Some years ago, Elad Zvi arrived in New York from Israel with very little money and very big dreams. He worked as a dishwasher in a fancy hotel, and then followed his passion and started dreaming up cocktails. Soon, he had his own consulting firm, working with restaurants and bars around the nation. In 2012, he teamed up with the Colombian-born Gabriel Orta for what was supposed to be a month-long pop-up bar in Miami; tongue firmly in cheek, they called it the Broken Shaker.
The long lines convinced the duo that closing up shop would be foolish, and, soon, the encomia started pouring in: The Broken Shaker was named America’s top bar, and reached the number 18 spot on the prestigious list of the world’s best bars in 2017. A Los Angeles and a Chicago outpost were soon established, and, this weekend, New York, too, was blessed with a Broken Shaker of its own, atop the Freehand hotel (like other Broken Shakers the nation over, this one, too, was created in collaboration with the Sydell Group, the hoteliers behind the Freehand properties.) Lines on opening night reportedly snaked around a couple of city blocks, with thirsty patrons waiting up to an hour for a seat at the bar.
In part, that’s because the Broken Shaker, very much in keeping with an Israeli vibe, has no room or patience for bottle service, impossible-to-get reservations, and the other trademarks of the caste system that is New York’s nightlife scene. It’s a first-come-first-serve kind of place, cheery and democratic in everything from its staff to its bright decor.
And then there are the drinks: One favorite involves Johnnie Walker Black Label, Ron Zacapa, tahini-date honey, hazelnut milk, coconut cream, and bitters. The name? The Hebrew Hammer, naturally. The snacks will make any fan of Mediterranean food just as giddy, with Malawach, the Yemenite manna from heaven, served with tahini, labneh, and matbucha, a spicy Moroccan tomato salad, and with a schnitzel sandwich, that quintessentially Israeli lunch, on tap with tahini ranch sauce to help you soak up the liquor. Orta’s Colombian roots are just as pronounced, with arepas and pork shoulder on offer. Together, the whole gestalt is a tribute to two sun-soaked cultures that share a love of food, drink, and everything else sensual.
So if you’re in the Flatiron District and have a few hours to kill getting into and enjoying a rooftop bar and some cross-cultural alcoholic perfection, now you know the spot.