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510 Hudson Street, New York, US
THE NAME IS A MISNOMER, since this is a bar for everyone. Indeed if it were for ‘employees only’, then it’d be pretty empty since, as much as the drinks industry loves an industry bar, it’s not exactly sustainable as a business concept.
What is sustainable is regular punters and a stream of new custom, and this place has both - a relentless waterfall of drinkers that comprises faithful followers and newbies. All come, safe in the knowledge that a good time will be ensured by the excellent staff.
As a result, Employees is a bar that goes off nearly every night of the week - be it a Saturday or a Monday it consistently delivers a lively vibe, excellent service and a quality drink. That it is has been achieving as much for 10 years is no doubt reason enough to feature in the top 10 of this list.
We shouldn’t base a choice on appearances, but it helps that Employees is easy on the eye, particularly the sultry, sleek and curvaceous bar. Its steely gleaming top bounces all-too familiar New York dim lighting back up to that tried and tested pressed tin ceiling and, when you dab a few flecks of Art Deco to the fixtures and fittings, you might fear this is simply another Prohibition throwback.
While the theme is intact, the bar is far from samey. Indeed, the only uniform thoughts you’ll consider are those the staff are wearing because, as beautiful as the space is, all eyes are on the bartenders.
Shaking, stirring, mixing and matching, the staff flow in a finely choreographed performance and flex a menu that challenges the classic connoisseur as much as the modern maestro. The drinksmithery is as worthy as a Broadway show.
Anyone who embarks on an evening with the view that eating is cheating will not be welcome, since the food is taken seriously. Substantial dishes and sensational bar snacks make it a safe haven for all nocturnal endeavours.
Elsewhere, it’s clean, tidy, it has a floor and toilets, so what more do you want? Well, it might be worth referring back to the bar team, since all plaudits should surely rest at their feet - or in their hands at least. The venue has bartending pedigree, established by the likes of Dushan Zaric, a man who has plied his trade since 1992 and one who excels in working with new and complex flavours, The man has overseen a train load of talent.
This is what tips the balance in the small margins of a top 10 list. Bartenders around the world would benefit from a night serving in a bar that blends high volume custom with supreme drinks integrity. It is this that makes Employees Only one of the best.