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Relaxed, unpretentious vibe helps Savoy bring worlds together

Cocktail bar meets club at Savoy, a tiny hotspot near the corner of Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue featuring DJ sets three nights a week including Sunday, top-notch cocktails, more than 150 whiskeys and a recently buffed wine list ripe with world-class Cali cabernets and more.

Dark red cherry wood, copper and candles create a warm, sophisticated feel. The atmosphere is laid-back and lively at the same time. Sit and have a drink, mingle and have two or dance with the DJ and drink three – you're in the right place regardless.

Savoy caters to those who didn't get their weekend partying fix on Friday and Saturday. Since dedicating its best staff and DJs to the tail end of the weekend three years ago, its Sunday crowd has become its biggest.

On "Sunday Funday," as it's called, the DJ begins playing and the first mimosas are served at noon as warm sunlight pours in the bar front. The "day-drinking party" overflows into the evening and wraps up around midnight. It's a small place, so capacity is often met at some point – often around 5 to 6 p.m. – which means a short wait outside.

From left are Christine Szudzik, Taylor Van Ness and Laura Klimtzak, all from Buffalo. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Young, well-dressed professionals make up a majority of the clientele, but part-owner Danny Lettieri – wearing a black tee and backward Buffalo Bills cap – emphasizes a fun, laid-back atmosphere.

"We bring two worlds together – the subtle cocktail scene, wine bar – that whole vibe, with a party bar vibe," Lettieri explained. "We meet in the middle."

Sitting across from me on a Thursday evening, he slides me a Savoy smash – ginger spiced whiskey, raw kombucha, muddled lemon wedges, mint, cinnamon agave and cayenne pepper over crushed ice – while he sips a Negroni. "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran plays fairly loudly among a host of other upbeat pop songs like "The Man" by The Killers and "Don't Wanna Know" by Maroon 5.

Named after the world-renowned hotel in London, which published a legendary cocktail book by the same name in 1930, Savoy aims to offer spot-on renditions of the classics (Negroni, Sazerac, Moscow Mule, Old-Fashioned) alongside signature seasonals such as a Savoy Sour (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, poema cava brut and Peychaud's bitters), Midnight in Paris (vanilla vodka, aged rum, fresh mango and papaya puree, cinnamon agave, Tabasco and smoked grapefruit) and Death and Vegetables (tequila, orange liqueur, agave, lime juice, cucumber and basil).

All craft cocktails are $10, which seems to be the going rate for a good one in Buffalo.

For the beer drinkers, perhaps a Pabst Blue Ribbon (two- and six-row malted barley, select cereal grains, American and European hops, proprietary lager yeast)? Three-buck PBRs join a list of dozens of other bottled and canned brews ($3-$6). No drafts, though.

Co-owner Danny Lettieri makes a Manhattan at Savoy. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

"We don't like to be pretentious, we're not all about the cocktail," Lettieri said. "We're about the atmosphere, the entertainment and the vibe of the place. We'll serve you anything from a $1,000 bottle of champagne to a $4 beer."

Don't see what you're looking for? Ask the bartender if they have it downstairs. Two-thirds of Savoy's inventory resides in the cellar.

While Savoy is a spot to drink, not dine, there is a limited menu including flatbread pizzas (prosciutto and arugula with gorgonzola, Southwest Veggie and more, $10-$12), small plates like Mama's Meatball ($8) or stuffed tomato Caprese salad ($9). Everything is prepared fresh daily by Lettieri's Italian mother.

A happy hour crowd gathers at Savoy for trivia night and to catch a game. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Coming soon is a semi-makeover intended to brighten the place up featuring a white finish on the bar, subway tiles behind the bar, a new white DJ booth and some flora (especially herbs), as a testament to the key ingredient in many of the cocktails.

It's all about a great drink and an even better time at Savoy. Lettieri asks this of his patrons: "Let loose. Have some fun. Get some libations."

Savoy

149 Elmwood Ave. (768-3100)

Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to midnight Sunday.

Happy hour: 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday featuring the "5@5": $5 Moscow mules, flatbreads, Manhattans, house wines and two-for-$5 Miller High Life.

Don't forget to: Stop in for karaoke the second and fourth Wednesday and whiskey tastings the first Wednesday of each month.

Eat: Meatball and Ricotta flatbread ($10)

Drink: Blood & Sand ($10), a Savoy (the London hotel and cocktail book) original.

Fun fact: Savoy's sign is a smaller replica of the Savoy Hotel's in London.

The exterior of Savoy, at 149 Elmwood Ave. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

*Read last week's bar feature, on Rust Belt Bar & Grill:

Blasdell's surprising Rust Belt defies what's in a name

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