adapt throughout the weather changes yearly and how different cultures preserve and develop these crops." Yes, these are high-concept drinks for high income people in a high-toned room with high-heeled waitresses. Do you have a rich Japanese or Brazilian cousin? Have her/him take you here. (Make sure he/she/it makes a reservation.)
MUST TRY THESE COOKIES
But first swing by Hudson Common, the massive and sort of wonderfully weird cafeteria-style restaurant and bar located across the hall from Henry, The Pretentiously Punctuated Liquor Bar. You order from a counter that looks into the kitchen, where they make a very good veggie burger and an exceptional dessert: A cookie made with peanut butter and Rolo candies and just the right amount of sea salt. They come out warm and gooey on the inside, and you'll want to order two because Christ on a Cracker these are some transcendent cookies. I felt like the junkie in the ABC Afterschool special who shoots up and spends the next twenty minutes staring vacantly out into space before rolling into the pool to drown.
Then over to the Henry The Comma Bar, where you'll face a velvet rope and perhaps some self-doubt. I was there on a Saturday night and the place was packed, but the publicist arranged everything and seated me at a nice table overlooking boring 58th Street. The interesting view is on the inside, where I kept freezing moments in time and marveling at the scene: flashy urbanites with their heads knocked back in laughter like they're partying in some highly-insulated fantasy vault with a lot of booze and heavy security. It is a fun place to drink and people-watch (so many generous fathers taking their daughters out for cocktails!), and the cocktails are ambitious and generally successful. (The menu itself evokes the J. Peterman catalog's literary playfulness.) My favorite was the Deadly Nightshade, which pulled off a bit of a balancing act by mixing rum, Lillet Blanc, demerara vanilla, lemon, and roasted aubergine—that, I've learned, is the British word for eggplant. "Vegetables in my cocktail!" goes the description, "Roasted for some extra sweetness, the eggplant is perfectly placed here." Yes, but a Rolo Cookie Cocktail would be even more perfect.
Henry, A Liquor Bar is open Wednesday through Saturday in the Hudson Hotel at 356 West 58th Street. Reservations recommended. Here's the cocktail menu: