The cocktail menu at the boutique NoMad Hotel bar changes roughly every six weeks; usually as the season changes, or based on head bartender Leo Robitschek's mood. The NoMad, however, has made one sort of secret addition that makes the going out experience even more unique. Earlier this week, while at the restaurant, we were introduced to their Drinking Cards; a creative way to order cocktails.
The concept is simple. A leather folio arrives at the table and inside lies a deck of 25 or so illustrated cards that can be organized into two categories—types of alcohol (ranging from champagne to absinthe) and different moods or tastes. The latter, however, isn't so clear-cut; it requires some creative translations of the familiar faces and objects, with a little pop culture mixed in. Some examples include the porch swing ("easy drinking"), stoop ("local"), Batman ("dark"), Rolling Stones ("adventurous"), Coco Chanel ("classic") or Virgin Mary ("virgin"). Select a combination of any cards, and the bartenders will stir, shake and muddle their best interpretation into a cocktail glass. The possibilities are endless.
I chose whiskey, Oscar the Grouch, 28th street stoop and hot peppers—and enjoyed the spicy cocktail that arrived at the table. Another guest tried to game the system and chose vodka, gin, Coco Chanel and Jimmy Fallon to mentally request a Vesper and, surprisingly enough, a Vesper-like cocktail arrived—albeit with a twist.
The symbolic choosing and combining the cards for another to interpret is reminiscent of tarot cards, and the mysterious anticipation certainly elevates the atmosphere of dinner. The drinking cards are an answer for those who are indecisive, but also for those who want to try something new—and with this surefire method of subtly describing your interests, there is little room for regrets.
The lovely watercolor and ink illustrations were created by Wendy MacNaughton, a San Francisco-based illustrator and graphic designer whose work you may have seen in The New York Times or Time Magazine.
On your next visit, be sure to request the drinking cards (they aren't made public on the menu) and add an element of surprise to your night; a drinking card-inspired cocktail costs around $17. The NoMad Hotel is located at 1170 Broadway and 28th Street in Manhattan.
NoMad library bar images courtesy of Daniel Krieger, all other photos by Nara Shin