The Library of Distilled Spirits in Union Square isn’t the first bar in New York City to boast a menu of spirits vast enough to delight jaded connoisseurs and overwhelm novices. It’s not even the first such bar to have “library” in its name; the Brandy Library in Tribeca has been going strong for more than a decade. What makes this library unique is that it combines its voluminous array of spirits with an equally impressive cocktail menu. The Library of Distilled Spirits is the brainchild of Dushan Zaric, of New York’s Employees Only, and Kyle Tran, late of the Aviary in Chicago—two of America’s finest cocktail bars—so the deep drinks menu should come as no surprise. The cocktail menu (featuring about 150 concoctions) runs the gamut of classics both ubiquitous and lesser known, and it also includes a rotating menu of original seasonal drinks. Offerings like the Devil’s Daughter (mezcal, habanero, Campari, pineapple, and allspice) and the Pretty Boy Floyd (honeydew-infused gin, kaffir lime, Cocchi Americano, and fino sherry) put the Library on par with the best bars in Manhattan.
But it’s the spirits menu that makes LDS a must-visit. There are 1,000 spirits available by the two-ounce pour, including about 400 whiskies sourced from all over the world. Among the standouts are an Old Fitzgerald bourbon bottled in 1967 ($500); the Macallan’s rare 30 Year Old Fine Oak single malt ($500); and Jazz Club, a 1993 whisky from the legendary Karuizawa distillery in Japan that ceased production in 2000 ($310). The rest of the spirits spectrum is also well-represented, with the encyclopedic menu including more than 80 rums and close to 90 tequilas. About 100 brandies are featured, encompassing the category from applejack to grappa to cognac. Even fans of clear spirits have plenty of options, with more than 30 vodkas and 60 gins. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and patient, happily educating customers as they mull over the myriad cocktail and spirits choices.
With comfy, elegant chairs and banquettes; muted, dark colors; and a soft glow emanating from the backlit bottles lining the walls, the Library feels intimate and cozy, even though it is actually quite roomy. Paired with food prepared by the chef at the neighboring Bowery Road restaurant, it’s a great place to spend an evening pouring over the massive menu—and investing in your spiritual education.