I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream at the UES.
At first glance, UES. looks like a cute, kitschy ice cream shop scooping up cones and pints of freshly made ice cream from Soco Creamery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The scoop shop’s neon-lit ice cream cone sign and giant inflatable Santa Claus in a flamingo floatie welcome passersby for ice cream in nostalgic flavors like salted caramel, chocolate chip cookie dough, and Madagascar vanilla.
While ordering ice cream at the counter, look a little closer — to the left to be exact. A wall of 180 colorful ice cream pints hides the entryway to a candlelit speakeasy with fanciful cocktails. Let the staff know you would like to see the “Storage Room” and, if you’re 21 and older and dressed in cocktail attire (no sneakers, hats, or athletic wear), you’ll be ushered behind the hidden door, past a short entryway, to a cozy table where whimsical fun that combines cocktails and ice cream awaits.
Opened by Cortney Bond in 2018, the intimate speakeasy bar is appointed with exposed brick walls, comfy banquettes, gilded mirrors and frames, and a giant painting of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, designer Vera Wang, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and actor Martin Scorsese.
The dimly-lit bar, housed in two former apartments, serves a collection of cocktails and cocktails à la mode inspired by the Upper East Side, a Manhattan neighborhood on the east side of Manhattan that stretches from East 59th Street to East 96th Street and is bounded by Fifth Avenue to the west and the East River to the east.
Peruse the menu, which emulates a Zagat guide, the maroon dining guide, with ratings for strength, complexity, “wow!,” and cost for each cocktail along with a short story of the drink’s inspiration and ingredients. The back of the menu proclaims “I have mixed drinks about feelings,” but we guarantee you won’t have mixed feelings about the drinks.
Beverages like Community Board 8 (Pig’s Nose Peated Scotch Whiskey with “pine resin tears,” Braulio Amaro, smoked “pine-apple” juice, house-made juniper, rosemary honey, Q ginger beer, spicy apple jalapeño jam, and lemon), which is topped with a mini ice cream cone filled with blood orange sorbet, pay homage to the neighborhood. In this case, Community Board 8 granted the bar’s liquor license.
Many of the cocktails, such as The 2nd Avenue Subway (Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Solerno Blood Orange, Meyer lemon, sugar, fresh mandarin, PopCrush Sparkling Wine, and SoCo Creamery lemon sorbet), are a combo of cocktails and ice cream or sorbet. Each cocktail is as cute as it is flavorful.
Make no mistake: The drinks like Girls Gossip on the East (Codigo Rosé Tequila, fresh marjoram, lime, agave, Cholula chipotle, hibiscus infused Campari, house-made Mexican fruit purée, and Primaterra Prosecco accented with a flaming corn husk) may be flashy, but they are expertly crafted. These aren’t gimmicky cocktails just to show off on Instagram.
We ordered several creative cocktails, including El Lado Este Superior (Atlántico Gran Reserva Rum, fresh lemongrass, lime leaves, house-made Galangal honey, coconut oil, and turmeric washed ice served in a cigar box with a chocolate cigar) and Spring in the 10128, named for the neighborhood bar’s postal code. Served in a green ceramic cactus-shaped cup, the luscious Spring in the 10128 is a whipped cream topped concoction of coconut, lime, white chocolate, pandan, and rum.
Cocktails can be paired with nostalgic treats like dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, black and white cookie ice cream sandwiches, and ice cream sundaes in sassy take-home mugs emblazoned with statements like “Girl, Please. I’m from the UES.” and “Proud AF.” We indulged in sundaes in a ceramic unicorn cup and a “Girl, Please. I’m from the UES.” mug. Each came with our choice of three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, and colorful sprinkles.
In addition to a fun night out Tuesday through Sunday, the Storage Room at UES. hosts Cinema Sundays with two movie screenings. Entry is free with a two drink minimum. UES. is so fun you will also want to visit their sister property, Not a Speakeasy, which is open Thursday to Saturday and located a few blocks over on East 84th Street. The intimate Not a Speakeasy offers cocktails, mocktails, bar bites, snacks, a DJ, and late-night vibes.