The folks at Everyman Espresso are partnering with Bikini Bar for a summer cafe pop-up! Expect a focus on imaginative signature beverages, plus honed service and some beautiful glassware. This will be a space for creativity, and what a space to showcase that, as Bikini Bar is a you-gotta-see-it design shrine to the mid-century tiki aesthetic, tucked into an old factory space in Tribeca.
Could this well be what your summer dreams are made of? A Manhattan tiki-temple with really wonderful coffee service? We sat down with Sam Penix, proprietor of Everyman Espresso and picked his brain on this new project, which will run June 22nd to August 31st.
Aileen Oser is the longtime co-owner, now owner of Bikini Bar – how did you all meet in the first place? How did that connection come about?
I met Aileen a few months back when she visited my Soho location on a coffee crawl. Our relationship developed after recent visits to her spot Bikini Bar, where I became dance partners with her parrot a cockatoo named “Kava”. (See .gif)
Talk to us about the aesthetic at Bikini Bar. What makes you excited about making coffee in that space?
For me, I became deeply obsessed with mid-century design – specifically color driven mid-century and Tiki – while building out Everyman Soho. I reconnected with the design style and era that had a huge impact on me growing up – as I am from Sarasota, FL, which is home to many famous mid-century structures, such as my alma matter Riverview High School. This school was designed by Paul Rudolph, and his Wikipedia page has photo of my high school proudly displayed as one of his famous works.
When mentioning where I was from to my architect Jane Kim, she replied, “No way, did you go to school in that building!?” It hit me then where this fascination, so deeply rooted in the culture of my birthplace, first started. That is part of the reason I am so excited to work with BIKINI BAR founder and Hawaiian native, Aileen Oser. Her love of mid-century tiki design is rooted in celebrating her own culture with her neighbors in Tribecca.
We know there’s going to be a “signature drink” component to what you’re doing with the space – any early recipes you want to share?
The program will be tightly wound around the specific coffees that we will be offering. The idea will be to create exciting new sensory experiences with coffee in order to celebrate the diversity and overall deliciousness of coffee. Specific recipes, we can’t share at this time, but we do plan on involving fresh juices, aromatics from citrus, ginger, stuff like that. There will be a fixed menu seasonally and there will also be a “bespoke” or dealer’s choice option. The idea would be for us to train ourselves with all of our ingredients so as to whip something up right there on the spot tailored to your cravings and with the additional element of surprise!
Both you and Everyman Soho manager Sam Lewontin have extensive barista competition experience. How has competition informed how you’re approaching the new space? Talk to us about ingredients beyond air, water, milk, and coffee.
Competition forced me to create drinks that went beyond the usual scope of ingredients one associates with coffee. i.e. air, water, milk, and sugary syrups. Over the years, I’ve made several adventurous and successful signature drinks that scored very well, as well as some gastro monstrosities that I won’t claim. But the criteria for a signature beverage in competition is based on achieving a harmonious balance between ingredients. I came to understand that creating complexity and balance takes intention and skill. These are skills that both myself and Sam Lewontin have been sharpening for years now, and we’ll be putting these skills to work in in a new cafe setting. We get to share our work with customers; this is the most rewarding part of our jobs.
What will the service be like at Bikini Bar?
The service will be similar to our Soho shop with an even greater focus on table service. All drinks will be built from start to finish by the barista- this means no condiment bar, yay! We like to think of the removal of condiment bar as a reclaiming of a service that should be the responsibility of the barista.
Customers will have the option to take certain drinks to-go, but most of the menu will be drinks served in specific glassware. Drinks will be accessible but interesting, made with care and intent. This is our chance to refine our service just a notch finer. Imagine the smell of jasmine and a tiny orchid on your saucer transporting your mind far away from the pace of New York. Everyman at Bikini Bar: The Real Coffee Break.
Bikini Realness. Talk to us about your involvement in the Coffee & Cocktail Mash-Up and how that influenced this new bar.
I participated in and won last year’s Coffee and Cocktails event with my partner John Debary of PDT, so I know firsthand how this event really put baristas in touch with the best bartenders in NYC. In my opinion, this kind of collaboration with the cocktail world is going to be a turning point in the NYC coffee scene. It has bridged a gap between two communities with aligned interests and, frankly, a dependency on one another. The drink John and I decided to go into battle with, a tiki drink Oro and His Princess, won because it was balanced, complex, delicious and was served with flare (actual fire). Also we had a ukelele player.
Everyman at Bikini Bar opens to the public June 22nd, and will be located at 148 Duane St in Tribeca, Manhattan.