Foreword: Most of this post was written after our visit in 2018 but I forgot to post it until now. The short of it: this bar is excellent.
NoMad was ranked* the top bar in the United States in 2018, and comprises separate bar areas, including the NoMad tavern, the Elephant Bar, and the Library. Each setting is unique, with the tavern channeling a classic pub for group gatherings, the Elephant Bar a classic, traditional upscale lounge, and the library a… well… massive library – for lack of a better description – ideal for more intimate conversations. The Elephant Bar is the main point of interaction with the bartenders for a more traditional bar experience.
Because it fills up quickly with Financial District suits and Tinder dates, coming at the opening hour (4pm) is likely your best bet for sipping the cocktails slowly rather than throwing them down while standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowd.
The bartenders are all young and high-energy, donned in brown leather aprons like craftsmen, and we settled into chatting with them as we tested the menu.
The menu is split into “light spirited” versus “dark spirited” and we ordered liberally from both sides. To our delight, there was nothing we disliked from the 7 cocktails ordered. Now that is rare. Maybe we just got lucky ordering?
The top drink was the Spring Sting: surprisingly cucumber-forward and refreshing for a drink that comprises Islay Scotch and Fernet. Another excellent one that was the Srgt. Pepper, a pleasantly spicy and bright cocktail.
Everything else on the menu was well-balanced and complex, without any drink being overly sweet or bracingly bitter: Detox-retox had hints of the tropics without screaming coconuts, Captain Weddell had enough campari and aperol to fight the Szechuan peppercorn heat, Pandan express was an interesting blend of sweet and spice, and en Maison was nice but a bit less memorable than the others.
The mixology is brilliant, and NoMad is one of the bars on the best bars list that I understand the ranking. There are many that I question, however. While chatting with a bartender at NoMad, she said that bars will look up the people with reservations to determine if they are judges. Makes a lot of sense, given the number of bars on the list that often have reservation lists (and many that I am frankly baffled at; maybe they just tailor an amazing experience only for judges?) That being said, NoMad’s creative menu and its sprawling kingdom of cocktails would easily net it a place on the list, careful judge experience planning or not.