The Alchemy of NYC's Aviary

Engaging all of your senses, The Aviary NYC redefines the bar experience. Perched on our 35th floor and offering a bird's-eye view of Columbus Circle and Central Park, The Aviary NYC provides an interactive journey for guests, where inventive cocktails and small food plates complement the experience. Reflecting the core principles of the Chicago flagship, whilst simultaneously incorporating the rich cocktail culture of New York and offering panoramic views of the city skyline, the 90-seat Aviary NYC offers a bar experience like no other. Dreamed up by Chicago-based Chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, this innovative restaurant-for-drinks features a glass-enclosed Drink Kitchen where cocktails are masterminded in sight of guests behind clouds of liquid nitrogen. Similar to the Chicago flagship, The Aviary NYC features unique glassware and an ever-evolving small food plate menu that is equally remarkable in terms of presentation.

The views are dazzling, inside and out

The bar’s 35th-floor wraparound windows provide stunning panoramic views of New York’s iconic Central Park and the surrounding Midtown skyline. Those able to peel their eyes away from the epic cityscape will spy plush bucket seats, sleek golden-hued accents and soft polka-dot carpeting set under a snaking, halolike ceiling sculpture — a calming backdrop for the bustling glass-enclosed drink kitchen, which looks more like a chemistry lab than a common bar and includes two bookable chef’s tables for those wanting a front row seat. Lit with delicate spotlights and crooning floor lamps, the 90-seat space is more mod than modern, falling somewhere between snazzy Uptown club and posh Mad Men–era airline lounge.

There's a drink served inside a plastic bag...

The new spot’s cocktail lineup showcases all of its Midwestern predecessor’s many beloved bells and whistles, throwing in a few New York–centric nods to keep East Coasters on their toes. No two tipples are alike, not only in terms of recipes but also in the unusual and creative ways in which they are served. Standouts include the Manhattan-esque Wake and Bake, a mix of single barrel rye whiskey and vermouth infused with coffee and orange, delivered inside a sealed plastic bag (pictured at top) and sliced open tableside to reveal the distinctive scent of a classic everything bagel. The menu here, much like the one at the Chicago flagship, is notoriously cryptic, and for good reason — you won’t know whether your drink will resemble a colorful aquarium or a mad scientist’s bubbling beaker, and that element of surprise is the most important ingredient.

Layers of suprising flavors

The Aviary’s Chicago-based beverage director Micah Melton’s boozy concoctions are created to chart a unique course through the drinker’s overall experience and, as such, each layer of flavor exhibits the brand’s famously acute attention to detail. Guests can fend off chilly Autumn nights with a sip of Boom Goes the Dynamite, a steamy blend of rum, vanilla bean–infused rooibos tea, violet sugar and vanilla liquor, decanted before their own eyes. And, because nothing here is simple, the drink is finished off with a drop of dry ice, detonating an intoxicating cloud of rich, herbaceous aromatics as the liquid drops to an ideal temperature. Other concoctions sport names like Bring Another Smurf!, How Does Snoop Dogg Use Lemongrass? and Paging Fred Armisen. And if sipping from smoke-filled plastic isn’t exactly your bag (pun intended), craft beer, wine, spirits and inventive nonalcoholic cocktails are also available.

You won’t have to settle for a liquid lunch

While Achatz’ new iteration mirrors its precursor in many aspects, its expanded all- day food menu signifies a departure from the evening-only small plates that dominate the Second City bill. The program, which includes breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner service, fuses the brand’s established philosophies and cooking methods with aspects inspired by its new hotel digs. Each meal flows like a choose-your-own adventure novel, a culinary journey realized through dishes like the supple chawanmushi custard, which pairs creamy abalone with matsutake mushrooms and puckery spheres of pickled huckleberry (below) or the curiously titled Not Ramen, hand-pulled noodles crowned with nori, topped with a soft poached egg and submerged in an umami bomb of mushroom dashi poured tableside.

A second bar is stashed inside

When it comes to the Alinea Group, rest assured there’s always more than meets the eye. And for The Aviary, it’s The Office, a secret bar tucked away behind an entrance near the drinks kitchen that opened back in June. The intimate speakeasy is the yin to its sunny sister bar’s yang, a handsome, librarylike hideaway outfitted with studded leather armchairs, textured wallpaper, parquet floors and littered with antique

ornaments like typewriters, cloth-bound books and brass clocks. The stately menu follows suit, offering everything from rare cognacs and pre-Prohibition-style classics to custom “Dealer’s Choice” creations made according to the patron’s particular tastes. The food menu, designed by executive chef Dan Perretta, features traditional bar bites like fresh oysters, rib-eye tartare and foie gras terrine.

You can book your table with a few simple clicks

It may be one of the buzziest spots in town, but that doesn’t mean grabbing a seat is out of reach. Reservations for both The Aviary and The Office can be made from the comfort of your desk chair through Kokonas' own online restaurant ticketing portal, Tock. A $20 deposit per guest is required at the time of booking, so be sure to have your credit card handy.

Mandarin Oriental, New York, 80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street; Open Sunday to Tuesday, 9–1 AM; Wednesday to Saturday, 9–2 AM

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