A new cocktail bar with tropical vibes hits Chelsea today, serving snacks that span several cuisines alongside its colorful drinks.
Jungle Bird at 174 Eighth Ave., at West 19th Street comes from Krissy Harris, who previously served as head bartender at Gramercy Tavern and an opening partner at Bowery drinking spot the Wren. While her background is in fine dining, Harris tells Eater that with Jungle Bird she wanted to return to a throwback, 1950s-era when drinking cocktails was less buttoned up. Think high balls and funky garnishes and punch bowls.
Though it’s tropical, the drinks are not tiki, which is its own specific style that is more ornate than what Harris says she’s doing at Jungle Bird. Here, the drinks will skew dryer and also feature few ingredients. Fruits like papaya, grapefruit, calamansi, passionfruit, and pineapple make appearances.
All the cocktails are $15 and include the “moon river,” made with rum, calamansi, and Sichuan peppercorn syrup. There’s also the “easy living,” a tropical take on a spritz made with sparkling wine, Aperol, papaya, honey, and lime. The eponymous “jungle bird” is a punch with pineapple rum, Campari, contratto aperitif, and lime, served on tap in a single portion or $60 for the table.
To go with the drinks, there are snacks with South East Asian flavors, such as crispy rice bites made with rice, Chinese duck sausage, sesame, nori, bonito and tonkatsu sauce. There’s also a coconut curry hummus, a Thai beef jerky and pickle board, and a turmeric chicken salad. Three kinds of banh mi are also on the menu, including curried chicken, crispy yellow yam, and caramelized pork.
The food comes from chef Russell Cowen, who most recently worked at Terroir on the High Line and before that at the now-closed Fatty Crab. Harris says she sat down with Cowen to work out the drink and food menus and ensure that they would be compatible, asking each other “if I’m drinking this cocktail, what do I want to be eating?” As such, some ingredients, like papaya and ginger, appear on both menus. See the drinks and food menus in full below.
The drinks and snacks are served in a mid-century modern room with dark blues, orange, and red popping against white. It’s a two-level space with a main bar downstairs and another upstairs called the “canopy room,” which is also available for private events. Abstract paintings by the LA-based artist Jessalyn Brooks are featured throughout.
The idea, Harris says, is for the bar to have a sense of escapism to it.
“We all like going on tropical vacations outside of New York, right?” she says. “We can also have that in the city.”
Tropical bars and restaurants have indeed proliferated in the city in recent years, including recent openings like the Miami-import Broken Shaker and the flashy but troubled seasonal Tulum import Gitano. While Jungle Bird is going all in on the tropical vibes for its drinks and food, its look is more reigned in and less theme-y, bringing retro but sleek vibes to the space. Jungle Bird also adds to a neighborhood that dosen’t have many cocktail bars. It opens daily at 3 p.m.