“I wanted to make you something from my heritage,” says bartender Jairo Taveras of Poción Lounge in Washington Heights, handing me a dark-rum-based cocktail garnished with a flaming stick of palo santo bark. “It’s Dominican mixology.” The richly sweet beverage is a theatrical take on Mama Juana, in which rum, red wine, and honey soak with tree bark and herbs. For a young woman sitting with a date at the bar, Taveras makes another drink special — this one, in the spirit of Halloween, a beet-red vodka number poured into a skull-shaped glass. She’s charmed.
You have to be looking for Poción to discover its delights, or you might just stumble in because the wine bar next door, Kazza, is too packed. The vegan tapas spot, open since June, is accented with lime-green light and sits right off Broadway on 177th Street, past the spinning rotisserie chickens at Malecon and a few brightly lit slice joints. The wall off to the side of the bar bears the words, “We serve booze with nutritious boosters.”