Located in the West Village, Analogue is a cocktail bar that has received rave reviews from the Wall Street Journal, Gothamist and DNAinfo alike. While many Manhattan bars aim to have music playing loud so that its customers have no choice but to dance and pound drinks, Analogue takes a very different approach. Whether it has a jazz trio live or its vintage Hi-Fi setup playing, Analogue keeps the music at a reasonable volume, allowing you to engage in conversation with ease. Analogue also offers a great food menu and has a lot of artwork on the walls for its patrons to look at.
Downtown had the pleasure of talking with owners Jesse Wilson and Jared Gordon, who met as students at NYU. As noted within our Q&A, Analogue is currently in the midst of expanding, although the location of its second spot has not yet been revealed. More info on all things Analogue can be found at www.analoguenyc.com.
You two met while studying at NYU. Where did the idea of opening a cocktail-centric bar come from?
Jesse Wilson: At first, the idea started when we would hang out at various bars around the Village and talk about how cool it would be to open a bar. After NYU, I moved back to San Francisco to work in finance and started to work on a business plan on the side. At that time I was also starting to notice a proliferation of cocktails and craft beers in the marketplace. I just couldn’t do it by myself due to work so kind of shelved the idea. When I moved back to New York City, Jared was ready to move on from finance himself and approached me with the idea of opening a bar. After a lot of discussion, we decided on the concept of doing a cocktail bar for a professional, grown-up crowd and Analogue was born.
Jared Gordon: We wanted to open a bar that featured the drinks we enjoy. That’s cocktails, whiskey and an occasional great beer. So that’s what we did. We pride ourselves on our cocktails and have put together an outstanding program, but we’re agnostic as to how we’re perceived or what the guest wants. As long as they’re enjoying themselves, it doesn’t matter to us whether they’re having our most complex cocktail, our rarest whiskey or just enjoying a glass of wine or a beer.
Did you have any restaurant or bar experience prior to opening Analogue?
JW: We didn’t have any experience really. Jared had a little bartending experience in the Upper East Side and had read a few books, but that was about it. We figured with our strong business backgrounds we could run the business, but we also knew we needed to hire people we trusted with experience in the hospitality industry.
JG: I’ll echo Jesse’s thoughts. I started tending bar to get a sense of the business, but I was pouring neat well vodkas at a few dives on the Upper East Side. Not quite the same level. We knew what we wanted and we knew how we wanted to treat our guests. The rest is putting a team in place to help execute that vision.
How would you describe Analogue to someone who hasn’t yet been there?
JW: I think the name “Analogue” fits the bar well. It’s a high-end cocktail lounge that is almost a throwback to Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s. We do great cocktails and food and have a great atmosphere that promotes conversation amongst friends. It’s a throwback to a non-digital era, hence the name. I actually notice people come in and use their cell phones a lot less and just talk with each other. This was one of our goals when we were designing the bar.
JG: Jesse put it perfectly. It’s a comfortable bar in which to enjoy a great drink and a conversation.
Do you have a favorite drink on the menu? A favorite food item?
JW: My favorite drink is our signature called The Analogue. It was our first drink on the menu. It blends Havana Club Anejo Rum, Four Roses Bourbon, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Velvet Falernum and bitters. When we opened, we wanted a bourbon-focused drink that was good for the colder fall weather in New York. When I tasted it I said to our bartender Nesha Korak, “Wow, if I could taste our bar that would be it! What should we call it?” And he responded, “Well that’s what it is then, call it Analogue.” And it’s been on our menu ever since day one.
JG: I’d say my favorite drink is whatever the team is working on at the moment. I enjoy the evolution of the individual bartenders and the program as a whole through time.
Who is in charge of your cocktail menu? How does your team come up with cocktails?
JW: Zack Berger is our head bartender and facilitates the process for the team. The menu is a collective effort for all of our bartenders. They are always creating, and when we do a menu, they bring several of their best drinks to the table to try. We do a few rounds of internal tastings and then pick the winners. We then adjust the menu to put on the best cocktails and remove any drinks that are out of season or slow moving. It is a constant process.
