Reimagining the traditional whiskey experience for today
Written by Greg Dillon
Lauded as one of the best bars in New York, and even the world, The Flatiron Room has an envious whiskey list, fabulous menu and an incredible atmosphere with live music and great servers.
The Flatiron Room was first opened in 2012 and has become one of the most renowned bars in New York.
Their founder, Tommy Tardie envisioned The Flatiron Room as a dining experience with a difference. Tardie has a history of working in the hospitality industry, an experience he has found rewarding and wanted to run a bar that also brought in his other love – whiskey.
He has said of The Flatiron Room, “I think some places use the moniker ‘whiskey bar’ to mean a rough and tumble atmosphere. We didn’t want to call ourselves a whiskey bar, per se, rather a ‘fine spirits parlour’.
“We didn’t want to alienate ourselves to people who think they don’t like whiskey.”
Nothing could be more true; as you sit at your table perusing the menu and casually people watching, you notice that not everyone is there for the whiskey, and that’s ok, more than ok, they are catered for with other drinks or introduction flights of whiskey for them to try and, who knows, it may even draw them in to the category.
The phrase ‘fine spirits parlour’ is very important here. It captures exactly what The Flatiron Room is. It isn’t exactly your typical bar where you go to enjoy a dram every now and then.
Tardie has not just created a restaurant and bar, but an experience. The Flatiron Room was created so people could indulge in some of the best whiskey and the most delicious food with an amazing ambiance and live music. It is a luxurious venue, with a highly personalized feel and a lot of small details that do make a big difference.
For instance, you can buy a bottle and enjoy it through the night, and then return it to the Bottle Keep service, for whenever you come back. It’s a great way to get customers to return, but also to feel a bit special when they get there – especially when you bring friends or colleagues and you already have your very own bottle of Bourbon waiting for you. Nice touch.
Their cocktail menu is something well worth poring over…
The decor is elegant and has a speakeasy feel to it, but with more substance and heart. It is the perfect place to drink whiskey and enjoy good music, and although there are many tables, you feel like you’re enjoying a private dining experience with some soulful music all to yourselves.
Tardie wanted to create a destination with a throwback to aristocratic wealth, to capture that spirit and that feeling you would have gotten back in the day when the door closes behind you once you have entered the restaurant and just enjoy what’s in front of and around you without dwelling on time, location, or any other external factors.
The whiskey list
Famed chef, Anthony Bourdain, once said of The Flatiron Room that it, “Has a really good whiskey list. It’s really well-curated. I’m very aware of their list”, when asked about the best places to drink in NYC.
It would be safe to say, that with a whiskey list that includes over 1,000 bottles, The Flatiron Room is probably one of the best places to enjoy a whiskey in the world.
Guests are presented with the Whiskey Bible upon arrival, and you’ll find every kind of dram available; and it doesn’t stop at just whiskeys either. Its cocktail menu is something well worth poring over (and having poured for you). You will find a new favorite that you’ll be ordering at every other bar once you experience it here, that’s for sure… the experimental nature of their work is superb too, weaving flavors together from different drinks categories, such as whiskey and sherry, which work well together in perfect harmony.
One of the key things that draws people to The Flatiron Room is the knowledge that the staff have of whiskey. They know everything there is to know about the stuff, from every part of the world and every category that has ever existed. I was incredibly impressed by their genuine passion – a passion that cannot be taught, but that they must spend a long time hiring for. They are so keen to share that knowledge. Ask them anything and they have the answer, or better still, ask for a recommendation, and they will know exactly what you want.
When we visited, it was clear that the staff were very well trained to serve whiskey, however the customer wants to drink it, no judgements, no questions, only a bit of guidance here and there on if one should have water with certain whiskeys to open up the flavor to make it even better.
The whole idea behind The Flatiron Room is for people to enjoy their drinks. That’s why there is a breadth of whiskeys from around the world available – from local New York brands and products to Japanese and new world whiskeys too, and that’s why the staff know their stuff.
In terms of New York, this place stands out as being one of the rare locations that you want to get dressed up to visit, knowing full well you will be having one of the best meals in the state, while also being given the rare opportunity to enjoy life as it should be, offline, with the atmosphere of the people, place and music bringing the whole experience together.