The Seventh Committee. Part I.

The North Lounge, New York City

I deal here with beer, food, and spirits, their characteristics in time and space. Hence: their make-up, taste, price, typical demographic, etc.

How could this relate to an organization of world states, now almost 200 members? Its aim is to prevent conflict among States and foster goodwill, or at least co-existence. All good, but does that affect drink and food, gastronomically I mean?*

I discuss the U.N. below because I learned it has a bar in New York, the North Delegates’ Lounge. This is the watering hole and social centre of the U.N., reserved for delegates and their staff, Secretariat staff, U.N.-accredited media, and guests.

I’ve passed by the U.N. many times in New York. I’ve never been inside, and would just gaze at the striking tall tower completed in 1952, the Secretariat. There is also the low, pavilion-like structure alongside, the General Assembly.

Between them, further back, facing the East River is the Social and Economic Conference Centre of the U.N. On the second story, north side, is the Lounge. The Delegates Dining Hall, partly open to the public in normal times, is on the fourth floor.

A few years ago the North Lounge underwent a significant renovation. This article explains the background, by Jordan Kushins in Gizmodo (2013). A Dutch “dream team” of designers was put in charge of the work.

They did a nice job. The pastel scheme is effective, reminding me of 1970s college conference rooms, updated with ‘all mod cons’. By this I mean no criticism, and maybe a retro look was intended.

The Netherlands undertook this work at its expense, and on completion presented the results to the U.N. – in effect to the world. It was a gift of the Dutch people, a component of a larger revamp of U.N. facilities in New York. Different countries took responsibility for different potions of the work.

Below is how the North Lounge looked in 1952 (UN Photo, Walter Ethelbach).

 

 

Winston Aldworth, a New Zealand journalist, profiled the renovated bar and its “scene” a few years ago. Another profile appeared in a 2016 article by A.M. Brune, in Atlas Obscura.

Aldworth mentions a few craft beers, and Brune mentions an ESB (extra-special bitter) from Rockaway Brewery in New York. Evidently the bar now offers a large selection of beer, wine, and other drinks.

The Lounge has a “Beer of the Month” program, which is all to the good. It chose Bira91 IPA from India a couple of years ago, as well-reported at the NDTV site.

The North Lounge in 1958

Historical perspective is gained by a detailed, 1958 news story on the Lounge. It appeared, of all places, in the Iraq Times, but clearly originated elsewhere, probably in Britain.

The writer dubbed the Lounge “the world’s only unlicensed bar”.

A lot has changed for the drinks scene since 1958, but some things haven’t changed. Gin was popular among delegates then, not so much martinis – too strong, said the article – but G&T and other mixes. Gin is still popular today, in fact more than ever – presumably at the North Lounge, too.

Beer was a stand-by in 1958, and still is. Oddly, to my mind, Britain had no beer at the U.N. in 1958, 10 years after it started operations in New York.

The U.K.’s delegation was satisfied with gin, then-popular whisky and soda, and other nations’ beer. One can detect British diffidence here for its beery productions. Matters have not improved much since, but that’s another issue.

The 1958 account says American diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge liked sherry. Russian diplomats at the time were not able to obtain Russian vodka in New York. American-made vodka was available but the Soviets rejected it as “Connecticut gin”. (That one, I can’t figure out, if I do I’ll let you know).

The main tipple at the U.N. in 1958 was, we learn, plain orange juice. O.J. is still a big draw there, as the more recent reports confirm.

The United Nations in New York has six working committees. There is no seventh, officially – the seventh committee is the name U.N. staffers give the North Lounge.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the United Nations website identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Our look at the Lounge concludes with Part II.

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*The European Union can and does, by legislation, influence food and drink policy. Legislation on appellations of origin gets closest to gastronomy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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