At the [spoilers] end of the musical In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s [of Hamilton fame] first major Broadway hit, Washington Heights native Usnavi decides not to move to a tropical island after being reminded of the greatness of his community in New York City. This island (technical three islands, with Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island’s Brooklyn and Queens making us the hippest archipelago in the northeast) is home, and New Yorkers don’t need to go far to find a tropical experience. Like Usnavi says, “If you close your eyes, that hydrant is a beach. That siren is a breeze, that fire escape’s a leaf on a palm tree.”
Since it will still be a few weeks before it’s warm enough to be tanning in The Rockaways, here are three places in NYC where you can have the beachiest experience of all — drinking alcohol out of fruit! Before you head off on summer vacation, check out some places on your island. You may never want to leave.
1. Kingston Hall (149 2nd Ave., East Village)
I visited Kingston Hall on a cold, rainy day and the dim bar, with working gas fireplaces, iron sconces, a grandfather clock and exposed brick and toile wallpaper mixed throughout, felt more like a rundown Scottish manor than a Jamaican beach party. But one sip of the Drunken Coconut (a slushie of Appleton gold rum, Malibu, coconut water and pineapple juice served in a coconut) and I was transported. It’s very sweet (drinking more than one could lead to a hangover), but the cheery coconut presentation and refreshing coldness made it possible to pretend that the icy drizzle outside was just a cool summer shower.
2. Tacuba (35-01 36th St., Astoria)
I foolishly made the decision to stop by Tacuba on Cinco de Mayo when the place was packed, but I was able to get a table quickly and was thrilled when my Piña Para La Niña — a pineapple filled with Jose Cuervo Tradicional, pineapple purée, agave nectar and lime juice — hit the table. With la piña in hand, I felt like I was hanging out at a beachside bar shack with nothing but relaxation ahead. I didn’t get a chance to try Tacuba’s other drink served in a pineapple (the Mezcalita de Piña, made of mezcal, grilled pineapple, jalapeño, cilantro and lime), but I’ll be back as soon as I need another hit of tropical life.
3. Boka (9 St. Marks Place, East Village)
Boka is my favorite Korean fried chicken spot in the city, but I had been sadly ignorant of the delicious treat hiding in plain sight on their cocktail menu during my first few visits. The appropriately named Watermelon Soju cocktail is just watermelon blended with soju and served in a baby watermelon, but its simplicity captures the spirit of the laid-back beach life. The two flavors blend together smoothly, making it highly drinkable — the most important factor of any beachside drink.