The Third Man’s Wolfgang Ban Explores the ‘Secret’ East Village


January in New York is well-suited to a cloak and dagger mentality and these dark and stormy days can set the stage for some equally heady nights in our suddenly-eerie metropolis.

Our advice? Embrace that film noir feeling and grab a drink at The Third Man, the new cocktail den on Avenue C from the Edi & the Wolf team. The bar takes its namesake from a classic spy film starring Orson Wells, and riffs on many of the Cold War-era references from the time. “You’ll see references to the film in some of cocktails themselves, names and ingredients,” says Wolfgang Ban, half of the chef/partner team (along with Eduard Frauneder) behind the project. “The cool thing is, Avenue C is still kind of a ‘secret’ area of New York City, just starting to be discovered.”

Today, Ban chatted with us about the bar’s Viennese influences, his favorite bar back home, and how to fix a tough day with Austrian Blaufraenkisch (or what we call red wine).

The Third Man is a classic Cold War spy film. How have you brought that aesthetic into the creation of the bar?
Edi [Frauneder] and my favorite hang out in Vienna was called Loos Bar (also called “American Bar”). It’s a tiny bar in the center of Vienna, which was designed by Adolf Loos in the early 20th century. We tried to create a place which would feel warm and welcoming like this place, and serve as a local neighborhood spot as well as a destination.

You’ve been open for about a month now. In three sentences, how would you describe your the atmosphere on any given night?
In terms of Viennese influence, the most prominent similarity is the emerald green leather banquettes, which are inspired by those at the Loos Bar. The combination of exposed brick, glass shelving and the banquettes give the place a more elegant feel than say, Edi & the Wolf, but with the same welcoming, communal vibe. We’ve also got these great wrought-iron buttresses salvaged from an old West Village church, that help provide a nice balance of old and new.

Finish this sentence: “On a dark and stormy night, I’ll pour myself a…”
Nice glass of Austrian Blaufraenkisch, or an old Scotch Whiskey. Depends how hard of a day it was.

And if we came by ordered one of your signature cocktails, like the “Harry Lime,” we’d get…?
Mezcal, chartreuse, maraschino, fresh lime juice, sparkling wine chaser. It’s our riff on The Last Word, with a central character’s name playing off the color of the drink.

How have culinary influences played into the the creation of your drinks?
Edi and I get our understanding of flavor combinations from cooking and creating plates. These days cooking and cocktail creation blend with each other. We can start using cooking techniques in the bar and vice versa. For instance, we’ll incorporate pickling juices from the restaurant and pickled ingredients are very common in Austrian cuisine. The cross-pollination is one of the best parts of opening the bar so close to one of our restaurants.

If you aren’t at The Third Man, where are you having a drink?
Booker and Dax or Death & Co. are definitely at the cutting edge right now. If I’m feeling divey, I’ll hit up Rudi’s on 9th Avenue near my apartment for a cheap beer and some good people watching.

You’re using liquid nitrogen in certain cocktails. Where can we find it on the menu?
We chill the glasses and occasionally freeze an ingredient before muddling it, like the dill in the Nessun Rimpianto.

Freezing anything sounds rough right now. What’s the best cocktail for staying warm in this punishing weather?
At The Third Man, we’re serving what we call the Triest, a mix of Fernet, myrtle berry liquer and a house-made five spice mulled cider. The combination of the hot temperature and spices in the Fernet and cider warm you right up.