The most important part about any wine bar experience is the wine. That seems obvious, but for many new and developing wine bars, the concept can get lost in the shuffle of overpriced, overwrought wine lists. Guests spend hours looking through binders of foreign names they’ve never come across and end up with a headache and a hole in their pocket by the end of the meal. This is not the case at Amuse. Down at 121 Ludlow Street in New York City's Lower East Side, we’ve found a hidden gem.
Started by sommeliers Rebecca Lemon and James Chiang, Amuse markets itself as a wine bar for wine lovers. The wine list is both extensive and affordable, with most every selection being offered by the glass, and it's manageable and informative, as there's a brief description of each wine below the offering. We also couldn’t help but notice the depth and breadth of such a compact list — wines range from Napa Valley to Serbia. Who knew Serbia produced wine? The bites are small and tasty, ideal for a quiet happy hour with friends that won’t fill you up before a night out.
But it’s actually the ambiance that got to us. Walking in the door, we were greeted by three musicians quietly strumming, and owner Lemon casually hanging by the bar. Their only bartender, Jon McCorrick, is quick to grab you a glass and recommend something that pairs with their small bites menu. Each item on the menu has its own wine pairing that works phenomenally well. When asked how she got the creative inspiration for Amuse, Lemon was quick to tell us that she wanted to create a place where people could come and relax. She is a firm believer that drinking wine should be as easy as drinking beer. Lemon explains that the menu and the wine were created in tandem — allowing the food to complement the wine and not let either get overpowered.
The Amuse staff is excellently trained to guide their guests to the right wine for their liking, and incredibly knowledgeable about each selection. And there’s something else about Amuse we can’t get over — their happy hour is every day from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the house wine is offered for only $5 a glass. In New York City. We’re not kidding around. The house red is a sangiovese that was smooth, fresh, and had beautiful cherry and currant notes. While Amuse is sticking to their wine and beer license for now, we definitely aren’t complaining about a lack of liquor. With a creative wine list like this one, Amuse surely won’t disappoint.