50 best spring bars

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  • claret

  • Club21

  • CreekandCave

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    dutchkills01

  • hellgatesocial

    Hell Gate Social

  • BARCRAWLMexiQ

  • Photograph: Gabriela Herman

    studiosq146

    Studio Square

claret

Manhattan | Brooklyn | Queens

Claret Wine Bar
This small but sophisticated Queens wine bar boasts two walls of windows that provide ample opportunities for people-watching. Swing by on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening between 8 and 11pm for live jazz, bluegrass and Celtic tunes performed by a rotating corral of local musicians. The international vino here hails from nearly a dozen locales, including South Africa and Austria. Kick back with a glass of montepulciano ($7) or the popular Jamesport pinot noir ($15), a light, raspberry-rich red. Or come hungry and pair your drinks with a pick-and-mix platter of European charcuterie and cheese ($12--$26) while soaking up the late-afternoon sun. 4602 Skillman Ave at 46th St, Sunnyside, Queens (718-937-7411, claretwinebar.com)

Club 21 Bar & Lounge
For a change of scenery, migrate three blocks to this Czech beer garden. Snag a seat at one of the patio's umbrella-covered wooden picnic tables and ask for the $15 bucket of five domestic beers (available daily 4--9pm), or stick to Czech beers such as Krusovice Dark for more authentic imbibing. Stay grounded with a kielbasa ($8) from the outdoor grill (opening late March/early April), which the barkeeps diligently fire up daily during warm weather. 30-09 21st St between 30th Ave and 30th Rd, Astoria, Queens (718-728-0305, club21nyc.com)

The Creek and the Cave
At first glance, this hybrid taqueria, comedy theater and bar might seem to suffer from an identity crisis, but the multiple personalities only work in its favor—especially in dicey weather. Upstairs you'll find the Cal-Mex eatery and live entertainment space; downstairs is a cozy hideaway with movie screenings and plenty of beer. Six solid drafts, including the Magic Hat Circus Boy ($5), and ten-plus bottles ($3--$8) compose the beer list, while a few mostly French wines and a full range of spirits round out the well. When the sun is shining, the fenced-in back patio becomes a frenzied union of cool kids and frat folk. Reach for a seasonal cocktail like the fruity Blackberry Bramble ($9) made from gin, fresh lemon juice and blackberry liqueur. 10-93 Jackson Ave at 11th St, Long Island City, Queens (718-706-8783, creeklic.com)

Dutch Kills
Outfitted with dripping chandeliers, a sleek bar and a crooning ragtime singer, Dutch Kills may seem like an ideal place to hole up in cold weather. But the bar is as beguiling in the warmer months, thanks to its offbeat seasonal menus. The spring lineup features cool, esoteric options like the Quill cocktail, a Negroni variation built on an ice rock with a spray of absinthe and a grapefruit twist ($11), and the Mexican Firing Squad, which consists of blanco tequila and fresh lime juice shaken with house-made grenadine and bitters ($11). A final reason to trek to LIC this spring: the bar's new "Battle Axe" Gleason happy-hour menu. Named after the hood's scandalous mayor of the late 1800s, this list offers ten refreshing classics, such as a daiquiri or a rum buck, for $8 each (Mon--Thu, Sun 5--7pm). 27-24 Jackson Ave at Dutch Kills St, Long Island City, Queens (718-383-2724, dutchkillsbar.com)

Hell Gate Social
After taking in Astoria Park's incredible views of Manhattan, get ready to savor something just as good. Exit the park on its southeastern edge and mosey over to Hell Gate Social's back garden, where you can relax with an ice-cold Red Stripe ($5) or a summery cocktail such as the Blueberry Fusion ($8), a blend of rosemary-infused blueberry vodka and limoncello. Something that'll help you relax even more: Drinks are two-for-one from 7 to 9pm daily. 12-21 Astoria Blvd between 12th and 14th Sts, Astoria, Queens (718-204-8313, hellgatesocial.com)

MexiQ
Walk off that growing beer belly with a 17-block stroll down 30th Avenue to MexiQ (or keep the paunch and hop on the Q18 bus). Tex-Mex barbecue and 48 taps await you. Grab a seat at one of the sidewalk tables and then order any draft you like in a 64-ounce growler for the table (yours to keep, $18--$55), or opt for the ever-changing $3 daily half-liter draft special. Tequila drinkers should pop in during weekend brunch, when bottomless margaritas (and Bloody Marias, mimosas and Mexican brews) are just $7 on top of an entre price. 37--11 30th Ave between 37th and 38th Sts, Astoria, Queens (718-626-0333, mexiqny.com)

Studio Square
Encompassing 30,000 square feet of outdoor space and a capacity well above 1,200, Studio Square is more beer city than beer garden. Patrons pack the sprawling yard, all guzzling half liters ($7), liters ($13) and pitchers ($18) of mostly German and American brews. The Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (half-liter $7, pitcher $18) is a solid all-season refresher. The industrial interior, decked out with worn whiskey barrels, serves as a perfect boozy layover until full-fledged sunshine arrives. Clouds or not, brats, burgers and other bites ($4--$8) are in order. 35-33 36th St between 35th and 36th Aves, Long Island City, Queens (718-383-1001, studiosquarenyc.com)

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