15 Minutes with Jim Meehan and Jeff Bell of Please Don't Tell
Please Don’t Tell (PDT) has consistently topped the guidebooks’ lists of coolest bars in New York City since it opened in 2008. Accessed by reservation only and via an old-fashioned phone booth at the back of an unassuming looking hotdog restaurant, Crif Dogs on St Mark’s Place, PDT delights even the most discerning of the Big Apple’s drinkers with its winning combination of atmospheric interiors, world-class cocktails and a selection of hotdogs that can be ordered from the restaurant next door.
The ultra-hip bar will hit Hong Kong on January 5 with a month-long pop-up in the Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s MO Bar—every Tuesday to Saturday, from 5pm to 12.30am. Guests will enter PDT HK through a hidden entrance in a phone booth upstairs at MO Bar and, once inside, they will discover a space that faithfully recreates the look and feel of the New York original. Alongside a cocktail menu combining PDT classics with specifically crafted creations, the bar will serve a selection of hotdogs—proceeds from which will go to charity—designed by chefs from the likes of Yardbird, Ho Lee Fook and Bo Innovation. Co-founder Jim Meehan and general manager Jeff Bell discuss drinks, drinkers and drinking.
How do you think the PDT concept will translate into a hotel setting?
Jim Meehan (JM): While the entrance to PDT may be our most talked-about feature, it’s the least meaningful experientially, as it’s nothing more than a Crif Dogs prank. We pride ourselves on what happens inside the bar, which won’t be lost in translation thanks to the efforts that we are putting in to completely reconstruct the original within The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
You have cocktails on your menu that include bacon-infused bourbon and buttered rum. How do you decide which combinations work?
Jeff Bell (JB): No matter how good—or bad—a combination of ingredients sounds on paper, you never know what it will taste like until you try it. That said, over the years we’ve developed a pretty good sense of what will work and what will not. Butter and rum are a classic combination, and bourbon, smoky bacon and maple are three very American flavours.
What’s the best cocktail you have ever had?
JB: My favourite cocktail to have after a long shift is a classic daiquiri—8:3:2 light rum, lime juice, cane syrup. My go-to cocktail when out and about is a Manhattan.
Should a martini be shaken or stirred?
JB: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A martini is a two-ingredient cocktail that has countless variations. I prefer mine stirred with Tanqueray 10 and Dolin Dry Vermouth at a 3:1 ratio, finished with a lemon twist. The stirring retains the clarity and velvety texture of the alcohol while chilling at the same time. I think a shaken martini, served ice cold, is a bit watery, lean and opaque.
Which country has the coolest drinkers?
JB: Australians have a chat that’s unparalleled and their colloquialisms become more charming as the night progresses. The drinking culture down there is super-fun.
Should certain cocktails only be drunk at certain times—such as pre- or post-dinner?
JB: People should drink what they want, when they want. The basic rule of thumb that I use, however, is that if a drink is light or bubbly, has a low alcohol volume or is bitter, then it’s most appropriate on the earlier side. Robust, boozy, stronger and sweet cocktails make the most sense as nightcaps.
Should cocktails be gendered?
JM: Women drink as much whisky as men do in New York City, so we don’t differentiate between guest preferences based on gender.
Do you think the speakeasy trend has run its course?
JM: We never marketed ourselves as a speakeasy, so I’m relieved the trend has run its course—people can focus on our service. If our concept were a gimmick, we’d have closed by now.