15 Vanderbilt Aveune
New York, NY
(212) 953-0409

Cocktail lounges are a quintessential part of urban nightlife. Without them, we'd be subject to an existence of Miller High Life neon signs, solo cup bro bars, and the ESPN Zone. Hey, there's a time and a place for drinking a mudslide at a TGI Fridays while listening to Mac McAnally, but that place is the suburbs, and that time is when you have no choice. I'm not a snob. Anyone who's seen my shoes knows that. But there's a not-so-subtle joy to being able to sit with friends or a date and not have the distraction of a ball game interrupt your conversation.

Hence it was with great pleasure that the other day I was joined by Emma and Sparkles at The Campbell Apartment, the one time private office of John Campbell, of the New York Central Railroad. He clearly had a lot of money. These days, it's a cocktail lounge. Jazz standards sung by Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin play overhead. The waiters wear white tuxedos jackets and black bow ties. Dark wood is everywhere. You drink on sofas and velvet cushioned chairs. The cocktail menu is filled with classics and variations of classics like a pisco sour, a Moscow mule variant, and a gussied-up margarita. There's also a selection of wine, whiskey, beer, and finger foods.

I don't like to review cocktail bars and talk much about the drinks unless they're either awful or amazing or in some way extremely unique. Mostly, this is because you can only drink so much, and the menu is only a suggestion. Unlike walking into a Greek restaurant and asking for Mexican food, they'll make you anything you ask for from off menu. These places are more about the ambiance, the experience, and the company. Nine times out of ten, that's all that really matters.

So, without going into too too much detail, here's what we ordered: My first drink was the Highlander, scotch, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. A Rob Roy, with a swap on the bitters. Sparkles, seeking something sweet without entering appletini territory, went for the classic Aviation, gin, creme de violet, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice. Meanwhile, Emma chose the more unique, very sweet Hibiscus Blossom, hibiscus tea infused gin, pineapple juice, and honey syrup. Everyone liked their choice a lot, though Emma was not much of a fan my drink. "I'm learning that I don't like cocktaily cocktails." she explained as picked the floating, edible hibiscus flower out of her drink and handed it to Sparkles.

For round two, Sparkles was impressed enough with the Emma's hibiscus blossom to want one of her own. Emma, normally an enemy of all things bubbly, fooled us by choosing a Bayard Fizz, gin, raspberries, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice. I stuck with manly whiskey drinks and ordered the Kentucky Ginger, bourbon, ginger liqueur, agave nectar, lemon juice, and a muddled sprig of rosemary.

It's never wise to order drinks on an empty stomach, and the only thing I'd eaten in the past 36 hours or so was half of a roast beef sandwich and two Certs. So we ordered the Cheese & Charcuterie, a plate of cured meat, cheeses, grapes, crackers, and dijon mustard. And here's where I will begin to complain.

When one pays the kind of prices that The Campbell Apartment demands, there is a certain level of class that one must demand and it must soak a little bit deeper than pure showmanship. Up until this plate arrived, everything was impressive, slow service (which it very much was) notwithstanding. When the cheese plate came, none of the wait staff explained which cheeses were which or which meats were which. This is a first. I literally cannot remember the last time I've not had the waiter say "here's an aged brie, and here's an organic cheddar, here's a lovely prosciutto". So yes, it was delicious, and we all but licked the plate clean, but it was sloppy (and no, it wasn't on the menu). The mustard in the middle of the plate was a waste. Are people making sandwiches? I felt like it was placed there to give the plate a center. "They should have a bowl of almonds instead" suggested Sparkles, though I'd have voted for jam. Finally, and this is really the biggie, the bread wasn't a freshly baked sliced loaf from the Zaro's a hundred feet away, but instead the bread was so obviously store bought Carr's Water Crackers and mini toasts that it was laughable. It's akin to going to Les Halles and having them serve butter in the foil like at a diner.

In the end, I had a great time. Yes, service was slow. Yes, the crackers that they probably got from Stop & Shop with a coupon from the Sunday paper were a bit of a let down. But it was fun. The drinks were good. There was no wait. The ambiance literally can't be topped. Access to transportation is all right there. I'd go back for sure.

Cocktails are $16 each, the cheese and charcuterie plate was $30.

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