Bars in Red Hook: Where to drink in the waterfront neighborhood

Stumbling distance from the water, you'll find a prime catch of Irish pubs, dive bars and cocktail havens—many with decks or outdoor areas.

If you've made it all the way to Red Hook, you should reward yourself with a drink. Lucky for you, options range from two fine cocktail havens to an Irish pub with a roof deck. Then there's Sunny's, a beloved neighborhood bar that—while closed by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy—is aiming to reopen in summer 2013. Tie one on and worry about how to get home later.

RECOMMENDED: Red Hook neighborhood guide

Cosme

New York is a rough town for newbies—whether it’s bright-eyed hopefuls yearning for a Swiftian utopia that doesn’t exist or an out-of-town chef who’s proven his culinary clout in the global arena, only to be chewed up and spat out by Gotham’s surly dining public. This city has devoured the best of them: Spain’s Dani García, Toronto’s Susur Lee and, most glaringly, France’s Alain Ducasse. Enter Enrique Olvera, the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpet-bagging comrades. Instead, the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened. That’s because this is the Mexican restaurant New York has been missing. Olvera’s elegant, high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and as market-fresh as anything coming out of Thomas Keller’s kitchen—more than fills that gap in New York dining. It steamrolls right over it. Tacos make a solitary appearance on the menu, in an atypically generous portion of duck carnitas ($49), cooked to the sinful midpoint of unctuous fat and seared flesh. But Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, from a complimentary starter of crackly blue-corn tortillas with chile-kicked pumpkin-seed butter to dense, crispy tostadas ($17) dabbed with bone-marrow salsa and creamy tongues of uni. Those soft corn rounds accompany the cobia al pastor (

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Gramercy & Flatiron

Art Bar

This bar has been around for more than a decade, and it shows. But the well-worn, bohemian look continues to please a casual, mixed-age crowd. Settle into the circular booths up front, or the comfy, date-friendly couches and lounge chairs in the back. Artwork—no big surprise—adorns the walls. A basic pub menu is available, and the digital jukebox is kept at a festive but reasonable volume, making this a suitable place to talk the night away.

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West Village

Union Hall

Critics' pick

Upstairs in this bi-level bar, boozers chomp miniburgers and nip at microbrews like Sixpoint in the gentlemen’s-club–style anteroom (decorated with Soviet-era globes, paintings of fez-capped men, fireplaces)—before battling it out on the clay bocce courts. Downstairs, spectators are treated to a rotating roster of live talent, such as blaring bands, comedians and a monthly science night.

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Park Slope

Rattle N Hum

Critics' pick

Owner Patrick Donagher is more interested in converting craft-beer newbs than scaring them off: A giant chalkboard wall suggests craft alternatives to mainstream swill, and a daily-changing menu offers 40 mostly American drafts ($7--$9), to help you find your new favorite beer. Purists gravitate toward the casks (between two and four at any time), as well as some of the expert picks on the list of 150 bottles, including Jolly Pumpkin's funky La Roja sour ale ($21). See what strikes your fancy on the daily-changing menu (organized by style, with tasting flights available for curious drinkers), or dig into the bar's stash of seasonal ales.

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Midtown East

Black Mountain Wine House

Critics' pick

Patois and Pacifico owner Jim Mamary strikes again at this corner wine bar, a 2008 Eat Out Award nominee. On sunny days, patrons sink into Adirondack chairs on the rustic front deck. On chilly nights, they settle by the fireplace inside the white, farmhouse-chic main room. Dozens of international small-production vintages are on offer by the glass, matched to charcuterie and served charmingly on a stone slab. A good bet is “Shane’s Pick”—a $6.50 daily-rotating selection chosen by the manager.

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Carroll Gardens

Bookmarks Rooftop Lounge at the Library Hotel

The fireplace, cozy sofas and club chairs at this rooftop bar suggest the decadent penthouse apartment you’ll probably never afford. The enclosed greenhouse and the outdoor terrace (in less frigid weather) are both ideal perches for sipping luxurious cocktails—such as the $12 Hemingway made with rum, mint and champagne—and enjoying the multimillion-dollar view of midtown’s soaring skyscrapers.

