The liquid lunch may be a relic of the past, but the liquid dinner is just arriving.
The founder of a "secret" society of wine and cocktail connoisseurs is importing his concept from Chicago to a larger New York market this January.
"It's really based on the dining clubs that you see very frequently around New York and Chicago and very foodie cities," said Owen Meyer, 31, the founder of Wine & Whiskey NYC and a sister operation launched in the Windy City in 2014.
But unlike the traditional supper club, where guests sit down to a multi-course meal, Wine & Whiskey NYC will invite members to mingle — at a different bar in lower Manhattan or Brooklyn each time — over several "courses" of cocktails, wine or spirits prepared by a different bartender. There will also be complementary nibbles, art installations, and live music.
Here's the "secret" part: guests won't receive emails revealing the locations of the weekly parties or the names of their featured mixologists until, at the earliest, seven days before.
Wine & Whiskey pop-ups will function not only as experiential social mixers for members, but research and development labs for the bartenders and wine sommeliers catering them.
"A lot of bars nowadays are doing really crazy things with their cocktails, but it's almost in an inapproachable way," said Meyer, who previously worked for the spirits manufacturer Beam Suntory and keeps a list of established bartenders like Annemarie Sagoi and the men behind The Aviary.
Attendees at his club's events will receive scorecards to rate the evening's courses and give their feedback on the overall menu.
With rosemary sprigs, a bartender garnishes some digestifs made with fernet, peach, lemon and honeydew foam (credit: Wine & Whiskey NYC)
After sampling cocktails like the D.B. Cooper (pumpkin spice infused marshmallow and rum syrup pumpkin liqueur, demarara zacapa syrup) or the Chai 'n' Low (Auschentoshan triple wood scotch, plum bitters, chai foam), they'll leave with freebies such as boozy art stencils and oak bottles to age their own wine at home.
So just how much will a membership set you back?
Wine & Whiskey is charging $175 a year, a sum that covers all tax and gratuity costs, according to Meyer. On top of that, reservation fees for individual events will range between $65 and $95.
To keeps things exclusive, the club is capping off its initial membership at 2,500. After that, you'll have to get a referral from a current member to join, or an invitation from a member to attend one party.
As of Thursday, Wine & Whiskey had already recruited more than 1,000 members, Meyer said. Events will accommodate between 25 and 200 guests, depending on the size of the venue. (Meyer dropped the names of the Williamsburg speakeasy PDT and the '70s-themed East Village bar Vnyl as venue contenders.)
Is Meyer at all worried about guests not being able to hold the five drinks they'll be served in 2.5 hours?
"We have never had one issue," said Meyer, who is moving back to New York from Chicago this weekend. "People are there for the experience just as much as the curated liquids — they know their limits of enjoyment when it comes to imbibing."