East Harlem’s Lion Lion boasts classic cocktails with a twist of camaraderie: Review
Push aside the heavy curtain that shrouds the entrance to Lion Lion at 332 East 116th Street, and you’ll find a long, red-lit lounge that’s helped to establish East Harlem within the classic-cocktail scene.
Thirsty? There’s a water glass in front of you before your butt hits the stool. Across the bar, candlelight illuminates a comprehensive booze collection. Lion figurines peek out here and there. Couples linger in dark corners and the backyard has hanging lights and ample seating.
Ask for Val, or the owners, Zack and Dave, at the bar. They recommend ordering the Daiquiri — a mainstay here. It’s well made, with rum, fresh lime and sugar, shaken hard and served up in a frosty coupe.
While you are drinking, check out the wall of celebrity photos. A shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger in black sunglasses reads, “Great drinks. I’ll be back. Arnold.” There are also photos of Mila Kunis, Annie Oakley, Orville Wright, Charlize Theron, and Robert de Niro, all famous Leos. Zack and Dave are, you guessed it, also Leos.
Lion Lion runs their Happy Hour from 5-7pm Monday through Friday. They offer Salt & Pepper Martinis with a twist for $10. Beers a $5 and you can add a shot for $3. Bring a group and share a bottle of wine for $22.
If you show up a little later, order the Bartender’s Special ($13), a Negroni that is served, rather uniquely, with a fun-sized Pineapple Daiquiri. Or try the JFK Harris ($12). It is a beautiful cocktail with a float of red wine that sits right on top of the glass like icing on a cake. It’s a cocktail with two personalities. Drink from the straw for a pop of mint and white rum, sip from the top to add a dark, dry fruity taste to the mix.
For something more savory, try the deluxe Michelada ($12): beer, mezcal, hot sauce, steak sauce, fresh lime juice and white pepper tincture open-hand slap your palette.
The food menu includes ZGR’s World Famous Cheesy Crab Dip, charcuterie boards and other affordable bar snacks.
The take away? Lion Lion is a first-rate cocktail bar that delivers unique, balanced drinks on the cheap in a cozy space. The ambiance is good and patrons were friendly and likely to chat with strangers. To wit: When a group of women nestled in a booth started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their friend, the whole bar sang along.