Way back when the gentlemen who ran France’s Champagne houses met their untimely ends, their widows — or, en Français, their veuves — found themselves running the show. There was Madame Lily Bollinger, Mathilde Emilie Laurent-Perrier and Louise Pommery, but certainly Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, also known as the Veuve Clicquot, might just be the most famous of them all.
Not only was she the first woman to take over a Champagne house, but she developed “riddling,” a method of removing the sediment from Champagne by storing the bottles at a 45-degree angle and twisting them every so often.
She was the original riddling widow.
At 127 MacDougal Street, down some stone steps and through a red door, is New York City’s own Riddling Widow. Owner Ravi DeRossi explained that he wouldn’t call it a Champagne bar, despite the connotation. “I’d call it a sparkling wine bar,” he said.
Still, Champagne has a strong presence on the menu, underscoring its ever-increasing appeal with professional and casual drinkers alike. “Everybody I know in the cocktail world — almost everybody I know — is like, ‘Give me Champagne any day of the week,’ and when I say Champagne I mean Champagne, Prosecco, Crémant, Cava — all the sparkling.”
“Everybody I know in the cocktail world is like,
‘Give me Champagne.’”
The subterranean spot is decked out with high red stools, a velvet couch and black baroque wallpaper. It’s dark, brooding, intimate and very, very cool. Music is, of course, supplied by a trumpet horn turntable and an accompanying stack of equally cool LPs.
The bar, which opened in October, has had a
complete menu overhaul. Ariel Arce of Birds and Bubbles, the Lower East Side spot delivering that not-so-classic pairing of Champagne and fried chicken, has just taken over from Tanner Walle as Riddling Widow’s beverage director.
Wines by the bottle now range from a $48 2014 Folk Tree California Pét-Nat to a $350 Jacques Selosse “Initial” Champagne, with many great selections in between.
The by-the-glass choices, written up on a large chalkboard, seem to vary from night to night, but there’s a tasty effervescent option for everyone, from traditional to sparkling to rosé.
DeRossi, who opened his first bar in 2004, now owns 15 bars and restaurants across the city — including the globally famous East Village cocktail bar Death & Co — and has five new projects set to open this year.
For Riddling Widow, his inspiration came from his own tastes. “I had the space already, I already had the license — no idea what I was going to do with it. Champagne is what I like to drink, so I thought why not,” he said.
His aim was to create a place that was cool, laid back, educational and unpretentious. An approachable vibe paired with a knowledgeable staff and industry regulars certainly seems to tick all those boxes. We’re sure the Veuve Clicquot would approve.