At the Bar with Butterfly’s Jesse Anholt

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Patrons slink through a well-heeled crowd and slip into velvet couches. Seductive photos from Sante D’Orazio hang alongside winged works from Damien Hirst. The Cure hums overhead. This is the stage for SIXTY SoHo’s Butterfly, a sexy little spot from nightlife guru Nur Khan (Rose Bar, Kenmare, Don Hill’s) and restaurateur John McDonald (Lure Fishbar, El Toro Blanco, Bistrot Leo). If there really is such a thing as a perfect match, this certainly is one. The vibe is right, the people-watching is prime, and the drinks tie it all together.

Behind the bar, bartender Jesse Anholt whips up cocktails like the Viceroy—a potent stay-up-all-night combo of tequila, lime, passion fruit, and thyme—and the autumn-appropriate Monarch, crafted with bourbon, smoked cherry wood, Contratto, and Meletti. Anholt is a seasoned professional, and has worked at NYC institution Monkey Bar and has served as a head instructor at the New York Bartending School. Like any bartender worth their salt, Anholt knows that drinks are, for most, a vital part of the social mix, the thing that propels an evening from after-work bevs to early-morning cabs home.

With the temperatures changing and the alfresco summer fun behind us, Butterfly will be an ideal homebase for revelry in the seasons to come. Anholt’s classics-inspired menu, too, is sure to suit. Whiskey, anyone?

How long have you lived in NYC?

I’ve been in the city just over seven years now.

Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. But also spent a good ten years down in Houston, Texas.

Jesse-Anholt

Where was your first job bartending in New York?

Well, technically my first job isn’t even worth mentioning, because it was a new restaurant that lasted all of two weeks before everything imploded. But my first real job was at the Michelin-starred Austrian restaurant Wallse, in the West Village.

Biggest lesson you learned about bartending early on:

To not let the little things get to you. Things go wrong, people yell at you, but, at the end of the day, you just shake it off because none of it is going to matter tomorrow.

Where does Butterfly take its cocktail menu cues from?

I created this menu to pay tribute to the classics. Traditional cocktails are still around because they’re that good, so rather than getting too crazy with obscure ingredients, foams, and flashy glassware, I decided to stick to sophisticated simplicity, which I feel is exactly what the Butterfly crowd is after. Plus all the cocktails are named after different butterflies.

Cocktail that most embodies NYC, in your opinion:

Well, I feel the obvious answer here is the Manhattan, but I’m going to go with a gin martini. It’s complex and elegant, while also being simple and classic. Also, a lot of times it can be dirty.

Jesse-Anholt

Three most important things to remember when making a drink:

First, a good cocktail is all about balance. Balancing sweet and citrus, bitter and herbal, booze and mixer. That’s 90-percent of making a good cocktail. Secondly, like a chef, you want to look to your local farmers market. Use fresh, season-appropriate fruits and herbs and you’ll always get a better product. Lastly, never underestimate your ice. Cheap, thin ice will ruin your drink before it even has a chance.

Person in history you’d most like to share a drink with and why:

Jerry Thomas, the father of the modern cocktail and king of everything NYC in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Or Prince. Because who wouldn’t want to have a drink with Prince?

Most overrated beverage:

Vodka soda. You’re not saving that many calories, just get the drink you actually want and enjoy your night.

Song currently on repeat at Butterfly:

“Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure.

Describe your favorite customer:

If you know exactly what you and your friends want right when you get up to the bar, order it in a clear voice, and promptly hand me a credit card to start a tab, you’re my new best friend and I’ll be taking care of you first all night. A decent tip doesn’t hurt either.

What’s your latest drink obsession?

As much as I want to say I’ve just been pounding White Claws all summer, I have not. So I’ll say I’ve been really getting back into my rums. It’s such an under-utilized spirit in America right now that deserves a lot more respect than it gets.

Jesse-Anholt-bartender

What’s your go-to drink?

I’m a pretty easy guy: tequila on the rocks in the summer, bourbon on the rocks in the winter, a margarita thrown in when the mood strikes me.

What would someone order to get your attention?

In a bad way: a Clase Azul margarita. It shows you have money, but zero respect for good alcohol. In a good way: one of our more obscure bourbons or scotches, neat or with one cube. I see you, and I respect it.

Best seat in the house at Butterfly:

The obvious choice here would be the couches right in front of the fireplace. But I’m going to say for a nice date drink, one of the zebra-print nooks on either side of the fireplace. Or, if you have a bigger group, the far corner booth in the back room.

Best thing someone’s ever told you when you’ve been behind the bar:

Probably when Paris Hilton asked if I wanted to do a shot with her and Leonardo DiCaprio. Hard to turn that one down.

Jesse-Anholt-bartender

Where do you go for a drink when you’re winding down?

You can find me almost every night either at One Mile House or Josie Wood’s Pub. One Mile for their great beer list and proximity to my train, and Josie’s for good music and fun atmosphere. Both of them for their amazing staff.

When you’re not at Butterfly, you’re most likely _____________.

I’ll either be rehearsing with my band or shooting pool. Either way, probably with a drink in hand.

Photos by Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels

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