(Courtesy of citizenM)

Rooftop bars tend to be a complete and total shitshow, so it’s delightful to discover an uncontacted one. On the Lower East Side right now, that virginal Shangri-la is cloudM, the 21st-floor bar of the new citizenM hotel on the Bowery. It’s been quietly open for a little over a month now, but during my two visits there—once on a Thursday and then again on a Friday night, when the Bowery is also invariably a shitshow— it was so blessedly underpopulated that it felt almost like we had rented Airbnb’s poshest penthouse.

(Courtesy of citizenM)

Unlike other new rooftop bars with their $150 negronis, the cocktails here aren’t absurdly overpriced; $12 to $18 seems fair when you consider the epic views from the comfortable couches in the inside lounge and (sadly unheated) outdoor terrace. Plus, you get a free look at the Museum of Street Art, a series of murals– many of them Lower East Side themed– painted by 5Pointz artists in the hotel’s stairwell.

Allen Ginsberg mural at the Museum of Street Art. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

The bar itself is dotted with pop art like a melted disco ball by Dutch artist Rotganzen (citizenM is a Netherlands-based chain). And the cocktails feature interesting “sustainable garnishes” like broken circuit boards, and odd ingredients like “brick-infused Glenmorangie.”

Yes, you read that right: “brick-infused” Scotch. Turns out there’s a story behind that brick, and it’s a story that pretty much perfectly sums up the Bowery in the year 2018.

Police Officer Freestyle Rapper, with brick-infused Scotch. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

I’ll let bar manager Michelle DeWyngaert tell it. “Before the hotel opened, we went out behind the building,” she said during a recent conversation. “There was a pile of rubble behind the building and we found a brick we could remove. We boiled it for about an hour just to make sure. Then we let it sit in the scotch. Every time we batch this cocktail, we let the scotch sit with the brick for a day or two.”

I got the same spiel when I asked one of the bar’s waiters (called “ambassadors”) about the brick. Presumably it was a remnant of 185-191 Bowery, the four-parcel lot— including a century-old townhouse—that was sold to the hotel’s developers in 2008. The site’s three-year demolition process was extensively documented by Bowery Boogie via self-described “destructo-porn” posts with headlines like “The Last Gasp of 185 Bowery” and “Farewell to 185 Bowery.”

(Courtesy of citizenM)

Is it possible that one of the bricks shown in Curbed’s post, “Bowery Building Reduced to a Pile of Bricks for CitizenM Hotel,” ended up in an $18 cocktail called the Police Officer Freestyle Rapper, alongside oolong tea, and bitters made with house-grown gardenia? If so, the hotel’s Dutch mixologist, Ivar de Lange, might want to dream up a brain-chunk cocktail, because my head just exploded.

Anyway, cloudM, at 189 Bowery– right down the block from the Ace’s forthcoming Bowery hotel— is open daily from 4pm, with last call at 11:30pm Sunday through Wednesday and at 1:30am Thursday through Saturday. Kick back and sip that brick-infused Scotch before the unwashed masses discover it.