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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

Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
Summit Bar

New Yorkers know how to drink, and well. Whether you’re a craft-beer connoisseur, a bar food aficionado or a rooftop bar regular, our nightlife-loving city has got the booze haunt for you.

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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.

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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.

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East Village

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 Jimmie Roosevelt featuring Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Angostura Bitters, House Peychaud’s Bitters and Pernod Absinthe.

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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. Because of Carbone's hands-on involvement in the local scene, his dozen taps (most $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

Mayahuel

Critics' pick

Barkeep Phil Ward focuses on tequila and its cousin, mescal, at this East Village haute cantina. His wonderful menu features the Slynx cocktail, 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 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

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

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

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. Barkeeps Greg Seider and Gil Bouhana have 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 Charmane's Star (Russian Standard Vodka, Cucumber, Shiso Leaf, Fresh Lime, Vietnamese Cinnamon Infused Agave, Rhubarb Bitters) or the whiskey-driven Gov’nor (yuzu, orange juice and cardamom-infused agave syrup).

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East Village

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