story by Mary Wojciechowski
photos courtesy The Linden Social Club
Behind the unassuming raisin-colored door at 12 Linden Street in Geneva are all the fixings of a modern speakeasy, including dark walls, tufted leather benches and liquor. The Linden Social Club is Geneva’s new craft cocktail bar and its goal is to provide patrons a thoroughly enjoyable social experience.
With its roots in the 17th-century communal punch bowl, the cocktail has a distinctly social history. Not even Prohibition could stop its rise to popularity as the primary feature of American social culture. Today, the cocktail remains irrevocably tied to social gatherings.
What’s more, it’s been experiencing a renaissance as an entire craft-cocktail movement takes hold. It’s a mixologist’s dream, and the founders of The Linden Social Club have made their dream come true. James-Emery Elkin and Joe Kennedy have created a place that honors the cocktail’s captivating allure and attracts all generations of cocktail lovers. The Linden is where the cocktail can do what it does best: bring people together.
“We wanted The Linden to feel welcoming,” says Kennedy, “by having consummate service and providing a stellar product.”
Everything from the antique gold trim to the handmade tonic they use is designed to enhance the social experience. Guests will find nothing to distract them from the enjoyment of good company and good drinks – there are no neon signs in the window, no televisions lining the walls. “The cocktail’s heyday was a party,” explains Kennedy. “That’s why people still go out today: to dress up, meet new people, have fun and express themselves.” That is exactly what The Linden Social Club is all about.
In 2013, Elkin, who is also the owner of Microclimate Wine Bar on Linden Street, approached Joe Kennedy with an idea to open a cocktail bar in Geneva. Kennedy is a mixologist and had vast experience with cocktails. Elkin’s interest lay in the restoration of old buildings. Together they pursued a city grant to realize their dream. The grants, funded through the federal Microenterprise Assistance Program, were being awarded to several local entrepreneurs to encourage the urbanization of Geneva. After being awarded a grant, The Linden was born.
As with most good ideas, a modest beginning proved to have growing power. The location the founders leased on Linden Street was originally half its current size. What was intended to be a small craft cocktail bar doubled in size when they decided to expand into the neighboring space.
They added a small kitchen and took on the talents of Chef Max Bonacci, who was moving back to the Finger Lakes after successfully working on the west coast for 17 years. He added a list of epicurean bar snacks, or “botanas” to the menu, and enhanced the quality experience that defines The Linden.
The unique mix of classic elements and modern design makes an immediate impact on visitors. Art Nouveau light boxes frame the massive bar mirror with a chic blue light. The winged goddess Artemisia holds up an absinthe fountain atop the distressed copper bar. A modern chandelier hangs in front of a wall of vintage art. Every interior detail of The Linden Social Club is designed to bridge the gap between a 1920s speakeasy and a modern craft-cocktail bar.
“Good design is functional,” says Kennedy. “We don’t want people to feel like they’re in an old place. It’s nostalgia we’re aiming for. And the way we do that is with high detail in small areas.” Furnishings such as the vintage Chippendale silver bowl they use as a salt dish and the tufted leather benches for seating were chosen with careful deliberation.
Additionally, the owners embraced certain design elements original to the building. One of the main wooden beams, charred in a long-ago fire, was left exposed to add vintage charm. The tin ceiling tiles, more than 100 years old, were covered with layers of chipped paint, but the team discovered that the backs were untouched. After flipping the tiles and painting them, the ceiling looks as fresh as the day it was installed.
One of the primary design elements in The Linden is the copper bar. Copper countertops, a modern trend in design, develop a patina over time that creates an ever-changing surface, a metaphor, notes Kennedy, for the ever-changing experience of a bar. The copper creates a perfect setting for the cocktail, the primary draw of The Linden Social Club.
The average guest might be surprised by the array of unusual bottles lined up behind the bar. Instead of a bevy of familiar names and brands, they see instead a collection of fascinating spirits, such as Gauvaberry from St. Martin; San Cernin from Navarra, Spain; and Amer from Alsace, France. “What drew me to the cocktail – what fascinated me – is the fact that it’s a truly worldly industry,” notes Kennedy. “These spirits come from all over.”
By combining spirits and flavors from around the globe, a cocktail can become a tour of the world in a single glass.
At The Linden, the aim is not only to expand the guests’ palates through exotic and unique spirits but to give them a better tasting drink by using the freshest ingredients. Most of the juices they use are straight from the fruit. They make their own simple syrup and tonic, and pay careful attention to the garnish. Aside from looking pretty, the garnish affects the nose of the cocktail.
For the bartenders at The Linden, the space behind the copper bar is more like a playground than a place of work, and the result is pure enjoyment for the guests. As Kennedy puts it, “With a wall filled with seemingly outlandish liquors, we have our own laboratory, and we can create whatever we want. We can make the drinks we always wanted to make.”
From the growing success of The Linden since its grand opening on July 1, 2016, it’s clear that owners James-Emery Elkin and Joe Kennedy have a gem on their hands and a place unlike any other. “One of the saddest things, I think, is to look around a bar and everyone’s either got their head down or they’re looking at a TV screen,” says Kennedy. “We’re not that type of place. When I look around The Linden, and I see everyone talking with someone, that’s the most rewarding thing.”
In the 1920s, Americans flocked to speakeasies to enjoy cocktails, forget their worries, and have a good time. Today, guests of The Linden Social Club are treated to the same experience.
What’ll it be?
From behind the bar, mixologist Joe Kennedy is as much an apothecary as a bartender, mixing up recipes for happiness no matter what the visitor’s mood.
Want to warm up for a night out? On the way to dinner, stop in for the Aperol Spritz. This aperativo, a stimulating mix of Aperol and champagne, will energize the senses and alert the stomach to get ready to digest.
Want a relaxing after-dinner drink? Try the mellow Negroni PX. With equal parts Cynar (an Amaro made with artichoke, all spice, cinnamon, and murr), Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin, this drink tastes like an evening by a blazing fireplace. The Cynar, a digestivo, will settle the stomach after a heavy meal.
In the mood for a refreshing classic? For those who want something delightfully refreshing and a little bit different, try the Ramos Gin Fizz. With Old Tom Gin, egg white, homemade vanilla syrup, heavy cream, soda and orange blossom, this old time favorite tastes like nostalgia in a glass. Due to the egg white and heavy cream in this frothy delight, this drink is sure to satisfy. (Watch the bartenders shake this one for five minutes!)
COME VISIT US
12 Linden St, Geneva, New York
Phone: (315) 325-4300
Hours: Mon & Sun: Closed
Tues–Thurs: 6 p.m. to12 a.m.
Fri: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Sat: 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.