Beneath Korean steakhouse Cote’s hanging dry-aged steaks and sizzling grill tops is a verdant oasis long in the making. Owner Simon Kim’s underground escape, appropriately called Undercote, has been the talk of New York’s cocktail scene since it was supposed to open last September. (We were even talking about it back in January!) After a year’s worth of buzz, Kim finally opened his serene space to the public a little under two weeks ago alongside Nordic cocktail creator Sondre Kasin and beverage director Victoria James.
As if by magic, a lush terrarium behind the bar and a wild plant wall in the back both thrive despite the lack of natural lighting.
Photo by Sayaka Ueno
A romantic moodiness is in the air when you first walk through Undercote’s curtains. Strategic lighting built within the tables and illuminating the bar creates an indoor moonlight glow, while electro-noir instrumentals add an additional enigmatic vibe. And, as if by magic, a lush terrarium behind the bar and a wild plant wall in the back both thrive despite the lack of natural lighting in the subterranean space.Illustrations of ferns and shrubbery grace the menu pages, donning suggestive identifications like Fuzzy Handcuffs and Ribbed for Her Pleasure. (Only a botanist can tell you whether those are real plants.) Atypical ingredients like vodka infused with catnip, orange blossom-kissed honey, and soju with a nutty sesame kick make the bespoke libations worth their high—$20 to $30!—prices.But there are added incentives when ordering some of the spirited sippers. In the case of the I Shot the Sherry, But I Did Not Shoot The Daiquiri, your citrus rum cocktail comes with a separate sophisticated cordial glass almost filled to the brim with the fortified wine. Submerged at the bottom of the Cola Nerve Tonic, meanwhile, is a plump cherry soaked with plenty of perfumed sweet vermouth and bold Campari.
The Purrrfect. Photo by Sayaka Ueno
Undercote’s approach comes full circle inside and around a modern matte teacup. You wouldn’t expect a whey-based cocktail like the Raspberry Beret to be as fruity as it is, judging solely by looks alone. Beneath the white frothy top, though, is a bounty of bright flavors harmoniously shaken together. The macerated framboise stands out at first, but subtle tastes of yuzu-infused sake become more prominent the deeper you get into your cup. Additional hits of Cocchi Americano (an aromatized wine) and lemon juice also come into play by the time you hit your last sip. What could be better than a surprisingly tangy tipple, you ask? A complimentary slab of dense white chocolate served on the side, eliminating the need for a post-drink dessert run.
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