Whatever your poison, Chinatown offers several worthwhile drinking options, whether you’re after a cheap beer or a complicated concoction—the neighborhood's best bars include a venerable dive and a pharmacy-themed cocktail den. But more choice is on tap just a few blocks away in Little Italy and Nolita or on the Lower East Side.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chinatown, New York
This unmarked boîte is the sort of contrived hideout that might be cooked up by an overgrown kid with a chemistry set. The bar is littered with old vials, the cocktails are referred to as “prescriptions,” and the bartenders-cum-mad-scientists are in rare form—note the cinnamon-flambéed Himalayan salt that rims a margarita. But all of this hocus-pocus doesn’t translate to better drinks: An off-putting, gin-fueled Seven Herbs tasted exactly like alcoholic gazpacho. Apothéke’s $35 pyromaniacal absinthe—set aflame and passed between cups à la a blue blazer—yields a syrupy-sweet elixir. Some may revel in such silly tricks, but we’d rather take the cash and buy three less ludicrous drinks elsewhere.Read more
A blue neon sign points karaoke-lovers to this basement lounge, where groups of young revelers take to the stage to shamelessly belt out Mandarin pop songs along with sing-along standards from Tina Turner and Billy Idol. Hesitant newcomers can loosen up with a specialty cocktail procured from the upstairs bar. Harness liquid courage via a Zen martini—Absolut Citron infused with green tea.Read more
Cool-hunters looking for a break from clubland can hit this underground boîte, tucked away beneath a cut-rate handbag shop in Little Italy. The unlikely hot spot—complete with a strict door policy—is a testament to the nightlife bona fides of the bar’s owners, who have cashed in on their affiliations (GoldBar, Bagatelle, Milk and Honey) to create this sceney speakeasy. Haute cocktails replace bottle service as the in-crowd currency, with most drinkers rolling the dice on bespoke tipples crafted by Mulberry Project’s cavalier mixologists. The vibe, meanwhile, feels like Meatpacking in miniature, with pretty DJs playing British indie rock off their MacBooks and guys buying high-minded drunk food—crispy pork belly in a cider reduction, rich crème brûlée—for their waifish companions to pick at.Read more
The bouncers at the door aren’t window dressing—they’re serious about keeping out the rough element that characterized this hangout for much of its 80-year history. True, the venerable dive has evolved, hosting events with such partners as Triple 5 Soul (there’s an occasional cover of $5) and adding DJs who spin jungle and new wave. It hasn’t evolved too much, though: 169 remains a satisfyingly obscure place to get a beer for $3 and, until it’s time to hit the pool table, pump the music and start dancing.Read more
Embrace your inner Jack White (or your inner Jon Bon Jovi, if that’s more your speed) at this divey Chinatown karaoke joint, where middle-aged men share the mike with indie-rockers. The drinks—try the house “Hawaiian Punch,” a bracing mix of eight liquors, three juices and grenadine—kick in quickly, so nobody will notice if you sing off-key.Read more