When I ask Bar Mattachine co-owner Garrett McKechnie about the inspiration to open a gay craft-cocktail bar downtown, he breaks into a thoughtful origin story of the 5-month-old establishment. It’s hard to focus on what he’s saying, though, because legendary drag performer Jackie Beat keeps belting out the phrase “small white schlong” to the tune of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” It’s Spin the Wheel night at Bar Mattachine, and the place is packed for a Wednesday.
The crowd cheers Jackie on and I turn my attention back to McKechnie. The bar’s name was inspired by the Mattachine Society, one of the oldest gay-rights organizations in America. The connection popped into McKechnie’s head one night as he lay in bed, and he felt the fit was perfect for this new concept. “We wanted to do the cocktails rooted in gay culture but not get Disney with it,” McKechnie says.
On the Signatures section of the cocktail menu, there's a stirred rye cocktail dubbed the Harry Hay, which nods to the Mattachine Society’s founder. The Pershing Square Fix, with crushed raspberries, lemon juice (fresh squeezed daily, like all of the bar's juices), house-made curaçao and vodka, is an ode to the 1930s cruising destination.
Not all of the Signatures relate back to gay culture. The Hartwood, a mezcal cocktail, was created in honor of the wildly popular restaurant in Tulum, Mexico, of the same name. It glistens gold with its hand-cut ice and tropical pineapple juice.
There was never any thought of opening Bar Mattachine anywhere but downtown. The space came first, followed by the concept.
“She’s a downtown girl,” McKechnie says of co-owner Vianey Delgadillo, who first discovered the two-story bar with third co-owner Jigger Mercado. “There’s opportunity here to make something.”
The team did some renovations, transforming it into a sexier space with a mirrored backbar, dark stone walls and a sleek, black, stone bar. A clawfoot bathtub that made an appearance for New Year’s Eve has become a permanent fixture upstairs. The team created a “Quick and Dirty Bar” upstairs to serve drinks faster than the craft=cocktail lineup downstairs.
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“The cool thing is that on the busy days, people still come downstairs and want to wait,” McKechnie says. “I was worried about it, but it’s really working out.”
Bar Mattachine, 221 W. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 278-0471, facebook.com/barmattachine.