Drink in a cocktail of 80s nostalgia as your favorite shot — The Woo Woo — returns in the form of New York’s newest underground speakeasy, nestled between Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square. The bar opens its doors this evening (Thursday).
A time machine straight to 1985, The Woo Woo recalls the height of the city’s grunge-punk era, with a dash of Pac-Man on top for good measure. Behind a street-level door subtly marked “Come As You Are” is a set of neon-painted stairs emblazoned with graffiti-sprayed messages of love and acceptance by NY-based artist Brandon Cruz. Walk further in and you’ll find yourself in an entryway designed by Creative Director Autumn Mishler, outfitted to look like the porno shops of a pre-Disneyfied Times Square — complete with old Playboy magazines, sex toys and nudie posters — before you hit the bar itself.
The cheekily gritty setting is a hat tip to owner Michael McNamee’s first bartending job at the Silver Bullet Saloon in none other than Port Authority. “It was very interesting,” laughed McNamee. “Have you ever seen the show The Deuce?”
In between mingling with some of Midtown’s most memorable characters, McNamee mixed up plenty of batches of the quintessential shot of the decade — The Woo Woo. The drink — a fruity concoction of vodka, peach schnapps, and cranberry — allegedly originated at a Mets bar in Bayside, where the bartender would yell “Woo Woo!” and serve patrons a round of the cocktail every time the baseball team scored.
McNamee puts his own spin on the iconic beverage, adding peach syrup, vanilla vodka, and a dash of pomegranate for a new twist. The rest of the cocktail menu is equally as inventive, featuring throwback hits such as the “Dirty Dancing” (vodka, elderflower, pomegranate, white cranberry and floral perfume), the “Purple Rain” (gin, lemongrass, celery, citrus, fresh mint, and pink peppercorn over purple rain ice), and the “Eye of the Tiger” (Woo Woo spiced rum, Falernum, pineapple, anise and cranberry potion). If you’re hungry, fear not because there are saucily named sliders like the Give Him The Beef and the appropriately 80s-esque Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls with Blue Cheese.
The Woo Woo’s ribald ambiance is explicitly designed to be the kind of place where might you dance the night away to your favorite New Wave and punk songs, snap some group selfies in their branded photo booth, or try for a high score at the old-school Nintendo game machine. The bar is meant to be a convivial, slightly wild place where, as McNamee points out, you’re free to be who you are, as long as you treat others with respect. The space also features a prominently displayed “Sexual Freedom Manifesto” that declares “We choose to love loudly, openly, and wholeheartedly — we are enthusiastic proponents of CONSENT — anything less than a ‘Hell Fucking Yeah’ is a solid NO”.
McNamee and his brother Patrick, owners of The Woo Woo and proprietors at PMac’s Hospitality Group are thrilled to open a new project close to several of their other popular Midtown venues, which include Tanner Smith’s, Vida Verde, Dutch Fred’s, The Three Monkeys, Haswell Greens and Woo Woo-adjacent The Mean Fiddler. The McNamees recently reopened The Mean Fiddler after a nine-month closure due to the pandemic. The W47th Street building where both The Mean Fiddler and The Woo Woo are located was also once the home of the famous Copacabana, which itself had to relocate due to lease issues. Looks like The Woo Woo is now the newest hot spot north of Havana!
Back in the basement, McNamee looks forward to welcoming guests to a Times Square-slice of New York’s most hard-partying decade. “I was really into the whole 1980s — the scene, everything — so we’re doing something unique with that down here,” he said, adding that the time is right for new, creative cocktail bars, given the neighborhood’s recent nightlife renaissance. But it’s clear that The Woo Woo, with one foot planted in the future, still has one foot planted in the rebellious past of the 80s. As their Manifesto says “We reject the societal pressure to live by ‘their’ rules. We make our own rules.”
The Woo Woo is at 266 W47th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue). It’s currently open Thursday-Sunday 5pm-2am. thewoowoonyc.com