Those of you with fond memories of the Rocket Bar -- watching Neil Hamburger cut it up, or seeing Interpol before they went worldwide -- please proceed with caution; the following description of Nectar, which replaces the former rock club, is likely to draw a tear to your eye. The building remains, but what's inside has changed.
The hunky doormen are nice enough as they size us up, check our IDs and credentials, and unhook the velvet rope. How kind of them. At the bar amid the well-manicured crowd is building owner Pablo Weiss. On this night, he's wearing a blazer, as he had to gussy up for the sexy VIPs. Weiss, who has lorded over this block of western downtown for more than a decade, explains that Nectar's new cloth lanterns are handmade, and that the club's soft auburn color scheme was devised by an interior designer.
The bar layout is the same, but it's been fancied up; the stage that once held the Faint is now a private seating area, and the pit's another handcrafted booth. Weiss points to one of his most handsome servers and says that he's the perfect Nectar specimen.
Weiss is enjoying a shot of Corazón Blanco tequila -- an excellent choice -- and we're sipping on a glass of 10 Cane rum with a couple of ice cubes. The new small-batch creation arrives via Trinidad, courtesy of spirits powerhouse Moët Hennessy, which is betting that sophisticated drunks are willing to pay the same price for highbrow rum as they'll pay for premium vodka.
Moët's following the lead of a new breed of artisan rum distillers. And we can't be happier: A nice rum offers soft sweetness, where cheaper varieties offer candy. Sipped alone, or as we prefer, on the rocks, rather than sullied with cola, the true flavor of rum is summoned -- a leaner Cognac without the syrupy mouth-feel.
Surveying Nectar, which is starting to fill, Weiss jokes that all the peroxide in the room might make for a fire hazard. "Keep the flames down," he barks. Weiss is partnering on the project with Pete Ferretti and Buddy Coy of the next-door Pepper Lounge. They're hoping to entice Washington Avenue revelers a bit farther west, and they've got a good chance of succeeding. But, as Weiss well knows, clubs come and go.
Nectar's been opening softly for the past few months and celebrates its grand opening Saturday night. The space has been buzzing with private parties all summer (Nelly held court here in June, Orlando Pace earlier this month), gradually introducing the notion of a fancy-schmancy club where once was a rock & roll bar. The preparation has paid off. The buzz is high, and the 10 Cane logo adorns nearly every Nectar flier. It's one of the reasons why we're drinking the stuff tonight: We couldn't resist the marketers.
Will the demographic buy in? Will we see long lines of velvet-ropers jockeying for admission to the "premium lounge?" Will rum supplant vodka? Will sophistication conquer rock & roll? Or will the building chew it up and spit it out? Only the building knows for sure.