50 best New York bars: East Village

The East Village is a hub for some of the best New York bars, with cocktail lounges, craft-beer havens and wine bars offering plenty of options. Here are our favorites.

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

50 best New York bars: Death & Company

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Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

50 best New York bars: PDT

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

50 best New York bars: McSorley's Old Ale House

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

50 best New York bars: Booker and Dax

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

50 best New York bars: Mayahuel

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50 best New York bars: d.b.a.

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50 best New York bars: Jimmy's No. 43

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

50 best New York bars: The Summit Bar

Death & Company

Critics' pick

The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. The barkeeps here are consistently among the city's best, turning out inventive and classic drinks such as the Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff made with floral pisco, St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano.

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East Village

PDT

Critics' pick

The entrance to this taxidermy-strewn saloon is hidden behind an old phone booth inside Crif Dogs. Pick up the receiver and a hostess opens the back wall of the booth. Inside, a team of barkeeps (led by industry icon Jim Meehan) offer thoughtful cocktail creations like the frothy Sixth Street, a complex, guava-spiked mix of house-made ginger beer, a kafir-lime cordial and a pungent curry powder. The staff is happy to talk you through any libation on the menu, or suggest an haute dog brought in from next door. It’s that kind of dedication that makes getting in worth the effort.

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East Village

McSorley’s Old Ale House

Critics' pick

Ladies should probably leave the Blahniks at home. In traditional Irish-pub fashion, McSorley’s floor has been thoroughly scattered with sawdust to take care of the spills and other messes that often accompany large quantities of cheap beer. Established in 1854, McSorley’s became an institution by remaining steadfastly authentic and providing only two choices to its customers: McSorley’s Dark Ale and McSorley’s Light Ale. Both beverages have a lot more character than PBR, though at these prices, it won’t be long before you stop noticing.

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East Village

Booker and Dax

Critics' pick

The far-out experiments of the wizardly Dave Arnold, French Culinary Institute's director of culinary technology, have long informed the work of boundary-pushing bartenders and chefs like Don Lee and Wylie Dufresne. At this tech-forward cocktail joint, housed in the former Momofuku Milk Bar space next to Ssäm Bar, Arnold's boozy tinkerings get a room of their own. Here, glasses are chilled with a pour of liquid nitrogen and winter warmers are scorched with a Red Hot Poker, a rod with a built-in 1,500-degree heater created by Arnold himself. Sip one of those hot concoctions, like the Friend of the Devil (Campari, sweet vermouth, rye, Pernod, bitters) or French Colombian (Pernod, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon). Arnold also showcases new techniques for creating fizzy drinks, like the Gin and Juice, made with Tanqueray gin and grapefruit juice that is clarified (a process that removes the solids) in a centrifuge and then carbonated a CO2-pressurized cocktail shaker. Stay grounded with Momo-style snacks, like the signature pork buns, Cheeto-like ham puffs and french fries.

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East Village

Mayahuel

Critics' pick

Barkeep Phil Ward focuses on tequila and its cousin, mescal, at this East Village haute cantina. His wonderful menu features a cool-as-marble Cinquenta Cinquenta—a pairing of chamomile-infused reposado tequila and white vermouth that goes down like iced tea. The Slynx cocktail is a liquid campfire of aged tequila, applejack, bitters and a smoky rinse of mescal. The craftsmanship in the drinks is equaled in the bar menu, featuring shareable snacks like crispy plantain tostones and popcorn dolled up with cotija cheese, ancho chili and lime. Despite its many strengths, Mayahuel wears its ambitions lightly. With so many of today’s top-tier cocktail bars lousy with vanity, that humility is a welcome departure.

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East Village

d.b.a.

Critics' pick

When it opened in 1995, this trailblazer embraced all the contemporary beer memes while most NYC bars were still dealing in Miller and Coors. Beer lovers fond of European classics as much as the domestic microbrewery du jour will appreciate the scope of the 20-deep draft selection (most $7): You might find an orange-tinged Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier from Germany alongside New York beers such as the velvety Southampton Imperial Porter. Even more impressive is the encyclopedic bottle list: All seven Trappist breweries are represented, plus Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (at 18 percent ABV, one of the most alcoholic beers on the market; $9) and British oddities such as the cellar-aged Thomas Hardy Ale ($10). And for those looking for an upgraded boilermaker, dig into d.b.a.'s vast whiskey offerings—it's not often you can chase your craft beer with a rare Glenrothes Select Reserve ($18).

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East Village

Jimmy’s No. 43

Critics' pick

This subterranean brew house is the unofficial clubhouse for the New York beer community, thanks to the efforts of garrulous owner Jimmy Carbone. For a beer education on the cheap, make a habit of attending the $10 Tuesday Tastings, where an expert leads guests through pours of five to six brews within a particular theme (e.g., Colorado brews, seasonal beers made with fresh hops). Because of Carbone's hands-on involvement in the local scene, his dozen taps (most $6--$8) and deep bottle collection are often the first point of entry for both hyperlocal nanobreweries and new-to-NYC imports. We've tried unfiltered Franconian lagers and a Japanese brown ale brewed at the foot of Mount Fuji at the marble-topped bar.

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East Village

The Summit Bar

Critics' pick

Exclusivity pervades New York cocktail culture, with bars hidden behind faux phone booths and inside unmarked, darkened dens. But Alphabet City's understated Summit forgoes the pretense—no reservations or covert knocks required—without compromising its drink savvy. Barkeep Greg Seider has created a split-personality menu that appeals to traditionalists (old-fashioneds, whiskey sours), as well as adventurous imbibers. We can pass hours at the black-granite bar, slowly sipping Seider's quirky "alchemical" inventions like the Situation (given depth by Afghan-raisin--infused rye and caraway-flavored agave) or the whiskey-driven Gov’ner (yuzu, orange juice and cardamom-infused agave syrup).

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East Village

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