We’ve all seen subway ads portraying a beautiful beach somewhere in the Caribbean or Hawaii. Everyone is barely dressed and smiling, and there’s a tagline on it somewhere saying “You could be here,” or “Need a vacation?” Juxtapose this against the passed out drunk homeless guy desperately in need of a shower and the overall drabness of a mass of underground travelers, and you might find yourself saying, “Maybe I do need a vacation…”
But who really has the time or money for a vacation to someplace tropical? The next best thing has to be the drinks at the SOHO cocktail lounge known as Lani Kai. Once inside, you may feel like you’ve just stepped in off the surf for some beachside nightlife. The tropical plant-covered deck leading up to the bar will make the cars driving by on Broome street sound like waves crashing on the shore. Lani Kai, roughly translated as ‘Heavenly Waters,’ is a Julie Reiner creation. Reiner is known in the New York cocktail world for the famous Flatiron Lounge, and the newer Clover Club in Brooklyn. This place, however, is closer in resemblance to her home state of Hawaii.
As wholly paradise-inspired as this hideaway is, it begs to not be written off as hokey or amateur. Let’s not forget, this is a New York City cocktail lounge, not an all-inclusive resort serving pre-mix daiquiris. The cocktail menu is expansive and quite diverse. There are plenty of drinks served in curvy, oversized glasses over crushed ice, garnished with a flower (made with fresh, high quality, and thoughtful ingredients, mind you). But the menu doesn’t forget that the lounge is located in Downtown Manhattan, as shown by the listing of classics like the Martinez and New York Sour. That said, if you’re making the trip to Lani Kai, your mini vacation isn’t complete without a brain freeze from one of the traditional swizzles.
Featured Cocktail: Pacific Swizzle (White rum infused with rosehip, lemongrass and hibiscus tea, lime juice, and passion fruit)