Creating a Hedonistic World: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Giselle Reiber


by Gamal Hennessy

There are a lot of cocktail lounges in New York City. It has become a niche market unto itself. Every new venue is trying something different to stand out and appeal to the discerning New York native. Demi Monde is a new lounge that combines craft cocktails with creative entertainment for a very compelling effect. NCI sat down with their manager Giselle Reiber just before one of their unique nightlife performances.

NCI: Tell me about your career in nightlife and what you were doing before you got to Demi Monde.

GR: I got my start at Norwood where I learned a lot about how nightlife works. For a little while I was a bottle service hostess, but that wasn’t my thing. I transitioned pretty quickly into a management role and I’ve managed and help launch Pulqueria in Chinatown before coming to Demi Monde.

NCI: Give me an idea of the concept behind Demi Monde and how you are expressing that concept.

GR: Demimonde is a term made famous by Alexandre Dumas in the early 20th Century that literally means “half the world”. It refers to a high class hedonistic lifestyle. We’re trying to recreate that environment by combining high end craft cocktails with various types of performance art. We’ve only been opened a few months and we’ve already had contortionists, aerial silk dancers, fire eaters and burlesque shows. We plan to explore even more entertainment and performance art, although we probably won’t do the fire eating thing again.

NCI: Your cocktail menu is rather unique. Why do you think there has been such an international interest in cocktail culture over the past five years?

GR: I think it is a natural extension of the rise of foodies and the increased appeal of unique and exotic ingredients in food. When I first came to New York and started exploring restaurants I was exposed to cuisines and spices I never knew about growing up. I think it is similar for a lot of people when they start to explore cocktails. The same operators behind Death and Company developed Demi Monde so our approach to craft cocktails rivals anything available in New York.

NCI: You said you worked in bottle service before managing cocktail lounges. What do you think is the difference between your bottle service patrons and your cocktail patrons?

GR: I think the bottle service patron and the cocktail patron have different goals when they go out. The bottle service person is using the night to impress someone, whether it is his date, his client or his friends, about his income. The bottle is incidental. The cocktail patron is looking for a more sensual experience. They want a unique taste and a refined construction to what they drink. Whenever possible, we try to combine the two experiences by offering our hand made mixers with the bottle service instead of the standard juices to help our guest have a more distinctive experience. (See also: The Cultural Impact of Bottle Service

NCI: Demi Monde isn’t in an area known for its nightlife spots or cocktail lounges. Do you think you can lure more of the nightlife crowd downtown or do you think most of your regular patrons are the people who live and work in the area?

So far, have two waves of patrons on a typical night. Between 5-10pm, we get a combination of the Wall Street crowd and the regulars who live in the new buildings going up in the Financial District. Later in the evening we are seeing more people migrating down here from SoHo, LES and the Village.

NCI: People travel downtown for your cocktails even when there are several craft cocktail lounges in those other areas?

GR: They come for the cocktails and the entertainment. Demi Monde has become a destination spot because we offer an experience that includes cocktails, but we don’t just serve cocktails on their own.

NCI: What are you involved in outside of Demi Monde and where do you see yourself going in the near future?

Demi Monde is only part of my involvement in nightlife. I play keyboards in a performance group called Ice Balloons in addition to managing here. Both jobs give me a chance to be creative in different ways which is really what I want to do. I think I will stay in nightlife until I can work on my music full time or an even bigger creative opportunity comes along. 

Have fun.


The Culinary Side of Nightlife Culture: An interview with Jimmy Carbone and Rev Ciancio

By Gamal Hennessy

Music and fashion might be the most public aspect of nightlife culture, but consumption is the most basic and integral part of the experience. What we can eat and drink in nightlife is very different than what we allow ourselves to consume in normal life. There is an escapist quality in culinary nightlife that is just as strong as the artistic passion or the sexual expression. To get a better appreciation of this side of the culture, NCI sat down with Rev Ciancio and Jimmy Carbone to get their perspective on the eve of their new event series Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: Where did the concept of Elixirs and Eats come from?

Jimmy: We've been producing events together for a couple of years now. We know what goes into a successful event and what people enjoy. We have also made connections with a lot of small businesses creating unique small batch spirits. We decided to couple our involvement in culinary culture with the up and coming spirits producers that we know to create a unique series of events.

NCI: How did each one of you get involved in the culinary aspect of nightlife culture?

Rev: I started in the music biz as an artist manager. Managing bands is essentially like as series of pop up events.  I'd set up the tour, get the band in their van or bus, promote the shows and put the band back on the road when the show was over. After doing that for a few years, my interest in music events began to ebb, but my interest in the hospitality industry overall got stronger. That's when I began to focus on more culinary productions around the city.

Jimmy: I started out on the culinary and hospitality side of the business. I own and operate a restaurant called Jimmy’s No. 43 so the food and drink side of the equation has always been important to me. It was my involvement in that business that exposed me to the spirits that we are going to be focusing on for Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: How is your event different from other tastings in the city?

Rev: We’re different for two reasons. We've found that many of the tastings in the city focus more on the cocktail and not on the complexity of each spirit. That's why we want to offer our independent spirits neat or on the rocks, so our guests can get a full appreciation of the straight bourbon and the food we pair it with.

The other thing is, a lot of liquor tastings have a stiff corporate feel about them. We want to expose people to these great spirits and we want them to be able to meet the producers of each liquor we bring it, but we also want people to have a good time. That's why we're going to have great live music and a first rate burlesque show as well. We want people to get off work, come straight over, enjoy a summer evening on a beautiful rooftop and have a good time. That's always the main focus for us.

NCI: Tell me about the entertainment that you’ll have for each event and the venues you are working with.

Jimmy: We should talk about the venue first. Hudson Terrace is an amazing spot in terms of location, style and set up. It is the perfect place to spend a summer evening. It's also a great place to create a unique New York experience. We're going to have international trumpet player Fabio Morgera and his trio playing live to add to the ambiance and the Love Show burlesque to add some spice to the night. When you combine all that with our culinary offerings you get one of the best after work experiences in the city.

NCI: What about your beverage partners? Tell me a little bit about how they got involved in Elixirs and Eats.

Jimmy: We've met many great independent distillers when we were producing our previous events. For this first show, we're bringing together Warwick Valley, Caledonia, Scorpion Mezcal, and Templeton to let our guests sample and discuss what their spirits are all about. If you have a love for well made bourbon or you want to find out more about it, this will be a great setting for that.

NCI: What is the ultimate goal of Elixirs and Eats?

Rev: We want to expose people to more of the culture of spirits and create an atmosphere where people have fun exploring new tastes, new music and new experiences. We're not planning to take over the world with Elixirs and Eats. We just want to have fun giving people what they enjoy.

Have fun.


Nightlife Culture Review: Flute Grammercy

Flute is a solid component to New York cocktail culture.

One of the best parts of the venue is the way they seat people. This might sound stupid, but it makes a difference. The host sits all the large groups and singles upstairs in the main room and gather all the couples down in the basement. This saves the party crowd from having to suffer through PDA that doesn't include them and lets the couples fawn over each other in peace. I wish more places did that.

The cocktails are quite good as well. Like many cocktail lounges now, Flute focuses on a specific liquor in most of their drinks. In this case champange is the common theme. We tried a few drinks and each one was quite good. The service is good. The dim room and comfortable furniture are good for enjoying crafted cocktails. The music is a random hot mess of an iPod shuffle, but no one is perfect.

If you like cocktails you will like Flute, whether you are in a group or a couple.

Have fun.