Monkey Bar, an ancient Midtown Manhattan watering hole that has been reworked more than once in recent years (memorably as The Steakhouse at Monkey Bar), just underwent another facelift. Decor has been updated, the 46 images of monkeys on the walls have been restored, and Patricia Yeo has been brought in to do the food.
(Here’s a picture of Patricia I took at the C-CAP benefit earlier this year).
I stopped by last night to have a drink with one of its publicists, whom I hadn’t met before. She was late, causing me to approach women sitting alone and ask if they were waiting for me. They weren’t.
But that gave me time to peruse the cocktail menu and reflect on how we trend spotters (or at least I) order food and drinks differently from others. Rarely do I think about what I’m in the mood for or what sounds good. First I remove from the running anything that looks like the chef or beverage director made it because customers it sells, not because it’s good (most chicken dishes and steaks, Cosmopolitans, chocolate Martinis, marquee-name wines, anything mentioned in a movie). Then I look for what the restaurant seems to be hanging its hat on. What does it seem to be proud of?
Monkey Bar’s wine-by-the-glass list seemed to me to cover all the requisite bases, stepping out just a bit with a couple of South Africans, but the focus clearly was on cocktails. The list of traditional drinks included a Perfect Manhattan — which uses both sweet and dry vermouth — and a classic Champagne cocktail. Those aren’t particularly uncommon, but they’re not common, either. Now, if I were a critic, I could order one of those to test their mettle, but I’m not a critic, I'm a trend-spotter. So I ordered the grossest-sounding drink on the menu, both because it was the grossest-sounding drink and thus wouldn’t likely be there if it weren’t good, and because all of its ingredients were trendy. The Blueberry Joe (I think that’s the name), was made with tequila, coffee and blueberry.
Blueberries and things with blueberry in their names are all over supermarkets because of the fruit's reputation for being high in antioxidants. Coffee is everywhere, and tequila consumption in the United States is growing faster than any other spirit except for vodka, according to Pernod Ricard (guess what #3 is: post it as a comment below).
One of Monkey Bar’s managers told me tequila sales there had spiked just over the past couple of weeks. I wonder why.