154 East 33rd St
Prohibition-era cocktails in a two-story Murray Hill townhouse.
Even though Middle Branch is not as hard to find as Sasha Petraske’s other establishments, such as Milk & Honey (now closed) or Little Branch, it maintains the main traits of the perfect cocktail bar: the well-crafted cocktail and the classy atmosphere.
The whole idea behind the resurgence of cocktail culture has to do with the recreation of the Prohibition-era atmosphere of forbidden clandestine drinking. The name ‘speakeasy’ comes from the demand to ‘speak easy’ in the bar in order not to attract any attention. It is paramount that the place is quiet and dignified in order for one to appreciate and slowly sip a well-made cocktail.
Middle Branch occupies a former antique shop on a rather plain block of East 33rd Street. The bar feels like a split-level typical midtown brownstone. It’s a real treat to get a seat by the window on the second floor, which opens into a wrought-iron balcony with a view of the Empire State Building.