When I visited the Aviary in Chicago in the summer of 2015, I drank a rum Manhattan that was smoked inside a made-to-order plastic bag. I was served a drink inside a treasure chest. I used a slingshot to break open an ice sphere, which contained an Old Fashioned. It could have been gimmicky, and the drinks cost about $20 each. And yet, I left that bar having enjoyed one of the best cocktail experiences of my life. Because from the drinks to the service, everything was perfect. Even the whimsical presentations and drinking vessels added a level of fun to the classy lounge that said, “Hey, we’re still just drinking here.”
Anyway, here’s some good news: The Aviary, led by Chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, is spreading its wings and heading for New York, where it will set up shop inside the Mandarin Oriental. It will be located on the 35th floor and overlook Central Park.
The game-changing cocktail bar opened in Chicago in 2011 and received plenty of acclaim for its innovative cocktails. The bar itself even turned the traditional model on its head by keeping its bartenders in a caged-in kitchen, where they operate more like a well-oiled kitchen staff. Customers interact with servers only, you can secure your visit by purchasing tickets, and all that fancy ice in your glass: it’s courtesy of an “ice chef.”
The Aviary NYC is expected to open sometime this summer. In the meantime, you can check out this promo video.