Bar Naná isn’t the place you would expect to spend a lazy Saturday night, but that’s exactly what we did when we headed to Manhattan’s West Village to check the new bar out and have a chat with the bar’s cocktail consultant, Giovanni Love, who was recently featured in our "Meet Your Bartender" column. We expected to find a whole lot of people and a very busy Saturday night, but what we found was an incredibly welcoming staff who had just opened the doors at 9 p.m.
Bar Naná is set on a cobblestone-lined street and the exterior looks somewhat industrial, but inside the bar is filled with warmth and, strangely, a feeling of love. That’s due in part to Giovanni Love’s own warm demeanor, but it also has something to do with the dark décor that's reminiscent of a 1950s Parisian bar. And that’s exactly the feel Bar Naná is going for.
Over a couple of cocktails (although Love personally doesn’t drink) the master mixologist and cocktail consultant told us that the inspiration surrounding Bar Naná comes from French author Émile Zola’s 1880 novel Nana. Pages from the novel have been ripped out and hung in the entrance hallway, which leads to the main bar area. The novel tells the story of Nana Coupeau's rise from streetwalker to high-class cocotte in France. The bar reflects the novel with its beautiful French décor, high-topped bar, and impeccable cocktails that were developed by Love, who has his own rags-to-riches stories.
Love, probably one of the most humble individuals we have ever had the chance to interview, described his own rags-to-riches story of starting out as a bartender after having grown up in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood in East Brooklyn. He told the story with a smile on his face, explaining how his rise to mixology success was riddled with trial and error but he was finally able to see so much success that he is now able to send money home to his mother. He spoke fondly of his family and described how his loved ones directly influence his cocktails. While he never gave us her name, Love told us that many of his cocktails are named after or inspired by "the love of life." Love told us he’s a "hopeful romantic," and we can see the romance and love in each cocktail he crafts.
But there’s a little more history to the bar and the creation of the cocktails than we expected. For example, the actual bar that was to be installed at Bar Naná wasn’t available until a few weeks before the bar’s opening, which meant Love had to create the cocktails off-site, which he explains was a difficult task. But drinks such as the Amore Amore came to him in dream. "I oftentimes dream in cocktails," he told us. What a great way in which to dream!
Bar Naná is a fabulously swanky bar that seems to come from a dream, and we can’t get over the unbelievable cocktails that Love has created for the bar. Whether you’re in the mood for an iced Naná Colada, or even a Pisco Sour, the cocktail list has what you want and experienced bartenders to boot. Love directly trained all the current bartenders at Bar Naná, and it shows in the detail. If you’re looking for a great cocktail experience in a warm and inviting bar, make sure to stop by Bar Naná in Manhattan’s West Village.