Don't go looking for mixologist Karl Franz Williams' spirited creations at 67 Orange Street in Manhattan. Besides the fact that Orange St. is now called Baxter, Williams' cocktail bar is only named after the legendary Five Points dance hall, Almack's, which once thrived at that address. Instead, head up to Harlem -- 2082 Frederick Douglass Boulevard to be exact -- where Williams' knowledge of cocktail culture flows as freely as his drinks.
"Think of Almack's and Five Points as cultural context," Williams says, describing the vibe of his speakeasy-restaurant hybrid, 67 Orange Street, and its parallel to the 19th Century establishment that would be known as one of the first African-American owned bars in the city and a hotbed for gentrification.
On the menu, drinks are broken out by the type of spirit each cocktail is built around, a technique that Williams says keeps the star ingredient -- the spirit -- front and center.
Whiskey, rum, gin each have a place at Williams' bar, alongside some vodkas, which have been somewhat of a pariah on the mixology set due to its over-processed, watered down nature, Williams says. It is making a comeback, however, by way of small-batch, organic brands like the one used in 67 Orange Street's most popular drink, the Emancipation, a mixture of cucumber, cilantro, lime and simple syrup, muddled together with cucumber vodka and a bit of Cointreau.
But before you pore over what to drink, Williams cautions that how you drink is key. His advice?
Keep it gentlemanly. "Guys are expected to remain in control on some level...of ourselves and of the situation," Williams says. "Being able to drink and have a great time, but still being able to control the room? That's powerful."
Do your research. "If you can flip to [a menu page], pick a more esoteric cocktail and be able to explain to your date or your boys why that's a good drink to go for, you're going to look really cool," he says. The way to think about that, besides reading up on spirits in general, is to be willing to ask a few questions, he adds. "Talk to the bartenders or [better yet] come one day by yourself and then come back with your friends. You'll look like a rockstar."
Be adventurous. If you're a whiskey drinker, check out the rum page. Think about what kind of flavors you're into when you eat and be willing to take a little bit of risk. "Trying things that you haven't tried before is not only going to be sexy to whoever is around you, it's going to make you look all the more sophisticated," Williams says.
Here, Williams shares his fail-proof choices and a little twist to kick them up a notch.