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Midtown East

The Happiest Hour

Picture Don Draper on vacation: rum cocktail in hand, wind blowing through that meticulous coif. While you may never have Jon Hamm’s cut-from-glass jawline (sorry), you can make like a Sterling Cooper adman at leisure in this retro-kitted tiki lounge, from Tijuana Picnic partners Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns. The bi-level bar is crammed with mid-20th-century curios—a ’60s pop soundtrack; mod, half-moon booths; waitresses in Chuck Taylors—but it’s the customizable cocktails and breezy vibe that win over the crowd. ORDER THIS: Renowned barman Kearns (Pegu Club, the NoMad) prompts you to pick your poison, creating a cocktail list ($12) that seamlessly matches a variety of spirits. The Link Ray—playing on Cel-Ray soda with house-made celery pop, zippy lime and Suze bitters—is the most versatile of the bunch, available with a choice of rum, gin or tequila. Sweet rum helps play up the drink’s natural sugars, gin mirrors the celery’s vegetal brightness, and the jalape–o-infused tequila proves a fiery foil to the mild quaff. Skip the Little Red Dress, a bitter cocoa-and-strawberry flop, in favor of a Sugar Shack: With maple-syrup sweetness and a slug of toffee-tinged Evan Williams bourbon, it’ll tickle you and your inner child. GOOD FOR: Cheeky ’50s-housewife–inspired snacks. The dinerlike placemat-menu ranges from light bites like hot-sauced cucumbers ($6) and sautéed brussels sprouts ($6) to the hulking Happiest Burger ($12), smothered in American cheese and confit onions. Before ge

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West Village

The Rum House

Critics' pick

In 2009, this rakish, 1970s-vintage piano bar in the Edison Hotel looked destined to go the way of the 99¢ peep show. But the team behind Tribeca mixology den Ward III ushered in a second act, introducing some key upgrades (including serious cocktails) while maintaining the charmingly offbeat flavor of the place. Forget you're a stone's throw from Times Square while listening to nightly live jazz acts and sipping dark-spirit–heavy tipples, such as a funky old-fashioned riff that showcases the rich, tropical complexity of Banks 5 Island Rum. Those who suffer the cruel fate of being in Times Square on a weekend morning can console themselves with a range of six Bloody Marys (noon–5pm).

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Midtown West

The Brooklyn Inn

Critics' pick

The immense dark-wood bar, bare-bones pool room and old-school jukebox attract an unpretentious crowd that’s more interested in drinking than in flirting. There are plenty of choice beers on tap, including Old Speckled Hen, Dentergens Wheat and local Six Point Brown Ale—all for a reasonable $5-or-so a pint. The Inn dates back to the 19th century; tie on a few and you may even see the ghost of Walt Whitman.

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Boerum Hill

The Commodore

Critics' pick

First came the gastropub, an import from Britain featuring upmarket pub grub in an ale-drinking setting. Now, welcome the gastrodive, which further blurs the lines between restaurant and bar. The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The short menu—with descriptions as curt as the service you’ll encounter while ordering your food from the bartender—reads like a classic collection of fryolator junk. But the “hot fish” sandwich, for one, is a fresh, flaky, cayenne-rubbed catfish fillet poking out of both sides of a butter-griddled sesame-seed roll. “Pork du jour” turned out to be two soft buns filled with a delicious mix of pinto beans, sweet-spicy barbecued pork and vinegary slaw. Chef Stephen Tanner, formerly of Egg and Pies ’n’ Thighs, heads the kitchen, cooking up fried chicken that trumps even that of his former employers—three fat thighs with extra-crisp, peppery skin and tender brined flesh, served with thimbles of sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and biscuits with soft honey butter. Even the thick fries are a superior product—right in the sweet spot between soggy and crisp. While the Commodore, with its fatty foods and blender drinks, would hardly qualify as a destination for dieters—the house libation is a frozen piña colada—Tanner and his crew do a fine job of keeping vegetarians happy. In

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Williamsburg

Le Bain

The rooftop bar of the still-trendy Standard Hotel, Le Bain offers stunning views of the Hudson River and, er, New Jersey.

