If there were ever a bar that I really, really wish did not have a wall-mounted flatscreen TV in it, it would be Topsy's Fun House, which is otherwise a wonderful experience from top to bottom. Art-directed within an inch of its life, the Financial District cocktail spot is neither clownish nor self-serious, just well thought-out. And the drinks are very good.
For starters, the stools are giant springs (or, in a couple cases, car crankshafts mounted on brake drums) and they're fun to sit on. There are bartending tools embedded in the cement just outside the front door. The front wall is painted in a harlequin-diamond pattern. Amid the punched tin, a see-through ceiling panel reveals an upside-down tableau stuck up there. All in all, Topsy's pulled off a slick move, which is to feel au courant without looking brand-new.
As for the beverages, a margarita made with Espolon, agave nectar and cucumber was a tad too sour but between the fire water bitters and jalapeño garnish, it departs from expectations. You'll think '21 is gonna be a good year with the 1921 Honey (Wild Turkey honey bourbon, honey syrup, fresh mint and lime), and while the eponymous cocktail (made with Don Julio Blanco, pomegranate juice, St. Germain and egg white) looks like a watered-down cosmo, it's actually surprisingly complex, well-balanced, and not too sweet. And a kitchen is forthcoming.
Because it inhabits a theme that is so strong and easy to pre-judge, Topsy's is going to have its detractors. The twin life-size Nutcracker sentinels out front seem to imply that it's for kids, or nothing but a gimmick, or clowns-are-scary-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here. Yeah, it's kind of at odds with the general tenor of downtown. But not since Pee Wee's Playhouse has there been somewhere this much fun to hang out in.
Topsy's Fun House, 260 Kearny St.