22 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10014
(212) 929-4360

Little Branch is the little sister of the far more famous, far more exclusive, and far more hyped Milk & Honey. Little sister status aside, at being solidly twice the size of White Star, twice the size of Dutch Kills, and three times the size of the aforementioned Milk & Honey, Little Branch is the biggest of the Sasha Petraske cocktail lounges. That still doesn't mean it's big though.

Little Branch carries on the tradition of hiding from the malingering crowd, sheltered away behind an innocuous door under an apartment building in the West Village. When it opens at 7pm, you and your fellow imbibers-in-wait cross the threshold to descend a steep staircase into the bowels of the building. Little Branch has that distinct cocktail lounge smell of wood and leather, orange bitters and gin and, tucked darkly away under the sidewalk, and close enough to the subway lines to feel the trains massage you as they pass, it's immediately relaxing. You can't help but take the first few seconds in your seat just absorbing the aura, even if you've been here a dozen times.

Anyone who's ever been clubbing or gone to a trendy TriBeCa hotel bar has already been exposed the joy of shelling out $15 for a simple, bottom-shelf GnT made by a guy whose only exposure to mixing drinks comes from popping open a can of Red Bull and ruining a perfectly good glass of Grey Goose with it. And so, when my college friend, Seth, was in town recently, I decided to introduce him to the world of the (admittedly expensive) quality cocktail, in contrast to the aforementioned clud drink du jour piece o' shyte.

Little Branch offers everyone the "Bartender's Choice". The hostess made sure to explain that if we weren't sure what we wanted but knew what we wanted the drink to feel like (citrusy or sweet or minty or mild or classic or...), then the bartender could crank out something to fit that craving. It didn't have to be on the menu. But we went with menus anyway. Ostensibly, this was so I could write down the ingredients for you. And I did. But then I lost my notes. Bollocks!

Seth started off with a one of the classics of classics, the Mint Julep, a southern invention mixed from Bourbon, sugar, muddled mint leaves and a refrigerator's worth of crushed ice. "Damn" he said taking a breath after the first sip. "I drink too much of this and I'll be lucky to be able stand up and walk out of here. No wonder the south hasn't risen again." It was strong, lightly sweet and mostly bourbon. My drink, the one not in the metal cup above, was also a nice, classic whiskey cocktail, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Damn lost notes. Round two: We got sweeter drinks this time. Seth got the Stone Fence, a simple combination of Applejack (apple brandy) and hard apple cider. The drink's sweet and fruity, without an overwhelming apple flavor. If you want an appletini, go to Fridays. You won't get it here. I chose the Butterflies Cocktail, gin, grenadine, lime and applejack, which was far sweeter than Seth's, thanks to the grenadine, but not such that you'd get wired from the sugar. Neither of these drinks were nearly as strong as the drinks we ordered for round one.

Little Branch is one of my absolutely favorite places to get a high end cocktail. It's classy but not pretentious and, with its varietous menu (there's also a beer list, wine list, and hot drink list) there's something for just about everyone. Although, unlike Death & Company, there is no food. They do have live jazz at 10pm on weekdays, however.

Drinks are $13 each, plus tip. Cash only. No reservations.

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