Inside Ian Schrager’s Decadent-Cool Bar Chrystie

PUBLIC Hotel ups the ante in New York's Lower East Side with crystal, drama, and Mixologist Rob Krueger's 24K gold cocktails

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By Janet Mercel on 03.14.22

Hollywood in the ’20s. Berlin in the ’30s. Truman’s Black and White Ball. Whatever glamour you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, at the newly refurbed upstairs lounge at PUBLIC Hotel on Chrystie Street. After its glittering November opening, Bar Chrystie took a minute to pause for the holidays’ Covid surge, and now the self-proclaimed “piano bar without a piano” is ready for a fresh new page, with a rotating roster of international DJs and an acoustic pop-in series. 

Velvet banquettes and plump satin sofas, a crackling fireplace still suited for the couple of months’ worth of chilly evenings we have to go, and a lot of boozy drinks all create the vibe of an old jazz club — which it becomes, thanks to live quartet sets on Thursday nights. Ian Schrager’s in-house design team looped over 900 feet of Swarovski crystals for the bespoke fixtures leaning on the bar, while the standing chandelier is Baccarat’s iconic Zenith. Crystal fixtures are propped at odd angles and in random spots, giving the impression that the luxurious furnishings came crashing down and the party in the city just kept happening around it. (Which, given recent history, maybe not untrue?) 

Swinging crystal. Photo by Liz Clayman.
Swinging crystal. Photo by Liz Clayman.
Elevated bar bites from Chefs Diego and John. Photo by Liz Clayman
Elevated bar bites from Chefs Diego and John. Photo by Liz Clayman

At the bar, it’s impossible not to notice the collection of dozens of new and antique decanters, including Waterford, Baccarat, and William Yeoward. Chef John Fraser and Chef Diego Munoz of Popular, the Peruvian restaurant downstairs, have created an unapologetically decadent cocktail menu with mixologist Rob Krueger.

The merge of flavors, culture, and research makes the list of signature classics fun without bastardizing favorites: The Autumn Rose, a Negroni with Dorothy Parker (!) rose petal gin and apricot eau de vie; Uncle Rusty, a Rusty Nail with Jamaican rum and a caramelized laurel leaf; or a classic martini, The Big Olive, with extra virgin olive oil-washed vermouth. 

All that high-proof alcohol needs a moderator in the form of Chef Diego’s multi-cultural, seasonal bar tapas. Potato crisps, crème fraîche, and caviar feel right at home next to guacamole, roasted garlic dip, chorizo-Ibérico croquettes, and lucuma bonbons and Little Ram oysters. Smoked Salmon and bagels with lox mousse, roe, and capers at midnight? Why not? Top it off with a $60 Champagne Boilermaker cocktail of Veuve Clicquot Yellow label, Grand Marnier Cuvée Louis-Alexandre, and 24k gold. This is New York in the ’20s, after all.

Vintage crystal and million dollar cocktails. Photo by Liz Clayman
Vintage crystal and million dollar cocktails. Photo by Liz Clayman
Decadent lucuma bon bons. Photo by Liz Clayman
Decadent lucuma bon bons. Photo by Liz Clayman

While you’re there, take a closer look at the Diego Rivera mural that still adorns the main wall, reproduced for the site’s former life as restaurant Diego. The original commission to Rivera by Nelson D. Rockefeller in the 1930s was meant to embody (Rockefeller’s, anyway) ideals of “American progress” and live in 30 Rockefeller Center. Instead, the collaboration was fraught with fiery politics, Rivera’s leftist views, and depictions of protest and unrest, culminating as the last time the Mexican artist (and husband to Frida Kahlo) would ever work in the U.S. The original mural was destroyed, but Schrager’s reproduction remains a reminder of the complicated push-pull energy of New York’s history, people, and places.

Diego Rivera's iconic mural reproduction. Photo by Liz Clayman.
Diego Rivera's iconic mural reproduction. Photo by Liz Clayman.

Check out our review of PUBLIC Hotel, here.

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