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Harlem Cocktail Lounge Looks to Mix With City's Top Bars

By Jeff Mays | February 18, 2011 1:00pm | Updated on February 19, 2011 8:57am
67 Orange Street, Harlem's only cocktail lounge.
67 Orange Street, Harlem's only cocktail lounge.
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DNAInfo/Jeff Mays

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM— The owner of a Harlem cocktail lounge is looking to mix it up with the city's top bartenders.

Karl Franz Williams, the owner of  67 Orange Street, is lobbying for a spot in the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, "an annual celebration of the myriad points of intersection between cocktails and culture."

Williams' proposed seminar, "Harlem’s Speakeasies and the Impact on Today’s Cocktail Culture," is about the history of bars in the neighborhood, which was dotted with hundreds of underground drinking spots in the 1920s and 1930s.

He's the only Harlem-based bar tender vying to participate in the festival.

"Harlem has always been key to New York nightlife," Williams said.

"It was the place to go in New York City for a long time, so there is a lot of great history there to be shared.

"And Harlem nightlife is coming back."

Williams hopes to talk about that history, illustrating it with his cocktails.  67 Orange Street is known for drinks such as the Moscow Mule, made from organic artisanal vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime juice and simple syrup.

"Most of our peers are downtown because the cocktail culture began downtown, and that continues to be the hub of cocktail culture," said Williams, who also owns Society Cafe. Both establishments are on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which has experienced a bar and restaurant boom recently.

"People are starting to recognize the potential for Harlem. For a while it was just a market for residential retail. But the other side, services, is changing drastically," he said.

Cocktail lovers voted to include their favorite seminars. The winners will be announced next month.