When barman Sasha Petraske opened Milk & Honey — New York's original speakeasy-styled cocktail den — 15 years ago, he didn't know how to operate a printer. So he opened without a physical menu. By the time he figured out the printer thing, it was too late. Milk & Honey had already earned a reputation as the bar with creative bespoke cocktails and no menu. But when Milk & Honey relocated to a more spacious home on 23rd Street early last year, it became a bar not only with a drink menu, but with food, too. And now the cocktail lounge is being forced to move yet again; October 25 marks the last hurrah. On a recent Tuesday night at 7 p.m., however, it was business as usual, booths were filled, barstools occupied, and eager imbibers collecting in the front parlor.
After the shutter, Petraske plans to move the bar back downtown, although he has yet to find a suitable home, despite scouting for the last six months. He's hoping to downsize (right now Milk & Honey has 68 seats as opposed to 24 at the original), and he will likely do away with food. The earliest Milk & Honey could reopen is February. But, the silver lining is that in the meantime, possibly in December, Petraske will launch a pop-up bar in Red Hook dedicated to fried chicken and margaritas. Meanwhile, he tells us about a bottle of booze with a pickled baby cobra in it, drinking on the job, and how he's managed to never, ever, have a hangover.
What's the craziest thing that's happened at Milk & Honey over the years?
The craziest thing I can not say ... We have a security camera and I once saw a one-legged man in a wheelchair chasing a cat at three o'clock in the morning. I just happened to be looking.
Most unusual drink request?
I've had people come in with challenging spirits. I once had a guy come in with a bottle filled with a bunch of herbs in a yellow liquid, but the main thing suspended in this liquid was a pickled baby cobra. It was from Thailand. And so they brought this thing in and set it down on the bar and asked me to make a cocktail with it. And the truth is that I could not improve upon it.
When you finished a shift, you reach for a...
I encourage my staff to drink on the job and you can quote me on that. So, at the end of a shift I'm probably going for breakfast.
Is there such thing as the perfect cocktail?
The cocktail bartender has a particular opinion about the question of whether there's a sound when a tree falls in the forest. The perfect cocktail is the one that is perceived as perfect at that particular time.
I've never had a hangover in my life. I drink water.