Saturday, December 29, 2012

A love Letter to Ward III ...No relation.

It's been way too long. And that's all I'll say about that. This much is true, I am back to my craft, my joy... my reason for rocking the boat. 


Ward III
111 Reade Street New York, NY 10013 (212) 240-9194

Some of the best cocktail bars in Manhattan are smothered in rumor, hidden behind false walls and drenched in the rich history of the prohibition era. The men and women behind these establishments spend their time writing about, researching and rebuilding the cocktails of that bygone time. Ward III is one of those bars and its proprietor, Michael Neff is one those men.

The Ward (as it’s called by its long time patrons) is hidden in plain sight at 111 Reade Street between West Broadway and Church Street in Tribeca. The front of Ward III looks like a tough- as-adamantium nails New York dive bar (circa 1970), but don’t be fooled. The façade is just a clever trick to keep the Budweiser crowd away. When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by the usual décor – exposed brick walls, cozy black leather loveseats and dim lighting – a standard for any hip bar in New York City. Once you go deeper, past the tchotchkes on the wall and sit at the bar, you will notice something - You’ve left the usual behind. The Ward is a realm of delicious bespoke cocktails made by professionals who will take the time to map out your drinking desires by asking what excites your taste buds. This is not an interrogation – it’s a genuine inquiry about what you love to have in your mouth; not an attempt to sell you whatever spirit is popular.

Bespoke cocktails are just part of the ingenious libation menu put together by The Ward’s gentle genius, Michael Neff. Over the last fifteen years Mr. Neff has perfected the art of remaking classic recipes with a modern twist by working at some of the best bars in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Always inventing, reformulating and bringing his best works; he is the Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic of the classic cocktail movement. (For you non comic book readers, he’s the super elastic, smarter than genius leader of the Fantastic Four.) 

Mr. Neff and his staff of mixologists pride themselves on putting the art in artisan and the pro in professional. If you’re looking for a simple rum and coke, this is neither the place, nor are these the men to ask. They have built a solid cocktail program by improving on the new, enhancing the old and putting what you want at the forefront. Beyond the bespoke cocktails, The Ward delivers both House and Premium cocktails that start at $12 and $16 respectively. Among my personal favorites are:

Maker’s 46 Bourbon

Red Breast Irish Whiskey

Muddled Cardamom Seed

Lemon & Orange Zest Infused

Sugar Cube
Served up with a Burnt Orange Twist


Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Muddled Strawberries


Egg White

Peychaud’s Bitters

Any bar worth its bitters has something up its figurative sleeve, a ‘Tesoro Nascosto’ as my Grandmother would say. If you stop by The Ward on a Monday night between 8 and 10 PM, you can take part in a free whiskey tasting. If you are extremely lucky you will be able to sit in on a few different tastings. Stopping by however, is not an excuse to drink for free, it is an invitation to an education on a variety of spirits. On any given Monday, you may get to sample a new blend or get the first taste from a label’s reserve stock. If you want to stay one step ahead of the crowd, check out their Facebook page where they maintain an up to date listing of what the featured spirit will be.

Lastly and on a more personal note-

I’ve been to Ward III more times than the Kardashians have been mentioned on TMZ and every time Mr. Neff has been there. If he’s not behind the bar, he’s busing tables or talking to the patrons, making sure everything is running smoothly. One night my friend ordered a Gibson (Gin & Vermouth garnished with a mini pickled onion) and casually commented on the amount of onions (one) in her drink. In the time it took us to finish our drinks and order another round, Michael had run out to the store and bought more onions. Apparently, the bar was low on that particular garnish. This course of action might have gone unnoticed had it not been for the five onions in her second Gibson. Mr. Neff could have gotten a bus boy to get them or told my friend ‘one per customer’. Thankfully that was not the solution. He made sure that Gibson was perfectly crafted her. That’s the sort of man Michael Neff is, that’s the sort of bar Ward III has become. 

If you want to read more of my reviews (not as long as this one) pick up the 2nd issue of VODA. I cover some of the best cocktail bars in NYC.

  Have a safe and Happy New Year. And remember- 

That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
Charles Bukowski, Women  


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