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Best bars in Harlem: The essential drinking spots

The best bars in the neighborhood include everything from retro cocktail lounges to Euro-style beer gardens.

Whatever your poison, Harlem offers several worthwhile drinking options. Red Rooster offshoot Ginny’s Supper Club and cool lounge Shrine are among the best bars in the neighborhood. Bier International and Harlem Tavern have brought craft-beer cred to the locale. For more ideas, consult our selection of restaurants and nightspots.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Harlem, New York

Bier International

Critics' pick

This come-one, come-all suds haven brings brew-house cred to Harlem. Beer is the thing, with a focus on crowd-pleasing classics rather than hard-to-find geek bait. A diverse crowd congregates around recycled-wood picnic tables to hoist a selection of ten mostly European drafts—such as malty imperial pints of Fuller's London Pride—plus more than a dozen international bottles, including Harlem’s own Sugar Hill Golden Ale. The Euro-café vibe makes the bar a popular option for weekend brunchers (order a “Bierlini” with strawberry-flavored Früli and prosecco if you need a little hair of the dog), and there’s a full menu of global drinking grub (burgers, empanadas, currywurst) at night as well.

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Washington Heights

The Corner Social

Eighteen taps dispense craft and commercial beers (Goose Island, Stella) at this Harlem drinkery, decorated with exposed brick, white subway tiles and a working steel fireplace. Boozers can also choose from more than 40 bottles (Hitachino, Peroni) and classic cocktails at the 20-foot-long reclaimed-wood bar. Settle into a tweed banquette or communal high-top for a full-fledged meal—the menu includes lobster mac and cheese, semolina-crusted branzino and buttermilk-fried oysters, all made by chef Jonathan Romans (Tribeca Grill, Southgate).

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Harlem

Ginny's Supper Club

Critics' pick

Red Rooster Harlem may be a restaurant first and foremost, but anyone who’s made the trek is just as likely to tell you about the scene: Marcus Samuelsson’s uptown gamble is a certified hot spot, with a nightly scrum as lively and diverse as any in town. Thankfully, some of the folks who have been lining up three deep at the front bar can now slip downstairs to Ginny’s Supper Club, a sprawling basement lounge modeled after the Harlem speakeasies of the ’20s. With its own menu, cocktails from star mixologist Eben Klemm and a steady lineup of live music, the venue seems to have caught fire overnight. If you thought the Rooster was hopping before, now’s the time to circle back for the second act. DRINK THIS: The cocktail list is by turns classic and playful, with the most interesting options taking cues from Samuelsson’s Scandinavian roots. Dark-spirits enthusiasts might kick things off with a smartly tweaked Sazerac ($13), which deploys caraway-infused whiskey to evoke a slice of Nordic rye bread. There are less brawny options as well, like the easygoing Good Times ($12), which draws out the refreshing botanicals of gin with lemon, Dutch’s Colonial bitters and a fragrant sprig of thyme. Pairing the eclectic cocktails with globe-trotting eats can be a tricky endeavor. If food is high on your agenda, a serviceable collection of wine and bubbly should see you through; sadly, the beer list is a flop, highlighting international mass-market brews over craft options. GOOD FOR: Dinner and a show. The throwback gentility of the supper-club experience, which seamlessly incorporates eating and drinking into live entertainment, is essential to Ginny’s appeal. The nightly lineup of bands and DJs includes the Rakiem Walker Project—an ensemble featuring Red Rooster waiters—on Mondays and an open-mike night on Wednesdays, but there are plans to bring in big-name acts as well. Keep an eye on redroosterharlem.com for updates. THE CLINCHER: In an area where the food landscape is still evolving, Ginny’s offers a fresh option for locals who have already worked through Red Rooster’s bill of fare, or who are looking for a boozier feast with friends. Chef Jeremie Tomczak embraces the global sprawl of old-school supper-club menus, delivering shareable small plates (called “relishes”) and modestly sized entrées that range from reimagined steamship fare (lobster Thermidor, baked Alaska) to revisionist Chinese and nouveau Caribbean. Thus far, the results are hit-and-miss. Steamed buns ($11) get an outré Caribbean upgrade with jerk veal tongue; the meat is tender, but the sweet jerk sauce wants for spice. The 5 Spiced Duck, too, fails to provide any kick, instead pairing fat-stippled duck breast with a cloying cherry-hoisin sauce. The safest bet is the buttermilk-battered Bobo Chicken and Waffles ($22), served as a breast-meat chicken strip and chicken confit pressed into a square. By Chris Schonberger

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Harlem

Harlem Tavern

Harlem's dining resurgence—fueled by hot spots like Red Rooster and Levain Bakery—continues apace with the opening of this massive international craft-brew garden. Bringing theme-park magnitude to the historic 'hood, the 7,000-square-foot venue seats 350 and boasts 80 different beers (20 drafts and 60 bottles). Gather your crew for a guzzling session around the umbrella-shaded tables on the patio or at one of the communal wood tables inside. Both beer nerds and casual drinkers will find quaffs to their liking among the local suds (Harlem Brewing Company's Sugar Hill), everyday bottles (Budweiser) and international selections (oak-aged Scotch ale Innis & Gunn). You can soak up all the booze with hearty plates, like kielbasa, cedar-plank grilled salmon and a Moroccan spiced lamb burger. Weekend brunches with live jazz and a rotating selection of art from nearby galleries give the joint some local flavor.

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Harlem

Shrine Bar

Playfully adapting a sign left over from previous tenants (the Black United Foundation), the Shrine deems itself a “Black United Fun Plaza.” True enough. The interior is tricked out with African art and vintage album covers (the actual vinyl adorns the ceiling). Harlemites and downtowners pack the Shrine for nightly concerts, which might feature indie rock, jazz, reggae or DJ sets. The cocktail menu aspires to similar diversity: Drinks range from a smooth mango mojito to signature tipples like a snappy Afro Trip (a lime and ginger concoction enhanced by Jamaican or Brazilian rum), and a sweet vodka-and-Bailey’s-driven Muslim Jew.

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Midtown West

67 Orange Street

Nineteenth-century nostalgia rules this Harlem lounge, inspired by Almack’s Dance Hall, the erstwhile Five Points saloon. Owner Karl Franz Williams, also of Harlem’s Society Coffee, has outfitted the cozy vintage space with purple velvet curtains, distressed mirrors and filament lightbulbs. But he took some liberties with the recipes: The Ol’ Fashionista blends Grand Marnier with bourbon, the house sidecar gets a splash of green chartreuse, and the New York Sazerac features a dose of cognac.

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Harlem

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