NEW YORK — Master mixologist Ben Pundole, known for his signature frothy cocktails at lounges like the Hudson Hotel Bar and Lot 61, has a new concoction brewing: BPC, a bar consulting business. Founded in June with Peter Chase, whose past projects include Campagna, Cibar and the Inn at Irving Place, the company counsels its clients on “all things bar,” as Chase likes to say.
Their expertise in the field is hard-earned. The duo met while working for Ian Schrager: Chase as the vice president of bars (a role he filled after Schrager and Randy Gerber had a falling out) and Pundole as vibe controller for the company’s boîtes.
“We’re a little like Batman and Robin,” says Pundole, tucked into their tiny office on the edge of Chinatown.
“Peter is the practical one and I get to be the creative, irresponsible Robin,” he adds devilishly in his clipped British accent.
Pundole’s barfly roots run deep. While in his early twenties, Pundole, then manager of the Met Bar at the Metropolitan Hotel in London, became friendly with Madonna, who would fly him to Los Angeles on a whim for dinner. “She liked the way I worked, and the way I looked after people,” he says with a shrug. After moving to New York, he joined Amy Sacco’s team at Lot 61, as the general manager. That is, until Madonna came to see him about teaming up with her and Ingrid Casares on a venue in London.
“When Madonna asks you something like that you just say ‘yes,’” he says bluntly. When the plans for the bar never materialized, the Material Girl sweetly put Pundole in touch with Schrager. “Ian loves telling people that he stole me from Madonna,” says Pundole, who masterminded the music and cocktail lists, and hired the DJs to please the crowds at Schrager’s various properties in New York, London, Miami and L.A.
Pundole and Chase both left with Schrager’s blessing, and may yet work with Schrager on upcoming projects, but are quickly carving out their own niche among the exclusive group of top dogs who rule the nightlife scene. Projects in the works include Butterfly, a lounge in Harlem; a collaboration with Ronnie Wood and Chris Blackwell in San Francisco; a possible project with Eric Goode’s follow-up to The Park, the Covenant House, and deals advising liquor companies on new product launches.
“We want to do things that excite and interest us as well as make money,” explains Chase, who cites Randy Gerber’s consulting company, Midnight Oil, as a good role model.
As for Pundole, inspiration for BPC is just a night on the town away. In a display of his quintessential Robin-esque behavior, he stands up to proclaim himself an alcoholic mock AA-style and complains merrily that “Peter has just been making me go to all these parties.” This winter, he predicts, is all about rum, but for the remaining dog days of summer, he recommends an elderflower martini — his creation, of course.
“Don’t try it,” he warns. “You might like it.”