CLOSED~ Considered one of the best bars in the world, George Washington Bar at Freehand NYC operates within a refurbished library room on the second floor of the historic building that was once the George Washington Hotel. The dwelling highlights the remnants of yesteryear in a classic, highbrow manner, all without the rules and restrictions of your average, garden variety speakeasy revival.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Dakota Nate Contributing writer
When you consider the history of a building seasoned over a century, especially one that was occupied by thousands of tenants and passersby over time in what would later become the lively Flatiron District on the east side of Manhattan, you first must consider the many lives it’s lived itself. With creaking bones bolstering years of everyday life, the transient visitors over the years, and the ever-changing circumstances of each era — oh, if only the walls could talk. In the case of what was formerly The George Washington Hotel, which originally opened its doors back in 1929, the walls may tell you that a bootlegging joint was run inside during Prohibition, as well as a brothel at some point. These walls may also mention, more notably, that they housed many a creative genius through the decades, including poet W.H. Auden in the 30s, a young and ambitious Keith Haring while he studied at the School of Visual Arts in the 70s, and a presumably disheveled Dee Dee Ramone in the 90s — by the time The George Washington Hotel itself, was also presumably disheveled.
he and 54 of his closest friends once took down over 150 bottles of booze in just one wild evening at Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern in 1787.
After years in disarray with the threat of demolishment looming overhead, the aforementioned bones of the GWH needed some mending, not to mention a sage cleansing or an exorcism for heaven’s sake. Lucky for this age-old edifice, just last year Freehand Hotels, the vagabond oasis that’s planted its flag in now four major US cities, landed in the Flatiron and inhabited the former hotel. Leading individually as an artistic ode to each city, Freehand’s signature contemporary sense of kitsch flaunts betwixt each custom lineup of venues including craft cocktail bars and elevated, chef-driven eateries. What caught us by the throat during our visit to Freehand NYC (and didn’t let go until the booze had worn off) was its not-so-secret best-kept secret: George Washington Bar.
As George Washington Bar’s old-timey aesthetic filtered through dark woods and its surrounding epicurean ambiance may be mighty, the room is small, but not small in the way that you’ll be searching for an escape route upon aggressively bumping shoulders with every other patron in the place. No, instead the limited space creates an intimate atmosphere, bound to make you feel like a VIP with your own personalized experience. Considered by many as one of the best bars in the world, once you take your place at the bar, a massive painting of our founding father himself greets you from the back bar, which is increasingly more appropriate and pretty badass if you know how much our first president loved to party. The evidence shows if you are privy to the fact that he and 54 of his closest friends once took down over 150 bottles of booze in just one wild evening at Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern in 1787. Really though, look it up.
Liquid odes to the past bleed through as Prohibition-era cocktails like the Last Word and boilermakers such as the appropriately name This American Life: the simple, yet superlative combination of a Miller High Life and a shot of George Dickel Bourbon. Ben Rojo of famed Angel’s Share in the East Village is the man behind the bar program, so you can count on some surreal signature potations as well. All created with a complementary mosaic of ingredients, lovingly combined and served with each of the five senses in mind — masterpieces such as Manilla Sky, made with darjeeling vodka and coconut milk, as well as bright components of ginger, fresh lime, lychee, and pistachio are shaken with care and served flawlessly.
A menu of snacks that put an elevated twist on your average bar menu is served alongside the cocktail, beer, and wine lists and favorites such as their Pork Rillettes served with dijon and black bread crostini, can be precisely paired with your drink of choice, just inquire with your friendly bartender for a push in the right direction. As one of our new favorite haunts in NYC, we suggest you make your reservations, pick up your britches, and greet Mr. Washington yourself.
The bar is set inside the former library of the George Washington Hotel, it’s sophistication with a laid back mantra
Check out the no-frills cocktail list here, one of the best in the city
Although the doors have only been open for a year, the atmosphere feels vintage with deep woods and golden lit accents
The OG himself hangs centerstage, toast to #1 before you take a sip and reflect:
“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”— George Washington