Real Girl Lifestyle

Real Girl’s New York Gems: White Star

Posted on: July 26, 2010

Meet Real Girl’s favorite bar. Better yet, get yourself on over for a divine cocktail.

Welcome to Real Girl’s happy place.

White Star is an oasis of peace, beauty, and delight nestled among the gritty storefronts of Essex Street on the Lower East Side. Its devotees are mostly wedded to the staff and the owner, Sasha Petraske, and with good reason. Years ago, Sasha taught Real Girl what an excellent cocktail is supposed to taste like–a revelation that has never gotten old.

Real Girl was among the first regulars at Sasha’s debut bar, Milk & Honey, when she was a young early-twenty-something. Instead of dancing on tabletops or getting embarrassingly drunk, I would be ensconced in a cozy nook of the railroad-length bar gently sipping exquisitely engineered cocktails and meeting fascinating people in all industries, particularly the arts, journalism, and entertainment. Sasha’s gang of regulars all knew each other, and a choice spot at the bar meant getting to watch the bartenders in motion, dutifully measuring spirits and manipulating fresh ingredients with charm and grace. Everything from the tin ceilings to the oil-burning candles, to the stainless steel stirrers, to the ideal-sized ice had been thoughtfully chosen by Sasha, our barfather and our friend.

Located at 21 Essex St between Hester and Canal, White Star is the progeny of that original Milk & Honey, and I confess I love it even more. Sasha’s initial concept was for an absinthe bar; he saw White Star as the Peter Luger of then newly legal absinthe and a destination spot for people to discover and love the potent liquor at its best. Indeed, I tried absinthe for the first time during White Star’s early days, and I’ve never enjoyed it as much since. If you are looking for the definitive spot to find absinthe done right, you need look no further. But a bar cannot survive on absinthe alone, and White Star’s menu soon expanded to include some of the cocktails that Milk & Honey made famous. I admit I never look at the drink menu, and in truth you don’t have to. Put yourself in your bartender’s hands. Once he or she asks what spirits and flavors you enjoy–sweet? tangy? ginger? mint? honey?–you will be transported on a cocktail journey unlike no other, spirited away (literally!) by fine ingredients mixed expertly and presented impeccably. You will be in cocktail heaven.

Real Girl’s two favorite cocktails inhabit two vastly different taste realms: the tangy kick of ginger on the one hand, and sweet lime and icy mint on the other. I urge you not to order a dark and stormy anywhere other than at White Star or Milk & Honey. Sasha has trained his bartenders well, and nowhere will you find the drink as infused with fresh ginger to complement the dark rum. Garnished with a tangy ginger candy, the tall refreshing drink is as enjoyable sipped in summer as it is in winter, fall, or spring. Real Girl’s other go-to White Star cocktail would be the ivy gimlet, a vodka gimlet shaken with crushed mint. Sugar syrup and lime work in tandem to achieve the perfect sweet-tart combination, and the invigorating kick of mint transports the delicate cocktail to an elevated level of flavor. Rarely will you want just one.

Aesthetically, Real Girl never quite makes it past the marble bar. It’s just so pretty. Longer than the bar at M&H, there are plenty of seats for patrons to enjoy watching the bartenders display their craft. Unlike at Milk & Honey, you will not need to call in advance or make a reservation. On Friday through Monday, look for TJ, your dapper, bespectacled red-headed bartender and Sasha’s right-hand man and long-time chum. Tell him Real Girl sent you (and next time I see TJ I’ll let him know what that means :-)). TJ has partnered with Sasha from the start, and you are assured fine service in his hands. Beyond the bar, the space gets darker and more isolated, but Real Girl has heard it makes the perfect spot for a hot date. You’ll find people here who enjoy quality, but in an unpretentious, un-self-conscious manner. Here you will find clientele looking not for a scene, but for character and standards.

Character, high standards, and delicious, classic, timeless cocktails. Now isn’t that an amalgamation to make Real Girl smile.


Delicious, finely crafted cocktails

Fresh, unique, high quality ingredients

Specialized, trained bartenders

Elegant, unpretentious atmosphere

21 Essex Street, Lower East Side


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July 2010


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