Inside Look: Library of Distilled Spirits, NYC

The Library of Distilled Spirits is more than just a shiny new cocktail bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. True to its name, it’s also a resource for spirits and cocktail history. With the mission to “pull the veil back on the massive and confusing world of distilled spirits,” beverage director Kyle Tran says, the bar’s practices and design take inspiration from the great libraries of the world.

Built in partnership with Dushan Zaric of Employee’s Only, the library boasts more than 1,000 bottles of liquor, stacked behind the bar and in glowing cubbies that make up the parlor’s impressive 16-by-20-foot floor-to-ceiling library wall. With such a staggering inventory, Zaric and Tran (formerly of the Aviary in Chicago) wanted to make the experience welcoming for guests by offering written resources upon arrival. The first is a seasonal cocktail menu with signature house cocktails and a larger cocktail book featuring more than 150 classics. There’s also a multi-volume encyclopedia that details the history and uses of each category of spirit and its role in cocktail culture. “If our guests can become less intimidated when having a conversation about spirits, it will give bars and bartenders an opportunity to share fantastic products from smaller and lesser-known producers,” says Tran.

Full recipes for all of the cocktails are disclosed in the volumes. “We see no reason to keep anything a secret,” Tran says. “We’ve chosen the best spirits to use for each cocktail, so the hope is that our guests will start thinking about the ingredients that go into their cocktails and why one gin works better than another.”

To extend the library concept into the design, the team enlisted Dutch East Design, the firm responsible for Pouring Ribbons and Rosa Mexicano. Intended to be a neighborhood gathering place that feels “eclectic, casual and chic,” design principal Larah Moravek says the architectural elements of traditional libraries translated surprisingly well to the bar. “Replacing books with liquor bottles and highlighting them with lamps and tags creates the sense of curation and classification. Using a sliding ladder helps create a special moment for bartenders as they retrieve a particular type of liquor for a guest’s cocktail. An eclectic collection of vintage and sourced seating throughout echo the comfort of an old library but paired with modern finishing elevates the experience,” she says. “We designed custom window sconces and bar lamps, which are a take on the old library lights. We developed wood and caning screens to partition the lounge space off from the lobby.”

Overall, Moravek thinks the firm achieved what Tran and team set out to create: a bar that places an emphasis on education. With a color scheme heavy on walnut, burgundy, brass, cream and charcoal, the mood is welcoming but also elegant and luxurious with elements like the three-tiered chandelier and glowing library wall keeping things vibrant as day turns to night. “We created a warm, inviting and casual atmosphere in which guests can lounge, work or just have a drink with friends,” Moravek says. 


Like what you see? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for our bi-monthly magazine. Subscribe now and save up to 59%—it’s just $21.95 for one year or $32.95 for two years. Click here for details.