Apotheke is where mixologists in pharmacist-style garb whip up complex cocktails using fresh ingredients, different liquors, and absinthe. The bar is nestled in an off-the-beaten path hideaway in Chinatown where the lines between toxic pleasure and intimate debauchery become very blurred.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Ryan Kirk Contributing writer
If they call New York City a melting pot, then Apotheke is the pot calling the kettle hot. It’s home to a conundrum of cultures that have all crossed paths on Doyers Street, which was once coined The Bloody Angle. The term was not given for brothers making oaths in blood but instead for the fact that the unique S-curve street is home to the Five Points area and is the very road that was once a battleground for Chinese and Irish gangs. This area is now home to Manhattan’s Chinatown. Apotheke was the first of its kind, a bar inspired by European apothecaries and creatively influenced by Paris’s absinthe dens of the 19th century.
The name Apotheke, which is German for pharmacy, is more than fitting, as the experience here transcends heading out for a casual cocktail but isn’t quite like going to see your general practitioner, either… The mixologists dress in pharmacist-style attire and play the part of someone mad. Although they’d like us to think they’re mad scientists, we still aren’t sure if the coats aren’t just a ruse and they’re actually ageless magicians who keep making each drink run out faster than the last. Wait, maybe that’s the absinthe.
Whichever cocktail you decide on, its preparation is all part of the experiment – sorry, experience.
The chemistry of each drink can’t be overlooked. There’s an herb garden on the roof of the bar, and every cocktail is made with fresh ingredients and herbs. Each drink is served in uniquely shaped Austrian crystal glasses, which are handpicked for each libation. Their seasonal cocktail categories are Health and Beauty, Painkillers, Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs, Euphoric Enhancers, and Stress Relievers. Our CYTIES favorite is their Devil’s Playground: Gin, Absinthe, local dragon fruit, prickly pear, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar. Whichever cocktail you decide on, its preparation is all part of the experiment – sorry, experience. Especially when the walls start to move. Wait, was that also the absinthe?
Apotheke has long been the center of mischief, depending on how far you want to turn your time machines back – or which skeleton you dig up to ask. During the mid 19th century, its location was one of the bloodiest streets in New York. The physical location of the bar’s notorious foundation was once a Chinese opium den; if you’ve seen The Knick, then you get the idea. If not, just imagine a hidden place in a vast city, a room that steals your soul for a few hours and leaves you in a hypnotic trance. The consciousness of the bar goes deep, and we mean physically, as rumor has it that its underground leads to hidden tunnels that the Mob once used. Don’t quote us on that – but with the bar’s past life, would it surprise you at all?
Apotheke isn’t a spot you just “run into,” smack dab in Chinatown on its unusual street. It is surrounded by Chinese hair salons, and even when you’re looking for it, you’ll have to do a double take, unless you find a crowd outside. The door keeping people out, or sealing them in, is a 200-year-old door with a sliding peephole. Once inside, the magic begins, and it all starts on their custom-built bar with imported marble. Most nights of the week, they’ve got live music or a DJ, which provide a soundtrack for an evening that is rife with past and present dramatic – but unquestionably satisfying – experiences.
A lot of cultures have their hands on this fascinating night-crawler of an evening escape, and you can feel it in the air. If you look closely, you can still see the smoke from the opium and the nicks in the concrete from the battles. You can even feel the remedy in their apothecary concoctions. One more thing: make sure to keep a sharp lookout for the Green Fairy, because that, that is definitely the absinthe.
Absinthe rules the ranks in this bar, don’t be scared to ganter in the vices that may push your limits and send your brain soaring deep into the cosmos.
The mixologists are in pharmacist-style garb. True to their science
Good luck finding the bar, it hides amongst the Chinese hair salons that run the block
But right when you think you can’t find it. You will… No one likes a quitter