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1534: If you thought the French were only good for wine, cheese and frenemies, descend down the auspicious staircase next to hip restaurant Jacques, and cozy up to this underground “cocktail sanctuary.” It’s your average bespoke set-up: fancy brown boozes? Check? Big, fat ice cubes? Check. Fresh herbs, egg whites and ginger galore? Check. What sets 1534 apart, however, is they make many of the liquors in-house, their flavors are inspired by the French colonies and no reservations are needed. The Saigon Folly is made using their own Vietnamese Pepper-Infused Gin with lemon, Crème Yvette, lemongrass syrup and soda, while the Rebel Yell features Jamaican rum, lemon, apricot brandy, house-made Orgeat, Angostura Bitters and mint (both $12). You’ll see NoLita’s pretty people in the leather booths toasting with seasonal punches from the Absinthe fountains and sharing small plates like the Mini Banh Mi sandwiches with house-made pâté. But while the accoutrements tend toward the luxurious, attitudes and pretentious vibes are checked at the door here, merci beaucoup.
* Photographs by Erwin Caluya