116 Crown looks like a fat American: confused. It isn’t sure if its walls are made of straw mat, plastic marble or puke-shaded velvet. It’s almost like going to a shitty bar in New Jersey that thinks it’s in New York. Of course, this premise works in New Haven, where your only other option is Toad’s Place. So shut up and bask in the efforts of slapdash decorators.
Arts Reporter “Big Dawgg,” l’homme de la noche, accompanied me for legality reasons. But his ID was rendered useless as Jay Adams (bartender, likes frothy drinks) handed us two immaculate art deco menus with a “Let me know when you are ready” and two glasses of water.
It took us a while. We were only ready to leave our balls behind as we glanced over the cocktail list. Four pages — Flavorful, Complex & Diverse, Aromatic & Subtle, Classics & Inspirations, etc. — of ensembles ranging from $8 to over $30.
Clearly, I ordered the most intricate, fucsia cocktails. For starters, a “Glitteratti” (plymouth gin, g.e. massenez crème de cassis, lemon juice, simple syrup, mionetto brut, $16), followed by a “Lower East Side” (liquore strega, lime juice, cumin, salt, soda, served on the rocks, $12). The “Dawgg” wanted something manly and holy, so he went for a “Church Key” (aalborg akavit, passion fruit purée, ginger simple syrup, apple cider foam, served on the rocks, $12). He couldn’t handle a second round.
Fortunately, Jay knew what he was doing, and as I felt the sparkly fusion of cassis and mionetto reach my lips, I was sold. The best part, though, was the intense, shiny tone of pink of the liquid that, God, I was expected to drink. It was like fruity toothpaste, but it tasted good and didn’t make my tummy hurt.
Half-inebriated, we then proceeded to explore the rest of the bar. Between the bathrooms is a tight corridor that leads to a cave-like space, which is decorated with four mirrored tables that will comfortably hold four lines each. As we sat inside, rollicking to the sound of Madonna’s “Hollywood” (such honest lyrics!), we began writing on the walls, imagining ourselves to be the modern counterparts of the beasts of Lascaux.
Perhaps just as important as the drinks and vandalism are the cougars, natives of the Connecticut heartland, with monochrome wardrobes and faces lined with wrinkles. Looking into their tired, hungry eyes, tracing the paths of crows’ feet, I was able to see the pain of being a single mother or an elementary school teacher. Whatever.