60’s Redux: Sipping Classic Mai Tai — with an Umbrella! — at the Pierre
When we strolled into the Two E Bar at the Pierre, a glamorous, windowless, black-and-white lounge with silk throw pillows on the banquettes, we never dreamed we’d wind up with a dark orange drink sporting an orchid and a paper umbrella. But atop our black-lacquered cocktail table stood a flier announcing the Two E Tiki Festival.
Among the seven selections priced at $14: Polynesian Fashion (Mount Gay Rum, brown sugar syrup, bitters, kumquats and raspberries) and Island Hopper (light rum, lychee syrup, white cranberry juice, cantaloupe and orange bitters). Sugar shock anyone?
The bar offers a permanent menu of drinks more easily identified with its sleek Upper East Side surroundings, like gin martinis and sidecars.
But specialty menus lasting two or more weeks are a house, um, specialty, our crisply uniformed server told us. We plunged in with a Classic Mai Tai (dark rum, light rum, Cointreau, lime juice, Grenadine syrup, Orgeat syrup).
Served in a short glass, our drink was as elegant as anything sporting a paper umbrella can aspire to be. It was also oddly transporting. The Mai Tai originated in 1944, a time of war but also South Pacific. Yet with each sip we plunged into a 60s swirl of tailfins, Pan Am jets and knee-skimming skirts. We channeled Betty Draper Francis (but stopped at one drink). We skipped to the 80s and pictured wedding crasher Harrison Ford slurping gigantic Mai Tais in Working Girl.
Back in the present, two French-speaking men at a nearby table closed a
deal while a bored brunette looked on. Two East Side blondes, one in an optimistically youthful strapless dress, nursed martinis. The last time we visited the lounge a stylish wedding party spilled over several tables, but even then it was clear you can converse here without shouting, even if you’re sipping a party drink.
You’d never guess the lounge was carved from the hotel’s executive offices (sadly, the hotel library was sacrificed as well). Whatever. Hospitality triumphs: a chic silver tray bearing olives, chips and big chunks of Parmesan accompanies every drink.
Not my kind of drink, but it sounds as if they did it well at the Pierre. I do recall Harrison Ford inhaling the Mai Tai in “Working Girl” — good movie.