Great Bars 2013: Columbia Room and the Passenger

With its dark-green vinyl booths and gritty gray interior, Tom
Brown’s Passenger is that rare thing: a fuss-free neighborhood bar capable
of turning out perfect drinks. We keep it simple with such classics as a
Negroni, a Martinez, or a sidecar. In a tiny unmarked chamber behind the
main bar, Brown’s brother Derek runs the Columbia Room, a
reservations-only cocktail chapel offering a prix-fixe flight of three
drinks and one small plate from chef Javier Duran. Visitors are greeted by
a welcoming beverage—often an aromatic punch—then linger over a second
libation of the bar’s devising. The final cocktail is a collaboration
between bartender and guest, usually inspired by a favorite drink, spirit,
or other ingredient. The calm pacing, the cozy, candlelit room, and the
delicious, carefully crafted cocktails add up to a memorable evening that
feels well worth the $69 price—you’ll leave as relaxed and invigorated as
after a visit to the spa, and with a buzz to boot. Insider tip: Sign up
for the Columbia Room’s newsletter to learn about upcoming classes—held on
Saturdays and covering topics such as vermouth, using honey in cocktails,
and bar basics. The Passenger open daily. Columbia Room open Tuesday
through Saturday.