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Eat and Drink

Bar Moga’s Frank Cisneros on where he goes when he’s off the clock

Frank Cisneros has plenty of sommelier and bartending experience in New York City, from his first gig here at the now-closed wine bar Counter to doing cocktail happy hours at Bushwick Country Club to opening Bourgeois Pig, Dram and Gin Palace.

But his hospitality path took a new turn after he worked at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo for two years.;

When he came back to New York in 2016, his experience in Japan led him behind the bar at Japanese izakaya Karasu and the eight-seat Japanese whisky bar at Uchu.

The gig: Bar Moga

Frank Cisneros of Bar Moga. Credit: Jena Cumbo
Photo Credit: Jena Cumbo

His most recent gig has been revamping the year-old Japan-inspired Bar Moga in the Greenwich Village, from bringing in new cocktails using Japanese ingredients and bartending techniques to bulking up the Japanese spirits selection. 

“There’s this explosion in Japanese food and beverage that’s happening in New York City specifically,” Cisneros, 37, said. “Everything I do now is strict Japanese technique. You have to use the right tools, you have to use really beautiful glassware, you have to use different ingredients. It’s a really different approach to bartending.”

Off the clock, Cisneros doesn’t just limit himself to Japanese bars. The Alphabet City resident walked us through his favorites.

The neighborhood go-to: Black Crescent

Black Crescent. Credit: Andrew Segretti
Photo Credit: Andrew Segretti

“It’s owned by a bunch of former bartenders, and you can tell very much it’s a bar owned and operated by bartenders. Which sounds like, duh, isn’t that like every bar? It’s very much not. I’d say 90 percent of bars are owned by people who have very little experience behind a bar itself. As someone from the service industry, you can tell right away — how they designed the back bar itself, the efficiency in which they designed it — it’s designed by someone who understands the creation of a cocktail. It’s great what ends up happening in those types of places — the cocktails become so effortless that they can do everything else too. They have this great wine list, they have a really cool craft beer selection, they have really good food — the burger is awesome.I go there pretty early, usually around 8 p.m., which to me is too early to start drinking. I would order a burger and a Coca-Cola and have soft drinks until 10 p.m., then I’ll switch to alcohol.

The mark of a great bar to me is it’s like a third place — it’s not your workplace, it’s not your home, but it feels just as familiar. I don’t need to be drinking when I’m there, I can just hang out. I ride a little motorcycle, I leave it parked there days on end. I store my helmet there. It’s basically my other house.”

(76 Clinton St., Manhattan,

Near the ‘office’: The Up & Up

The Up & Up craft cocktail bar.
Photo Credit: The Up & Up

“The only one I really go to is The Up & Up, which my old buddy Chaim [Dauermann] runs. He and I worked at Gin Palace together. It’s just a cool, subterranean den. It’s straightforward, unpretentious drinks. It’s just a good place to drink.

The only cocktail I ever drink anywhere is a daiquiri. I don’t really drink cocktails often. But if I’m going to drink a cocktail, that’s going to be it. And I drink them superfast — like tons of them. It’s not meant to be a contemplative drink. It’s meant to be boom, done in three sips.”

(116 Macdougal St., Manhattan,

His ‘Cheers’: Sophie’s

The exterior of Sophie's, at 509 E. 5th
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

“I’m an unabashed fan of dive bars. Dive bars are really important to me. I came from working at dive bars previously. I grew up in the punk-rock scene. I really miss, like, Mars Bar. I know it sounds crazy, but I like chaotic bars. Sophie’s is the main bar I’ve been going to for like 12 years. A lot of times I to go Black Crescent; when I leave Black Crescent, I go to Sophie’s.

It’s a classic dive bar — the same 50 regulars, in some sort of rotation. If you go for two weeks, you’re going to see the same people over and over. There are fights constantly. It has the best jukebox in the city far and away. It’s just one of these fundamentally cool places. I feel like those places are disappearing in New York. I know every single bartender. It’s sort of like ‘Cheers’ — they don’t even ask me what I’m drinking. It’s always an Powers Irish whiskey neat and a High Life.

I’ve had every major life experience there — breakups, coming from a Mets playoff game they lost and crying at the bar because the Mets suck so bad. They’ve seen me in every state, they’re like family.”

(507 E. Fifth St., Manhattan)

The new hang: Sing Sing

Sing Sing Ave. A, at 81 Avenue A,
Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

“I was never a fan of karaoke until living in Japan. There’s a very real reason why karaoke’s so big in Japan. There’s no train service between midnight and 5 a.m. every single day — the subway completely shuts down, and cabs are really expensive. What ends up happening for all those bartenders and servers in Japan — we get off work around 2, 3 in the morning and have to kill two to three hours until the trains run again.

There are karaoke spots around the subways and they’re really cheap, so you get a room with all of your co-workers and you’ve got your own little private bar for two to three hours. I became addicted to it in some weird form. Half your friends aren’t singing, it’s just a place to all hang out together. Regular bars in Japan, they’re not the jovial sort of atmosphere we’re used to here in the states. If you want to have rowdy situations, you have to do it in a karaoke room.

I’ve gone to Sing Sing a couple times before just because it was in my neighborhood. Over the past year, I started to go more and more because it reminded me of Japan. I seldom sing, but if I do, I either sing a Japanese song to mess with people — the theme song to an animé, ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ — or I sing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark.’”

(81 Ave. A, Manhattan,

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