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Meatpacking District

Clover Club

Critics' pick

This standard-bearing cocktail parlor from mixology matriarch Julie Reiner (Lani Kai) expresses its Victorian bent in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad barkeeps stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu. Choose among regal crystal bowls of punch or finely wrought drinks, both classic and new. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail lives up to its name with an oversize ice cube mellowing a brawny blend of rye, maraschino liqueur, bitters and absinthe. Call for an order of house chips fried in duck fat, or a cheese plate featuring wedges sourced from neighborhood fromagerie Stinky Bklyn to keep you moored.

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Cobble Hill

Mother's Ruin

At this airy Nolita drinkery, co-owners Timothy Lynch and Richard Knapp bring in a rotating cast of star bartenders to sling classic and contemporary drinks. The laid-back space—done up with a cream tin ceiling, exposed brick and weathered-wood bar—also offers a full menu. Sip your cocktail and nibble on globally inflected bites, including the TONY-approved spicy fried chickpeas, mini merguez meatball grinders and ginger-glazed duck wings.

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Nolita

Angel’s Share

Critics' pick

Walk through an unmarked side door at the front of Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, and you’ll find yourself in perhaps the classiest joint in the East Village. Angel’s Share remains completely unknown to some of its neighbors; that duality is part of its charm. Standing around and groups of four or more are not allowed—but this is really a date place anyway, offering a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, tuxedoed bartenders and excellent cocktails, including one of the city’s best grasshoppers.

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East Village

Raines Law Room

Critics' pick

There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. The Old Cuban (rum, champagne, mint and bitters) smacks of a mojito with something to celebrate. And the velvety Japanese, powered by brandy and orgeat (almond-and-rosewater syrup), is so strong it could serve itself. Who needs a barstool anyway?

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Chelsea

Gallow Green

Critics' pick

There is an argument to be made that New York’s best shows are staged not in theaters, but in restaurants and bars. Like the 19th-century opera audiences who trained their binoculars on each other’s boxes, each night we seat ourselves en masse in darkened watering holes and restaurants to preen, size each other up and—almost as an afterthought—eat or drink something, too. So when a venue incorporates a layer of theatricality to the performance already being staged by its patrons, how do they react? That’s the question raised by the dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar just south of Hell’s Kitchen called Gallow Green, which sits atop a warehouse that operates as the “McKittrick Hotel” for the wildly popular interactive theater performance Sleep No More. In the early evening, the height affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. A floor of pebbles and slate, trellises woven with flowers and weathered wooden tables recall an upstate country home left adorably to seed. But as the sun descends over the Hudson and darkness encroaches, something stranger occurs. Christmas lights encircling small trees and the rafters overhead blink to life. A brass band waltzes dizzyingly through a funereal tune. An attractive waitstaff in virginal white uniforms materializes out of the shadows, while actors borrowed from the show downstairs weave in between tables, talking to guests in faux-British accents and lending the place the feel of a garden party lost in t

