The season is nearly but a fleeting memory. Judging by the oppressive humidity and chronic downpours that have wrecked havoc on our mean (clean?) streets, though, we might be OK with saying goodbye a little bit early to this summer. If your lips are yearning for a final taste of the lazy, hazy rays that won’t have you knocked out on a hammock until the next morning, have Dave Arnold make you a drink at Existing Conditions.
It’s been a moment since the mixology master has shaken up New York’s cocktail scene—his last major endeavour, Booker and Dax, closed in 2016—but Arnold’s return to the nightlife scene acts more as a collaborative showcase. Behind the Existing Conditions bar with him are two of the industry’s most influential drink-meisters: Cocktail Kingdom founder Greg Boehm and PDT’s former beverage director, Don Lee.
You’d think you would need a bigger wallet with a dream team like this. Instead you’re transported to an unpretentious space that urges you to relax for a few New York minutes—unrefined wood floors that creak just a tad, a dark fireplace with remnants of embers from yesteryear, a ceiling window looking toward the urban sky. Even the libations lineup, highlighting the techniques that made the trio famous in their own right, remains approachable. Arnold meddles with muddling and liquid nitrogen to infuse urfa biber (Turkish chili pepper) into sherry and saffron into gin; Lee washes homey treats (waffles, popcorn) with strong spirits (bourbon, rum); and signature sippers like the Manhattan and martini can be retrieved in bottles via vending machine. (Best vending machine ever? Perhaps!)
The Remedy, however, is the one cocktail that best defines Existing Conditions’s elevated comfort. Swimming in a Collins glass are standard ingredients perfect for an Orange Julius but, of course, made with a twist. Additional acid is added to the orange juice base to let its natural citric qualities sing, while afternotes of dulce de leche come in the form of condensed coconut milk, caramelized with a pressure cooker. Two types of rum (dark pineapple and pressed cane sugar) send this sipper straight to the beach, which is appropriate considering the crushed ice cubes have the look and feel of pebbles on the sand. Who needs a trip to the tropics when you can just drink it instead?
Maybe this summer can be saved after all.