There have been more than a few evenings where I’d walk through Union Square on my way to my usual, and I’d see someone or a couple standing around, staring at their phones, holding it out in front of them, a magic mirror looking for something. It’s close. It’s nearby. But they don’t know where it is.
I have to study them. Size them up. Decide if they’re worth sharing the secret with; I share it, because the secret is worth sharing.
“You looking for Backbar?” I ask.
“Yes!” they say, relieved.
“Come on, follow me.”
To be fair, it’s in an alley with no lights. It looks like a staff entrance to a restaurant. Then past that entrance, there’s a concrete passage, and then there’s a metal door that looks like it might ask for password. But then you open the door, and emerge into this delightful open space with laughter, and music. It will all feel like a beautiful secret.
There have been many cocktail bars that have opened in the last few years but there’s only one Backbar. The industrial and graffiti aesthetic is far beyond the typical 1920s style that others have copied. The menu is not just whiskey and gin, but also Italian amaro, locally distilled rums, and homemade syrups. The bartenders will make flawless standards: Old Fashioned’s and martinis, but they may also tempt you with a margarita garnished with flame roasted chilies. They play by their own rules and they play with pride.