Molecular gastronomy and art collide at Straylight, the new bar from cocktail star Dorothy Elizabeth now open below Juku in Chinatown. Elizabeth, an Eater Young Gun, has created a la carte and tasting menus that rely on her degree in organic chemistry and mathematics.
Famed cocktailier Jamie Jones collaborated with Elizabeth on the menu, which focuses on highly precise drinks that don’t sacrifice a sense of whimsy: The “shiso dumbo” is a shiso-infused, coconut-washed gin with lemon that’s served in an elephant-shaped teacup. Drinks here are definitely on the higher end of Manhattan prices, running from $15 to $27. The full menu is below. (There’s also some small-plate food served at Straylight, including karaage, anchovy crackers, and more.)
“With everything I do, I try to have a lot of fun. I am a tried-and-true Detroit techno club kid,” Elizabeth says. “So as opposed to having a lot of pretense and seriousness around my cocktails, I want to make sure people can have fun with them and they’re not scared of the ingredients when they’re reading it or the way they’re presented is a really fun manner.”
Elizabeth made a name for herself at Standby in Detroit, using her advanced science background to inform her drink-making. (She’s returning to New York to be closer to family.) Though that shiso dumbo drink has a very playful presentation, she puts in hours of work to get it to that point: Purple shiso leafs are infused into gin, turning it purple through sous vide, after which it is fat washed — the process of bonding alcohol and fat molecules through refrigeration to leave a richer texture — with coconut oil for a more unctuous mouthfeel. In another drink, Elizabeth torches the end of an entire orange peel and rests it inside a glass like a flower, so that the scent of orange wafts up while drinking the rye whiskey. She cites the now-closed, but influential Booker and Dax as inspiration.
But just as important to this bar as the drinks is the space. Juku and Straylight are co-owned by Max Levai, who is big in the art world, and he’s recruited some major names to decorate. While works from artists like Tony Matelli, Roe Ethridge, and Julius Von Bismarck sit upstairs, renowned artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe are behind the entrance into the space, intentionally designed to transport drinkers to an entirely different place.
Freeman and Lowe have revisited their “Stray Light” exhibit from a few years back, bringing in that same fun house vibe to a Pepto-pink, fluorescent-lit staircase that depicts a fictitious wellness center. It’s lined with fake wellness products and posters like a trippy zombie ad with a phone number that, when called, leads to a real estate agency. The actual bar area farther in is much warmer, with a canvas ceiling that mimics stained glass, lots of mosaics inspired by painter Asger Jorn’s work, jewel-toned green banquettes, and dark wood.
Straylight is open Thursday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.