Music is a big part of the theme of Analogue. What was your first concert?
JW: One of the first concerts I remember was U2 during the Joshua Tree tour back in 1987. My father took me when I was 13 years old. This was when U2 was at their peak and becoming a global phenomenon. The concert blew me away. I remember walking out of the Oakland Coliseum to the crowd and everyone was still singing “40” in unison. It’s cool to see them doing the 30 year anniversary tour now!
JG: My first concert was the Concert For Walden Woods, featuring Billy Joel, Don Henley and Sting. The seats were terrible but the music was amazing. Live music and music in general have played an important role in my life ever since.
What was the latest concert or music-related live event you attended?
JW: The last show I attended was The Cult here in New York. The Cult was another band I grew up listening to and they are still going strong! I like a lot of alternative, hip-hop, jazz, country, metal, pretty much any genre if it’s good.
JG: I’ll echo Jesse’s sentiments. I love everything from old school East Coast hip hop to bluegrass, metal, and classical. The last shows I’ve seen were Iron Maiden (my second time), Dave Matthews Band (my 24th) and the Governors Ball, where De La Soul was the highlight.
I understand that Analogue features live music a few days each week. Who are some of the artists that regularly play there?
JG: currently we have Nick West and the Westet on Tuesdays and Monika Oliveira on Wednesdays. Nick West is a funky bass-driven trio, and Monika has a beautiful, mellow bossanova sound.
When you don’t have musicians playing at Analogue, I know that you have music spinning. Have you always been so vinyl-centric?
JG: We spin vinyl on special occasions, and for that we have a fantastic vintage turntable and tube amplifier. We’re also starting an audio salon where we will feature some truly high end systems and some classic albums each month. Vinyl has played a role in my life since birth, when it was just called “music.” As I got older, I started my own collection by stealing my parent’s albums and it took off from there. I have about 7,000 albums at the moment, down from a peak of about 8,500. I enjoy the hunt — scouring yard sales and thrift stores and finding new music or forgotten gems. And I enjoy building and tweaking my HiFi system.
Who chooses the music that is playing at Analogue?
JW: Usually our management team will set the music that is played at the venue. We are always on the lookout for new bands in the area. A lot of the bands we discovered were from around the West Village area playing at venues or outside at Washington Square Park.
The walls of Analogue are also lined with music-related photographs. Were those from a personal collection?
JG: The photographer is Roberto Rabanne, who has shot some of music’s best. The prints in our space are all originals, and the collages of Ray Charles and Bill Evans are each one of a kind.
I know that Analogue has a private room. Is that only for private events?
JW: Yes, we host a lot of events in the back such as private parties, corporate events, cocktail classes and wedding receptions.
When not busy with Analogue, how do you like to spend your free time?
JW: Sleeping! I work full-time and help manage the bar, so in my little free time, I like to relax. But now we are looking to open our second location, so a lot of free time is spent working on the new location.
JG: I recently had my first child, a little boy we named Jack. So free time is in short supply at the moment. Between him, Analogue and scouting for the next location, there aren’t enough hours in the day. When I do find some down time, I like to play music, read, cook, and yes sleep.
Aside from Analogue, do you have a favorite bar or restaurant in New York?
JW: I am really into craft beers right now so I appreciate a good selection of beers and a nice atmosphere. I liked Cooper’s when I lived in Chelsea. I now live on the UWS and like Gebhards, a new craft beer place near my apartment.
JG: I like dive bars. When I’m at a cocktail or whiskey bar, I find myself too focused on the menu, the setup and the service. I relax when I can kick back with a beer and a whiskey and not worry about taking notes. Parkside Lounge on Houston and Lucy’s on Avenue A are two favorites.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
JW: Don’t get caught up in all of the cocktail hype! We try to focus on making cocktails that taste great and put a lot of work into that. We don’t get caught up in all of the hoopla to try and get too clever or go over the top with our creations. A lot of our drinks are rooted in tradition, the foundation if you will. The goal is to just make quality drinks that the customers will enjoy and have a good time. At the end of the day it’s all about giving our customers the best possible experience.
JG: Amen to that!