New Yorkers are lining up around the block to get into Broken Shaker, a new cocktail bar that sits atop the Freehand Hotel in Gramercy Park. But there, on the 18th floor, you won’t find the pricey bottle service and snobby clientele common to many hot spots.
“Everybody’s welcome and treated the same,” says co-owner Gabe Orta, 39, who runs the group of subtly tropical watering holes with buddy Elad Zvi. “We’re not changing the foundation of what Shaker is about: We want everyone to feel like they’re at home.”
With its straw-shaded light fixtures and brightly patterned wallpaper, the wood-paneled space feels like an Afro-Caribbean rec room. Funk, reggae and soul emanate from an old-school, reel-to-reel audio tape and DJs will spin on occasion. A huge outdoor space wraps around the indoor bar, offering 360-degree views of Midtown, along with plenty of out-of-the-way nooks perfect for discreet canoodling.
On a recent night, the clientele was a mix of creative types, tech guys and Instagram babes — quite a different crowd than the one that previously occupied the space.
“Apparently Joey Ramone once lived in the hotel [back when it was a fleabag called the George Washington] and Keith Haring hung out here,” says Zvi. “ The outdoor part of the bar used to be a sun deck. The indoor part was a game room.”
The first Broken Shaker launched in 2012, originally as a pop-up at the Freehand in Miami. It quickly gained a loyal following, thanks to its fresh juice-infused cocktails and mellow atmosphere. It has since expanded to other Freehand outposts — each with its own distinct feel.
For New York, head bartender Evan Hawkins, formerly of the acclaimed Mother’s Ruin, has created a number of drinks (all $16) inspired by the Big Apple. They include the tequila-based Curry in a Hurry, named for a nearby Indian spot of the same name, and the Smillie, a beet-based cordial that honors Orta and Zvi’s friend, Upland chef Justin Smillie. There’s even a bagel-based drink.
The Poppyseed Bagel Fizz is made by soaking poppy seed bagels from downtown’s Black Seed in water, sugar and yeast overnight and then mixing the resulting liquid with liquor.
“We create a kind of bagel beer and use it to make a gin fizz,” says Zvi. Expect more New York-specific drinks in the future, along with bar games such as Jenga, chess and backgammon.
“We used to visit [NYC] every month to be inspired,” says Orta. “Now, being here and actually living here, we’re finding new ways to be inspired all the time. It all ties together.”
A concise, international menu features elevated bar food from South American arepas to Middle Eastern dips.
Locals who loved the Florida original are thrilled to have a Broken Shaker of their own.
“I felt like I was traveling to Florida without having to buy an airline ticket,” says Gary Toriello, 52, a web designer from Jersey City, who praised the balanced cocktails and nice glassware. “I’ll definitely be back.”