Dante - New York City
Unlike the dark and seductive speakeasy energy that many bars try to convey, Dante is light, airy, and cute. When you enter, a well-lit display of rows of Aperol is the immediate focus. The bartenders are dressed like Italian baristas, with black aprons, white collared shirts, and impeccably groomed handlebar moustaches.
The bar itself seems less of a focus here, and Dante seems to be a restaurant above anything else - with few bar seats available and a lively and loud dining room in which couples and small groups are seated in close proximity to each other.
The menu is a negroni nerd’s holy book, featuring two pages dedicated to negroni variants, and the bar taps stream vermouths, negronis, and aperol spritzes. We merrily made our way through their selection, tasting of 8 of their cocktails. They were all fantastic in their different ways. Probably. To be honest, we don’t remember the last two.
The stand-out was the Unlikely Negroni (cabeza blanco, campari, banana, pineapple shrub, chili, and sesame), which was by far the favorite. Our sloppily written tasting notes compare it to a “Christmas-themed negroni” and a “sesame seaweed gomae with banana”, which are two dissimilar opinions, with only both agreeing upon it being “very nutty” and “holy shit this is good”.
Additional ones included the Negroni Royale (bitingly bitter - and therefore delicious), Girabaldi (one of their signature cocktails that is a straightforward combination of campari and fresh-squeezed frothy and pulpy orange juice), chocolate negroni (the name says it all), Il Pecorino (a refreshing negroni in which the mixologist did a brilliant job in not letting the amaro components overwhelm the delicate earthy taste of fresh red peppers), and the crowd-pleasing passion-fruit forward Apertivo #1.
Dante is one-of-a-kind without resorting to gimmicky gastronomy concepts that cater to trends. For that, I actually found it quite surprising that it shows up on the World’s Top 50, which seem to be a list of bars with a huge mixology focus with new menus introduced at frenetic paces. Not that I disagree. Of all the places that we have visited on the Top 50, this is one of the few places that I would constantly revisit if I were a local. It’s just damn solidly good.