The “Mad Men” craze sparked the return of a number of retro trends. Bartenders are finally pouring proper cocktails and women’s sheaths and pencil skirts are returning to store shelves. But no homage to the good old days is complete without the speakeasy and New York City has one of the country’s chicest versions.
Named after a 19th-century New York State liquor tax, the Raine’s Law Room on 17th street is an elegant throwback to a bygone era. Erotic wallpaper, vintage mirrors and large cameos adorn the walls; a bearskin rug, leather couches and antiques dot the main room; burgundy velvet banquettes enclosed in black chiffon drapes line the middle room and a dark Art Deco bar encompasses the back. A tin roof trimmed with gold-embossed Art Deco stencils and jazz emanating from the speakers complete the feeling. One can imagine Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner sharing a coze and a Sidecar in one of the intimate corners.
This is not your typical high-end lounge. You won’t fight hipsters or fashionistas for a choice spot and the noise level never gets above a mild din. Host Paul-Alexandre Meurens greets patrons at the door but only allows them entrance if a seat is available. This may sound exclusionary but Raine’s Law is relatively egalitarian. Meurens takes down numbers and calls prospective patrons when space is free. While no one is turned away, Raine’s Law does frown upon too casual clothing so dust off that suit and Prada oxfords.
The bartenders aren’t your garden variety models waiting for their big break. They actually know what they’re doing and painstakingly concoct classic cocktails such as the Rum Old Fashioned and Spyglass and signature potions such as the Communist’s Daughter and Champs Elysees. During the spring and summer, Raine’s Law grows herbs in its backyard garden for use in seasonal cocktails. Service is attentive without being obsequious so sit back, relax and savor a delicious beverage in a hand-blown vintage glass.
—Shandana A. Durrani