Located on the Financial District’s historic Stone Street (a small, cobblestone street filled with lots of happening bars and restaurants), Underdog has been one of the highlights of NYC’s rapidly evolving bar scene. After opening as a cocktail-focused space on one floor back in 2014, it re-launched in 2018 as a new two-level bar, with the lower-level as a stone cavernous-type space reminiscent of medieval times. Managing Partner, Anthony Malone wanted to expand the Underdog offerings to both floors and allow guests to order a specialized drink or great craft beer and enjoy them in an approachable environment - foregoing the need to choose one bar over the other, as the previous space was just a run-of-the-mill bar named The Growler.
The cocktail-led menu conceived by Head Bartender Josh Baker, and Creative Director Conor Myers, a 2017 Bacardi Legacy Global finalist for his home country, Ireland, took classic drinks and made them Underdog’s own with fun, modern riffs on the originals. “This bar revolves around flavors and inspirations that make you feel relaxed and not threatened to order something outside your comfort zone,” explains Myers. “We like to look at classics, modern classics, terrible classics and try to recreate them in the best way and in our own way. The look on people's faces when they order a Dirty Negroni, a Salty Dog or a Pornstar Martini and [they] don't know if they should like it or not really makes me happy.” Although the Frozen Pornstar Martini is currently off-menu, it is a must-have once the warmer weather rolls back around.
Taking an old-school cocktail like the Salty Dog - a variation of the famous 1930s - 1940s’ Greyhound cocktail - they took the classic ingredients of this cocktail which are historically vodka and grapefruit juice and used a bit of their “mixological” prowess to evolve the drink a bit. For their new twist, they used Dave Arnold’s Spinzall (an affordable centrifuge) which the team used to clarify the fresh grapefruit juice. Then they add Grey Goose Vodka, some Dolin Blanc Vermouth to round off the bitterness of the grapefruit and then they keg it - yes, keg it (epic). “We use a special carbonating stone that has a minuscule micro fibre mesh,” explains Myers. “When the Co2 is pushed through, it exerts so much pressure that it pushes the liquid through the wire mesh and creates these, almost, Prosecco-sized bubbles, which really adds to the wonderful texture of the drink.” To garnish this nerdy upgrade on the classic, they use the remnant grapefruit pulp from the clarification process, and dehydrate it (by baking in the oven) with sea salt - creating a perfect garnish to dust the rim with.
Also famously available at Underdog is their Frozen Pornstar Martini - a legendary modern classic which is especially popular in the U.K (whether it is loved or hated, it’s still popular). To poke fun at the “basic-ness” of the drink, Myers tops the frozen (slushee) version of this classic with a glitter syrup - because he can. Let’s just say that the amount of this drink sold this past summer was anything but basic.
Beyond their playful, mindfully executed cocktails that the team at Underdog put together, they also have some serious grub that will knock your socks off. Get the burger and disco fries, and never look back. You will need something of substance in your stomach while sitting at this watering hole - trust me on this one.
From the moment you walk in, especially when Myers is behind the bar, you will be welcomed with an enthusiastic grin like you’re about to get into some kind of fun that you weren’t ready for, but are excited to have. Although Myers’ bartending pedigree is as legitimate as could be, he just wants to have a good time with his patrons. “I suppose my style is thinking outside the box,” he says. “Giving the two fingers up to conventional drinking and attitudes. I hate bartenders that take themselves too seriously, and I hate programs that feel like a Hipster Greenwich Village Art Show in the 80's.” Don’t mistake Myers’ fun for a lack of professionalism, though. This curated bar program is one that he takes great pride in, and rightfully so. No matter what you order on the menu, you are bound to have a good time - because they made it that way.
It is easy to get lost in the vast ocean of NYC bars, but Underdog is a genuine pearl and you would be remiss to not pop-in for a visit. Between the people running the place, the historic location, and the delicious drinks and food, it is always at the top of my list when I’m in town. Whether you are with a group of friends and want to have a festive night out, or want to go there to kick-it and have a few drinks alone, or with a date, Underdog is the perfect fit. “At the end of the day we are a local neighborhood bar,” Myers, says. “I want people to walk in here at Lunch time or at 3am, order some food, relax, have a drink and feel like they are at home. It's my perfect combination of pub hospitality and happy cocktailing.... is that a word?”
Visit Underdog - 55 Stone Street, New York, NY 10004. @underdog_nyc