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Chelsea

Copper & Oak

When the weather turns brisk, the spirits go dark: floral gin gets swapped for smoke-nosed Scotch, and sunny rum makes way for spicy, robust rye. The brown slugs of fall are heartier than summer’s easy-drinking sips and leagues more complex: mash percentage, grain variety, even soil disparities can profoundly alter the taste of whiskey. That’s a hell of a lot to grasp for a connoisseur, let alone a brown-bottle newbie. Thankfully, the intimate Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side have whiskey enthusiasts covered like the sealed top of an aged barrel. ORDER THIS: Dive deep into the brown stuff at Copper & Oak, from Brandy Library’s Flavien Desoblin, which boasts a collection of hard-to-find Japanese whiskeys including Suntory’s Yamazaki Puncheon ($16 for 1oz, $32 for 2oz), fragrant with vanilla and citrus, or the 12-year-old blended Hibiki ($8 for 1oz, $16 for 2oz), partly matured in plum wine barrels to give it notes of oak and fruit. GOOD FOR: Copper & Oak could pass for a small library, with backlit bookshelves crammed with 600 bottles of dark-hued elixirs—it’s an apt setting for those looking to expand their whiskey wisdom. The booze-geek haven takes its namesake seriously: The walls are made of deconstructed bourbon barrels and the caps from an old copper whiskey bottle act as knobs on the bathroom sink. THE CLINCHER: Not a whiskey drinker? Copper & Oak obliges with one- or two-ounce pours of tequila and rum. There are a few kinks—Copper’s snug space guarantees that the

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Lower East Side

Empire Hotel Rooftop

This rooftop lounge, backed by restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, features 3,000 square feet of outdoor space and private chaise longue-equipped cabanas. Three separate terraces offer views of Lincoln Center and Central Park, and an appropriately sleek bar—constructed of stacked metal pipes—dispenses specialty cocktails like the Oran’gin the Mood (orange juice, Bombay Sapphire, Patrón Citrónge and club soda). There’s also a swimming pool on the upper level, but locals shouldn’t bother with the SPF: It’s open to hotel guests only.

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Upper West Side

Earl's Beer and Cheese

Critics' pick

Tucked into the no-man’s-land between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem, this craft-beer cubbyhole has the sort of community-hub vibe that makes you want to settle in and become part of the furniture. The well-priced suds (including rotating craft brews and cheap cans of Genny Light) and slapdash setup appeal to a neighborhood crowd, but it's chef Corey Cova's madcap bar food that makes it destinationworthy. The Momofuku Ssäm Bar alum is a comfort-food savant, deploying local curds in a variety of kitchen-sink creations. Try the NY State Cheddar—a grilled cheese featuring an unstoppable combo of braised pork belly, fried egg and house-made kimchi—or dig into an Eggo waffle topped with coffee-cured bacon, reduced maple syrup, aged cheddar and grilled foie gras.

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Upper East Side

Hudson Bar and Books

Order a drink and the barman does something odd: He offers you an ashtray. Yes, it’s a legal cigar bar. Beer glasses are frosted, martinis are shaken, and the selection of single-malt Scotches and cognacs is topflight. The celeb clientele has included Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino, Jessica Simpson and John Mayer (woo woo!).

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West Village

Lounge at Pod 39 Hotel

This rooftop bar, 17 stories above ground, offers a view of the East River and craft cocktails from bar manager Sam Anderson (Hotel Delmano, Freemans). Sip the Weathervane, a mixture of rye whiskey, rosemary, ginger, Campari and lemon juice, while gazing at the vista.

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Midtown East

The Narrows

Critics' pick

Stationed on the outskirts of the haute-cocktail kingdom, this democratic Bushwick drinkery balances neighborhood-bar accessibility with a serious approach to booze. The area’s DIY ethos drives thoughtful cocktails like the rye-based Caulfield’s Dream, which comes topped with a fizzy float of cava and a tuft of spearmint. But vest-clad barkeeps are just as likely to suggest a $6 beer-and-shot combo as an artisanal quaff—try an ice-cold Sol paired with a bracing measure of spicy tequila, or peruse the well-curated list of organic wines and East Coast–leaning suds. While there's no food, the bar makes an ideal pre- or postdinner drinkery if you’re hitting locavore haunts Roberta’s and Northeast Kingdom.

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Bushwick

Hudson Terrace

Once a strictly private-events space, this bi-level venue from the owners of Village Pourhouse opens its temperature-controlled, weather-shielded roof deck to the public most nights of the week until 10pm. Drinks, which include cocktails like mojitos, as well as wine and beer, can be sipped while enjoying Hudson River views and items from the grill, including a duo of mini kobe burgers.

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Midtown West

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