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Newspeak on the Stage, but Real Glassware at a Theater’s Bar

“A proper bar,” said Eric Paris, the general manager.

It is a bar where, for $15, the bartenders serve something called the “thoughtcriminal cocktail” — gin and elderflower liqueur “topped with Fever-Tree tonic and a squeeze of lemon,” Mr. Paris said — that is served in “proper glassware.”


Ben August picked up three glasses before heading to get a seat in the Hudson Theater for a show on July 18. The bar’s manager says it is one of the longest bars on Broadway.

Harrison Hill/The New York Times

That sounds British, which Mr. Paris, 41, is not. But since late 2015, the Hudson has been leased to the Ambassador Theater Group, the largest owner of theaters in Britain.

Mr. Paris spent six years at the Lyric Theater, on West 42nd Street, also run by the Ambassador group, and did “research on spirits the audience would like to consume” there. This was when the Lyric was home to Cirque du Soleil’s $25 million production of “Paramour,” which opened in May 2016, and during the earlier run of the Tony Award-nominated revival of the musical “On the Town.”

“For the ‘On the Town’ audience it was what the audience going to the ballet would want,” he said. “It was more Champagne versus rum punch” for “Paramour.”

The “1984” audience wants stronger stuff, and not just because a bottle labeled Victory gin glides by on a cart on the stage. In “1984,” Victory gin was an Orwellian concoction, and he did not specify the proof. “The stuff was like nitric acid,” he wrote in “1984,” adding, “In swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club.” The Hudson stocks real gin for martini-seekers.

“We first thought, ‘There’s no way we could have glassware,’ but we didn’t just want a Sippy Cup,” Mr. Paris said.

So at first the Lyric used “good polycarbonate ware.” Polycarbonate is a variety of plastic and is also used in bulletproof glass, fighter-jet cockpit canopies and smartphone cases.

“People liked it,” Mr. Paris said slyly. “People liked it so much they put it in their purse or their pocket if they’re a man.” Or they assumed a polycarbonate wineglass was disposable, and threw it away, or left it on the floor.


A bartender entered the Ambassador’s Lounge with a cart of Champagne and glasses. The bar’s manager says breakage is minimal, around one glass a week.

Harrison Hill/The New York Times

And there was another problem: The glasses eventually became cloudy.

It was time for more research, this time for glasses that would not break.

“We did a lot of walking tests,” he said.

Yes, walking tests. He demonstrated, grabbing a glass, setting it on the carpeted floor at the Hudson and stepping on it.

It did not break under his shoe, size 9½.

Nor has everyday breakage been a problem. He said one glass breaks in a week. “Maybe two,” he said, standing in the Hudson’s lounge upstairs (it costs $25 to enter, but Champagne, a coat check and patrons-only restrooms come with admission). One of the bartenders, Kristina Vereline, said she has been on the job since the first night of previews for the acclaimed revival of “Sunday in the Park With George” at the Hudson in February and had “never had one break on me.”

The Hudson has enough glassware to make it through what Mr. Paris calls “the preshow.” Then, while the audience is in the theater for the first act, the glasses go into a restaurant-caliber glasses-only dishwasher.

“Much to my surprise, people take care of the glassware,” he said. “They treat it like they’ve shown up to a party before the show. I think it’s created an atmosphere where people who would not have a drink saw others having such a good time.”

“It shows class,” said Billy-Grace Ward of Manhattan, who was drinking Champagne before a performance of “1984.” “It’s not a disposable experience. There are ideas that go along with not being a disposable experience. They’re trusting you, the patron. And plastic tends to warm, which I don’t like. And glass has more heft. More substance.”

Branche Lubart of Manhattan said the glassware “changes the vibe.”

“We have a house out at the beach,” he said, “and when we have parties we use plastic glasses. The people who feel like they’re family won’t take plastic. They go into the kitchen and get a glass.”

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