“I’m not even sure what day it is.” It’s an understandable statement if you’re Christine Wiseman. The Beverage Director of Bar Lab Hospitality is incredibly busy these days, including her work on four (!) new bar/restaurant/nightclub concepts at the Moxy Williamsburg.
If you’re not in the bar business, Wiseman’s name may not be familiar, but you’ve likely been to one of the Bar Lab venues across the country, which include the award-winning hotel bar Broken Shaker, Margot Natural Wine Bar, Hoja Taqueria, 27 Restaurant, Arlo Wynwood, The Exchange Los Angeles and more.
It’s an ambitious hospitality program, and it often finds Wiseman traveling between Miami, Los Angeles and, now, New York. To be more specific, Williamsburg, where Bar Lab just debuted several new concepts within the just-opened Moxy.
“I think the brilliant thing about this space is that it’s not like the other Moxys,” Wiseman says, as we sit in the hotel’s bright lobby adjacent to Bar Lab’s all-day venue Bar Bedford. “It’s got a different energy.”
And that’s certainly true, no matter where you’re sitting in the hotel. The lobby’s Bar Bedford, for instance, operates as a coffee shop, an all-day hang for locals, a comfortable space for weary travelers waiting to check in, and, at night, its own take on the classic New York cocktail bar (speaking of classic New York, the space is utilizing rotating, blackened-metal motorized shelves that house over 1,500 bottles of spirits from around the world, a stylistic homage to the city’s old automats.)
“I would sit in here and work,” Wiseman admits, looking out at the array of sofas and floor-to-ceiling windows. “It’s cozy.” It’s also the kind of space where you can have a light lunch, artisanal coffee, a pastry or indulge in a twist on a classic cocktail. Take, for instance, the Pornstar Martini. Usually a vanilla vodka/passionfruit concoction I’d avoid, here it’s transformed into something quite elevated.
Says Wiseman: “Instead of vanilla vodka, we fat-washed it with coconut oil and vanilla bean. Then we add a passionfruit liqueur but there’s also some passionfruit caviar on the spoon.”
You’ll also find some interesting takes on classic NYC drinks, from the New York Sour (complete with a red wine air) to the Gin-Gin Mule, which was originally crafted by Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club in the early 2000s and here features a carrot eau de vie.
And that’s only one-fourth of what the Moxy has to offer, for both travelers and locals. Next door to the lobby is Mesiba, a Tel Aviv-inspired space with Bauhaus architecture. Here, you can pretty much make a perfect meal from Tabun Baked Frena bread (an addictive Moroccan bread topped with sea salt, sesame and sage oil) and grilled octopus. Wiseman’s cocktail menu at Mesiba also pulls its influences from the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, as seen in the Dvash (lemon verbena infused Fords Gin, Lustau amontillado, eucalyptus honey and lemon juice), Limonana (Altos Blanco, Lustau Vermut, Lebanese arak, preserved lemon, cucumber juice and mint) and a Turkish coffee take on the Old Fashioned.
Add in Jolene, a nightclub, and LilliStar, a soon-to-open rooftop bar, and you’ve got a lot of new spaces that cater to a wide group of people and tastes. Explains Wiseman: “Mesiba is more culinary driven. Jolene is more fun, and there’s glitter and light-up cocktails that are more refreshing and easy to make. And then LilliStar is whimsical and full of bright colors.”
For Bar Lab, there’s no particular formula for what works when they’re creating a new concept; Wiseman, for instance, says she sometimes starts with the glassware and works backward to craft a space and a cocktail menu.
“There are multitudes of ways we like to build these venues, but there’s no direct path…which would be easier,” she says, laughing. “I think the one thing that connects all of our venues is that we attract all colors and people of the world. Everyone is welcome. You’ll see that in our staffing and in the people who come to visit.”
While adding another funky, modern hotel to Williamsburg might seem like anathema to some Bedford Avenue longtimers, the good news is that the Moxy feels right for the neighborhood — and offers something special for everyone.
And that includes Wiseman. “I think we can change perceptions of hotel bars. Plus, we get to play with four different concepts in one space,” she says. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”
Bar Bedford, Mesiba and Jolene are currently open at Moxy Williamsburg (353 Bedford Ave.). The rooftop bar LilliStar will open later this spring.
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