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Best bars in West Village: The essential drinking spots

The best bars in the neighborhood range from subterranean cocktail dens to quirky themed bars and down-to-earth pubs.

Whatever your poison, the West Village offers several worthwhile drinking options. Sasha Petraske’s cocktail den Little Branch and beer-geek haven Blind Tiger Ale House are among the best bars in the neighborhood. Though it's no longer the city's trendiest gayborhood, the West Village still has some of our favorite gay watering holes, and it's the site of the landmark Stonewall Inn. Oenophiles will welcome Vin Sur Vingt, which serves French wine, cheese, charcuterie and other Gallic snacks. For something more substantial, consult our selection of restaurants and cheap eats.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to West Village

Blind Tiger Ale House

Critics' pick

Long before craft entered the lexicon, there was Blind Tiger, one of the OGs of the New York beer scene. Since its arrival in 1995, Blind Tiger has achieved legendary status thanks to a meticulously curated program and some of the city's best bar food. The 28 taps ($6.50--$11), two casks and one gravity keg (usually $7), plus more than 80 bottles ($7--$55), make this the first port of call for brewhounds who want to track down pours they can't find anywhere else. Weekly events, including meet-the-brewer nights and frequent style showcases, help drinkers navigate the hunt.

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West Village

Corner Bistro

Critics' pick

The burgers at this dimly lit Village standby are legendary, and the New Yorkers who love them legion. You may have to wait in line for a good hour to get your hands on one (and you will need both hands). Fortunately, several $2.50 drafts (including McSorley’s Ale) will help you bide your time, as will the Yankees on the tube, and a jukebox that plays everything from Calexico to Coltrane. Go for the Bistro Burger, a fat patty of broiled beef, cheese and smoky bacon on a sesame-seed bun for $6.75. A plate of crisp shoestring fries will run you $2.50, but they’re totally beside the point.

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West Village

Highlands

Critics' pick

This buzzing barroom marks the overdue arrival of a stylish Scottish tavern in NYC. The look is urban drawing room: Furnishings include stag heads, and the charming staff sports tartan ties. Scotch is the thing—sip from a collection of 100 whiskeys, or try one of the smart cocktails, which provide a perfect introduction to the spirit. We liked the citrusy Blood and Sand, made with 12-year-old Highland Park, Cherry Heering, orange juice and bitters. It’s worth bringing an appetite for the gastropub fare, too: Lamb sausage rolls with harissa aioli make for a topflight drinking snack.

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West Village

Little Branch

Critics' pick

As befits cocktail progenitor Sasha Petraske’s liquid legacy, the drinks at this clubby, low-ceilinged Village rathskeller are nigh perfect. If you choose to deviate from the menu, just give the neatly attired, polite bartenders a base liquor and a hint of your mood, and they can tailor a drink on the fly. A call for rye got us a spot-on Italian twist on a Manhattan, featuring maraschino liqueur, Carpano Antica vermouth and amaro. Custom-made cocktails—no password or secret handshake required.

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West Village

Orient Express

Critics' pick

The legendary passenger train is the inspiration for this cocktail bar from Osman Cakir of Turks & Frogs. Drinks like the Sleeping Car, made with house-infused apricot cognac, calvados and mint, showcase ingredients that nod to the train’s eastbound route; the decor—vintage suitcases, stacks of tattered passports—further reflects the theme.

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West Village

Rusty Knot

Critics' pick

This Hudson River–hugging nautical “dive bar” from Taavo Somer (Freemans) and Ken Friedman (the Spotted Pig) is a confusing—but successful—high-low hybrid. Faux Tiffany lamps and neon beer signs clash with the elaborate tiki cocktails (devised by Milk and Honey vet Toby Maloney), and with the foppish hordes who queue up outside the place. You’d never find the eponymous Rusty Knot—a refreshing, blender-whirred mix of rum, ice and mint—or eats like a luxe bacon–chicken liver sandwich at a grimy pub. But you would find three-buck pints of Busch and 50¢ rounds of pool. Happily, the Knot has those bases covered, too.

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West Village

Vin Sur Vingt

Critics' pick

New York's Francophiles have no shortage of places to go for Gallic comforts: haute-cusine temples with Michelin stars to spare, charming Lyonnaise-style bouchons and pedigreed patisseries at the ready when a macaron craving strikes. But one French institution that's a bit harder to come by is the bistro vins—the type of humble, caflike watering hole where you might while away a Paris afternoon sipping beaujolais. For a taste of what you've been missing, head to Vin Sur Vingt, which has been quietly charming West Village oenophiles since opening in July. The bar is a deeply personal affair for owner Sebastien Auvet: A portrait near the front window depicts Auvet's grandmother, who taught him to adore food, while a glass divider is embossed with the words 18E ARRT RUE DUHESME, referring to the neighborhood and street where his nanny took him to his first caf. These intimate touches, as well as a passion for sharing great wine with others, result in a rare achievement: a new-breed wine bar—unfussy and unpretentious—with Old World sensibilities. DRINK THIS: The name is a pun referencing the phrase vingt sur vingt—20 over 20, or a perfect score—and the fact that the bar pours 20 reds and 20 white wines by the glass ($9 and up). The rotating list is broken down by region, repping the familiar players—Bordeaux, Ctes du Rhne—while also dipping into less-exposed areas like Corsica and Jura. Servers know enough to help you navigate the offerings, but the place is built for pleasure more than education (we'll take generous pours over pedantic sermons any day). Deal-seekers might look to the weekly cast of featured bottles, chosen based on Auvet's whims and offered at a discount. We discovered a beautifully acidic Margaux (Chteau Paveil de Luze, 2008), as well as a Palette from Provence (Chteau Henri Bonnaud, 2006) with smooth tannins and hints of spiced red berries. If you're in the mood to experiment, opt for one of the flights of three-ounce pours (three for $18, five for $28) written on a chalkboard above the bar. GOOD FOR: Wine lovers, former French majors and those New Yorkers who are always threatening to move to Paris (you know the ones). On weeknights, join neighborhood folks sipping Sancerre with friends, or squinting at labels looking for that Chteauneuf-du-Pape that knocked their socks off last week. When Friday and Saturday night roll around, the windows steam up and the chatter grows boisterous, but the servers do an impressive job of managing the tight space—witness them rearranging two-tops along the wall like puzzle pieces, hanging up heavy winter coats to carve out a few extra inches of space, and maybe sliding guests a few cheeky flutes of champagne as an enticement to stay out past their bedtime. THE CLINCHER: French wine calls for something to nibble on, and Vin Sur Vingt comes through with a tidy menu of snacks prepped at the end of the bar. Share charcuterie from D'Artagnan, lush pt de maison or cheese plates (three for $14, five for $20) featuring Gallic curds like mimolette (similar to cheddar) and petit basque, a mild and creamy sheep's milk variety. Other straightforward standards make fine use of good cheese and crusty bread—croque-monsieur with a layer of bubbling Gruyre, and salmon tartine, bolstered with dill and tangy crme frache. OVERHEARD: "Wait...I should hit on him, right?" —A patron realizes she's sitting across from Malcolm Gladwell

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West Village

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