Award-winning mixologists Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi unveil a fourth Broken Shaker location on a rooftop in New York’s Flatiron District.
Written by Jacquelyn Lumley
Broken Shaker NYC
he hotel bar, once an afterthought where the occasional business traveler might indulge in an over-salted margarita, is in the midst of a revolution. No longer run by the restaurant manager, a bar menu is now expected to feature local spirits and herbs grown on site, with each drink constructed like a science project served photo-ready. Bartenders Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi were at the forefront of refining an elevated drinking experience when they opened the first Broken Shaker bar inside a vacant room of a Miami Beach hotel.
Mismatched furniture, tropical wallpaper, banana tree pathways with string lights amid Florida’s muggy night sky communicated a different kind of sultriness to Miami’s hotel bar scene back in 2012. The vibe proved to be sustainable, as the original outpost of the duo’s now four-bar family just ranked number one on the Daily Meal’s Top 150 Bars in America 2018 and has been nominated for “Outstanding Bar Program” by the James Beard Association twice, all on the coattails of the unveiling of a highly anticipated New York City location.
Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta of Bar Lab
Colombian-born Orta and Israeli-born Zvi made a name for themselves in Miami as sought-after bartenders working every position from dishwasher to line cook long before approaching Sydell Group (which owns the Freehand) with the idea to introduce a pop-up bar inside a vacant space of one of their hotels in 2012. “It was this tiny little room of their hotel—like 300 square feet,” 37-year-old Orta says with a laugh. “They didn’t believe us, they were like, ’You guys are crazy,’ but we were like, ‘No, no, we’re gonna kill it.’”
Fast forward six years and the former bartenders now own and operate a creative hospitality consulting business, Bar Lab. The group’s philosophy casts mixology as its own industry and they offer everything from beverage programs to brand management for clients like American Airlines and Cirque du Soleil.
Bar Lab strategizes against challenges like introducing Johnnie Walker scotch drinkers to cocktail culture. “There’s this movement towards millennials,” says Meahgan Pearson, interior designer and Professional Development Director on the American Society of Interior Design, “and hotels are starting to incorporate this millennial mindset into design. They are integrating technology and thinking about how this age group really interacts with hospitality.” As for the pop-up experiment? It became a permanent fixture when the Freehand Miami remodeled and aligned the brand with Broken Shaker.
Housed atop a historic city building, Broken Shaker NYC is the duo’s fourth outpost in partnership with the Freehand Hotel, following Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. “It’s a beautiful space,” says Orta of the new hotel which opened its doors in January of this year with 395 rooms, two restaurants and George Washington-themed lobby bar. “It was built in the 1930’s and there have been a lot of different owners so we’re trying to really restore the natural element.” This is a key concept in the methodology of Bar Lab; putting emphasis on the essence and atmosphere of each new space while training bartenders to think like mixologists and to approach their jobs as careers.
“What’s seen as a standard thing when you walk into a bar now— I think Gabe and Elad were on top of that in Miami,” says Scotty Lobianco, former bar manager at Broken Shaker Chicago. They had the foresight to see that people don’t just want alcohol, they want an experience and a story they can share after they leave the bar. That’s really what put them on the map.”
Still, the New York bar scene takes no prisoners, and each new locale is subject to its patrons. Orta and Zvi have been hard at work aiming to transform one rooftop in New York’s Flatiron District into a backyard patio party of summer sunset dreams. Diverting from the hotel bar as we knew it, Broken Shaker has landed in the concrete jungle, mini-drink umbrella in hand.