Real Girl Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘NYC

An old New York gem and the best smelling place in the city.

Visiting McNulty’s is a treat even for those who don’t drink tea or coffee–so just imagine what kind of pilgrimage awaits for serious connoisseurs of a fine hot beverage.

Conveniently just steps from the Christopher Street subway station, McNulty’s still remains a century behind its neighbors. What you notice first is the aroma: Freshly ground coffee of every kind mingling together to create a coffee scent’s Platonic ideal. And the grinding is always as fresh as can be, right there in front of you, measured out on the kind of old-fashioned scales you imagine McNulty’s has used for ages.

I discovered McNulty’s years ago while looking for a gift to give the woman who has everything. Considering her love for tea, I figured I’d head to Chinatown and find some exotic blend she’d never had before. But then I happened by this charming looking gingerbread house of a tea and coffee shop, and I knew I’d found my tea-lover’s gift. I’m sure the boxes and tins of teas that line the wooden shelves are all worthwhile, but the big glass jars at the heart of the store are irresistible. From black teas to green and white teas to the most colorful, potion-esque flavored teas, McNulty’s selection will be like none you’ve ever seen before. One can easily imagine this shop along Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, indiscriminately hanging out between the cauldron and the wand shop. My gift’s recipient was delighted with her simple brown paper bag filled with colorful, leafy tea seemingly straight out of 1895, when the store first opened its doors.

The experienced staff will advise you on your coffee needs should you seek their advice. Ask for a dark blend, a medium or light one, perhaps by region. The selection is endless, even including organic and flavored decaffeinated. I never stray far from my favorite (caffeinated) flavored option, coconut. McNulty’s coconut coffee is by far the best I’ve ever tasted. As soon as they pour the beans onto that big metal scale you can see why–actual shreds of toasted coconut intertwine throughout the beans, just waiting to be ground together into a silky, aromatic blend. Make sure to inhale. The fragrance ¬†absolutely intoxicates.

The store itself manages to stay remarkably true to its turn-of-the-last-century origins without feeling overly quaint or fey. This is no Disney recreation of 1895. Instead, the atmosphere conjures a time when products were sold free of marketing or media or (self-conscious wink) blog recommendations. Of course that would be an illusion–advertising and marketing go back as far as merchants have been selling–but rather than conjuring a touristy version of charm, McNulty’s instead feels like it’s giving you the essence of coffee and tea. In a city sometimes skimming dangerously along the surface, here you find a bastion of authenticity.

I admit I have a coffee addiction. But oh–oh, McNulty’s sure turns what may be a vice into an emporium of delight.

I would love New York less without it.


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


December 2018
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