Underground Tippling: The Vault at Pfaff’s

March 19, 2012 | by —Marcia Frost | Food & Drink News

In a city full of bars and restaurants, it can be difficult to get the attention of New Yorkers, but The Vault at Pfaff’s has done so with style, history, and exceptional cocktails.

In 1855, Charles Pfaff opened The Vault at Pfaff’s, then known as Pfaff’s Beer Cellar, in a basement space below Bleecker and Broadway. Frequented by Walt Whitman and The Saturday Press publisher Henry Clapp, The Vault was a cocktail den—oft referred to as the “dim cave”—for artists, actors, and writers. 

Today, in the same historic space, The Vault at Pfaff’s has been reborn and restored by interior designer Mark Zeff, who kept some of the original fieldstone and brick archways while integrating new colors, textures, and a bar made of 100-year-old white oak. Bar staff sport uniforms with old-fashioned touches designed by Christian Siriano and menus resemble vintage newspapers.   

Of course, the purpose of settling into one of the plush antique chairs and couches is to enjoy a well-made cocktail, of which there is no shortage. The cocktail menu, like The Vault itself, riffs on the old and new in its ingredients and originality. No less than a dozen choices ($16, each) are offered. One of the most popular is The Big Bird, a blend of Plymouth Gin house-infused with two berries, Marie Brizard Apricot Brandy, and fresh sour mix. The signature Pfapple combines Christian Drouin Calvados, house-infused cinnamon vodka, muddled apple, and fresh nutmeg. 

In addition to its array of cocktails, The Vault has a large selection of wine, beer, and spirits that include local favorites such as Brooklyn Gin and Ommegang beer. There’s also half a dozen options of sparkling wine and Champagne offered both by the bottle and the glass.

To soak up all of that alcohol, The Vault serves small plates, such as a sampling of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, a maitake mushroom melt, served finger sandwich-style, and skewered filet mignon medallions. For dessert, try the decadent chocolate mousse. As the cocktail menu changes seasonally, so does the small plates menu.

Visit during the nightly cocktail hour (6–9 PM) or on Tuesdays, when spirits company ambassadors stop by to offer complimentary drink samples and small bites. 643 Broadway, under the Corner Shop Café, 212-253-5421

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