New York City-Lower East Manhattan
May 11, 2018
The latest addition to Sasha Petraske’s roster of cocktail bars is a bright and airy two-storey space in a refurbished antiques store in Murray Hill. Petraske opened the now renowned Milk & Honey on the Lower East Side back in 2000, sparking a cocktail bar revival which is still continuing today and of which he remains at the forefront. There’s now a branch of Milk & Honey in London and his portfolio includes bars like Little Branch and Silver Lining. Petraske’s bars have always focused firmly on the drinks, conjuring some of the magic of the cocktail bars of old while being alert to the wants of 21st century crowd. Middle Branch will be overseen by Lucinda Sterling, a veteran of Little Branch, from which this is a spin-off. Spread over two floors, there’s a small seated area upstairs and standing room for around 30 people downstairs. The décor exudes that subtle speakeasy vibe that fans of Petraske have come to expect (crimson banquettes, candle-light, an original period fireplace and a hip but relaxed atmosphere along with a set of ‘house rules’ to keep things civilised) and the cocktail list echoes the Prohibition-era theme, though not slavishly. The Queen’s Park Swizzle is a potent mix of rum and mint while the Island Old-Fashioned also blends aged rum with Velvet Falernum. They serve a spot-on Pisco Sour and the dapper, waist-coated bartenders are more than happy to tailor drinks to particular tastes or knock up a classic cocktail. The results are typically classy and chilled though the acoustics mean it can feel a bit louder than some of Petraske’s other joints; live jazz nights are promised in future as is a menu of small plates and snacks.