Anyway Cafe’s dark green faux-foliage ceiling offers its guests a space that feels deep, earthy, and tucked away from the bustle of the street. But it is far from dark or dim – the bar’s unique absinthes-on-fire, co-owner Aksana tells me, keep the bar well lit on any given evening. I watched in awe as she lit a brown sugar cube over a glass of absinthe, melting the sweetness of the sugar into the sharpness of the emerald-colored drink. The dancing blue flames dot the tables of this Russian-French bar, and the drink is a real kicker.
When Aleksei Panin opened Anyway Cafe in 1995, he envisioned a French bistro with live music every night. Today, the Cafe hosts a range of forty non-New Yorker musicians representing an eclectic mix of styles. Accompanying the music is a drink selection characterized by the alcohols of choice of the Russians who moved to France in the early twentieth century soon after the Russian revolution, including Aleksei’s family. This back story finds its way into the bar’s renowned vodka infusions, particularly the Borscht martini. With beet vodka, dill vodka, pink salt, spices, and a splash of pickle juice, the martini tastes like the traditional Russian beet soup, but packs a much stronger punch.