The windows of 7 Clinton Street have recently boasted racy red signs: “Beer is sexy,” and “Beer. Your way,” they say. Another week, another craft beer spot, you may yawn. But Paloma Rocket, in soft-opening mode, is guaranteed to make beer enthusiasts perk up with a free-for-all of 30 constantly-changing niche drafts. The best part: No bartender is getting between you and these sweet brews.
“There’s usually the same old beers in bars,” said Graham Winton, the owner. “We asked our distributors for some of the wackiest beers.”
The system, a kind of 16 Handles for beer, will also appeal to gadget-lovers. It works like this: Stop by the “bartender” (bereft of his traditional job) to fill up a “Beer 2 Go” card with $$. Then take your pick of 30 options, ranging from 40 cents an ounce up to $1.20 for the fancy stuff. Each beer tap has a little touch screen where you can read tasting notes (do peach and pine strike your fancy, or lemon and caramel?) and check the alcohol content. Stick in your card and fill up as many ounces as you wish (well, to a limit). There are even little pressable washer stations on the bottom to give your glass a rinse in between drafts. (And yes, you get a refund if you don’t finish all your money by the end of the night.)
All this focus on technology and individualization in a bar may give some the heebie-jeebies, thinking of the rise of those creepy fast-food touch-screen restaurants, turning waiters from points of IRL human contact into soulless server-bots. But if you’ve ever stood at a bar for way too long trying to catch the bartender’s eye as he won’t stop flirting, it might be a godsend to be able to take your suds into your own hands. And anyway, this seems like a one-off concept designed to maximize variety– it’s like an extreme-tasting adventure spot to sample new flavors, not a replacement for the dive where you cozy up with your “usual.”
Since there are so many unique beers gathered in one place, from a Moody Tongue sipper with apple wood, bacon and peach notes, to Lolita, a sour raspberry Belgian-style ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, the idea is that patrons can mix-and-match an ounce at a time, getting a jolt of new flavors without committing to one beer. After all, not many people could stomach a full pour of Southern Tier’s heady creme brûlée imperial milk stout, but a taste of it is pretty interesting. And the selection is constantly in flux–once a keg is empty, it gets changed out for a completely new beer.
The decor is full-on James Bond, with a poppy 1960s mod vibe and posters of cheesy 007 “Bond Girl” vixens all over the wall. Winton, who is originally from the UK but has been living in the East Village since 1994 while working as a contractor on bars and restaurants, said he didn’t want the place to feel stuffy.
“The way I decorated this was kind of old-school East Village, with the posters and stuff, instead of the usual reclaimed wood, all dark,” he said. “I wanted to make something a bit more bright, a bit more fun, like back in the day in the ’90s East Village. Just have a happier look.”
Winton said he plans to add a few wine and Prosecco taps soon, and possibly even some kombucha options. For the rest of April the bar will be open on Friday and Saturday evenings till midnight, and in May he’ll officially open with the kitchen serving pub snacks, including sausages and salads.
Paloma Rocket, 7 Clinton Street. Soft open April, Fridays and Saturday 6-12. Full schedule starting May.