Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Arun Marsten

Huckleberry Bar, on Grand Street in Williamsburg, is Arun Marsten’s local. He’s lived in the vicinity of the bar--one that is somehow at once dark and elegant and welcoming--since he moved to the city a little less than two years ago. The chill outside reminds me that somehow we missed the 50-degree weather and skipped right to the 40s from the 70s. A call for an Old-Fashioned comes from deep within my bones. Soon Arun arrives, and I order just that. He wears head to toe black--or what at least looks like it in the dark of the bar--like a real New Yorker, despite being a native Atlantan.

Arun pronounces his name “arrin” and definitely not “uh-rune” and definitely don’t tell him how he should pronounce his name if you’re not also Indian. We met because we attended the same university, but not at the same time. Rather, a professor we both had, the inimitable Scott Sandage, said we should be friends when Arun moved to the city--I started the campus music magazine Arun edited long after I graduated, and we both took Scott’s rock and roll history course. Arun graduated with a BHA, a bachelor’s of humanities and arts, in information systems and music. He now works in software development by day, and as a musician at night--he’s working on an EP as we speak.

Cocktails are among Arun’s great loves, alongside coffee, biking, and music. My bourbon Old-Fashioned order passes muster, but later he’ll have me try some of the bar’s house cocktails. Arun selects the “Sweater Weather,” made of “Magnus Scotch, Avua Cachaca Amburana, Bebo Coffee Liqueur, Banana Liqueur, and Orange Bitters.” I smell it. “It tastes like alcoholic banana bread,” he tells me, and he’s right. But it’s a little strong for my taste and I wrinkle my nose quite unsubtly. “Yeah,” he laughs. “It’s very alcohol-forward.” The other drink he orders is the “Pachamama,” made with “Caravedo Pisco, Absolut Elyx, Garam Masala Carrot Syrup, Sfumato, Lemon Juice, and Fresh Ginger.” His friend is the beverage director at the bar and she makes the Garam Masala Carrot Syrup herself. It’s delicious. Later, I also get a brief lesson in bitters--Fernet-Vallet is Mexican Fernet, and you can sip it or add it to a cocktail. We sip the dark, herbaceous liquid from tiny shot glasses. We punctuate cocktails with trips to the garden, where Arun will roll and smoke a cigarette.

We talk about our youth as pretentious music snobs, our adulthood now slightly reformed. We talk about cultural appropriation, how you earn ownership of a city, DIY music scenes, being marketed to for your millennial-ness, old-school New York, weird internet culture, where the soul of the city lives, finding community in new places, generative music, “punk shows,” lies people tell about themselves, Bruno Mars. Soon we’ve been at the bar nearly three and a half hours. Arun orders one last drink: a rye, Fernet-Branca, Angostura bitters, and simple syrup cocktail called a Toronto. It’s his favorite.

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