Craving a taste of ‘old school’ New York glamor with a side of something strong to sip? Then Manhattan’s newest cocktail bar promises to overdeliver. Last month, Agency of Record officially opened its doors in lower Midtown, offering its guests a taste of Mad Men-esque allure—and seriously delicious drinks to boot.
Located inside the historic Renwick Hotel—a regular haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and more—Agency of Record is the latest venture of 27 Tales Hospitality, otherwise known as the brains behind Patent Pending, Rezdôra, and seeyamañan. Described by the team as an “ode to the golden age of advertising,” the bar proposes meticulously executed drinks in a stylish, New York-inspired space, complete with leather banquettes, brass fixtures, and an antique-record lined wall.
Beyond the design, what I found most impressive about the bar was its carefully curated cocktail menu, which is broken down into four sections (each of which pays homage by classic advertising verbiage): Like Soda for a Baby (lively, easy-drinking cocktails), The Big Sell (stronger libations), From a Far Away Land tropical inspired), and Everyone is Doing It (crowd-pleasing hits). “We wanted to play on the idea of classic advertising lingo,” explains owner Ryan Mackenzie, stating that the names of our drinks are inspired by some of the common motifs in the ad world.
“We knew we wanted to include spins on the drinks everyone knows and loves (they’re classics for a reason),” Mackenzie continues, stating that guests can read about the original reference drink for each of the bar’s craft cocktails while perusing the menu, and also note the twists and ingredients the team has added to make them unique to the space. “Cocktails are at the core of what we do, and we want our guests to experience the surprise and whimsy of drinking their tried-and-true favorites in a new way,” he says.
As a new martini lover (and huge fan of blue cheese), I was most intrigued by the Rich Media, made with Mexican pox, sotol, gin, aloe, and blue cheese olive brine. “The Rich Media cocktail is a riff on the dirty martini, brought south of the border,” Mackenzie reveals, stating that to make the drink, Mexican pox and sotol combine with dry gin to form the base, while refreshing aloe liqueur adds a bright note, with the blue cheese olive brine offering a tangy note to round out the finish. “ It’s the ideal balance—perfect for the classic martini lover, but also those who are adventurous cocktail connoisseurs and want to experience a more modern use of ingredients,” he affirms.
For reference, Mackenzie clarifies that Pox, pronounced like ‘posh,’ offers tasting notes of corn, marked by a smoky and toasty finish. “It’s made by fermenting a mixture of wheat, sugar cane, and corn in wooden casks, before being placed through a copper still,” he says, stating that the spirit has been enjoyed ceremonially in Mexican and Central American cultures for centuries but right now, there are still only a few brands of Pox that are widely distributed to the States. “We love being able to showcase something that might be newer to people here,” he says, sharing that the spirit’s flavors pair well with citrus, tamarind, pineapple, and chili.
And the martini action doesn’t stop there. In addition to the Rich Media, Agency of Record also proposes a private bartender option, which allows guests to experience four martini variations crafted tableside at a 1960s-inspired vintage bar cart. (Advanced booking is required.) With regards to sustenance, the bar’s kitchen is spearheaded by Chef Edward Carew and features a number of sweet and savory items, many of which are prepared in the bar’s on-site wood-fired oven. Duck fat fries, veggie shawarma, lobster cocktail, and bone-in ribeye as just a few of the menu highlights.
As I continue my quest for the best martinis in New York, I can confidently say that Agency of Record tangy, flavor-packed riff has definitely claimed a top spot on my list.
Agency of Record is located at 118 E 40th St, New York, NY 10016 and is open daily from 4pm until late.