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.