Aside from the comings and goings of a particular culinary team, the 1836 Club has operated quietly for the year and a half since opening. For the most part, it is exactly the way they like it as the club serves as a private oasis for politicians, sports figures, and the high end business community. It is not going to be the hip bar in town for this reason, although it is surprisingly busy at any given moment.
The club is private a private, member only local, but if you find yourself with an invite (or better yet a membership), you are in for a treat when it comes to the bar program. I found my way in for on the second time since opening, unless you count multiple visits to the kitchen, and was impressed with how far the bar program has advanced. My original impression from opening was that it would be a great place to grab a whiskey neat or a glass of wine, but not much else.
That all seems to have changed dramatically. You will find a solid list of classic craft cocktails, all made as good as anywhere else in town. They do a solid sazerac, a proper hemingway daiquiri, blood and sand, negroni, and anything else you would expect out of a solid bar. They are also using good spirits in the cocktails which is something too many bars try to cut corners on lately.
The specialty cocktails are what really peaked my interest though. It shows a much higher quality bar staff than you would expect out of what originally seemed like a country club level staffing. I was especially pleased with the Don Quixote. It closely resembles an Old Fashioned with a smokey tequila as the base spirit.
Other highlights were a Penicillin using a scotch base with a house made ginger simple syrup, and a holiday punch that had a perfect amount of herbal notes and spice for the holiday season.
They also have one of the best whiskey lineups in town. Something manager Wayne Iburg has worked hard on curating. You can get some hard to find Pappy Van Winkles in various ages, a nice Elijah Craig and small batch Four Roses, and an outstanding Old Forester Birthday edition that has become one of my favorite bourbons.
There is also the cigar lounge, something I’ve missed having in town a lot since Maduro closed several years ago. They have a great selection of cigars and a nice filtration system to keep the air clean. It is one of the better cigar lounge environments I’ve sat in.
Again, 1836 isn’t accessible to everyone. They do offer party rentals of the first floor, so it is always possible to slip in there. But if you have the chance, go for it. It is an outstanding bar program in one of the best lounge atmospheres in Little Rock.