Best birthday party bars in New York City

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    The Counting Room

  • Photographer: Talia Simhi

    The Gutter

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Saint Vitus

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The Counting Room

The Counting Room
A rustic street-level restaurant provides ample seating for informal gatherings, where revelers can clink glasses of fine wines such as Ermitage du Pic St. Loup 2007 ($42 per bottle), a fragrant French syrah. Or head to the candlelit basement to swill specialty cocktails like the Rose #2 ($10) or Octavian in Treme ($12), both of which use house-made infusions and bitters. A communal table fits 8 to 15 people, while the curtained-off VIP section can accommodate up to 40. Bonus: When you reserve your fee-free space (a week or two in advance is recommended), you can ask the manager if they can craft a special cocktail for your soiree. 44 Berry St between North 11th and 12th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-1860, thecountingroombk.com)

The Gutter
Rally your friends and snag one of the eight lanes at this retro bowling ally. Get there early and book by the game (before 8pm $6, after 8pm $7) or by the hour (weeknights before 8pm $30, weeknights after 8pm $40, weekends $45). The spacious bar area offers a solid selection of beers on tap (pints of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale and Allagash White run $6), which you can toss back while you wait for an open lane. If you're inviting 10 to 20 people on a weeknight (Monday through Thursday), book a set package a week or two in advance, and you'll get two lanes to yourselves for four hours ($400). 200 North 14th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-387-3585, thegutterbrooklyn.com)

Saint Vitus
A relatively new addition to the Greenpoint scene, this moody, metal-focused music venue and bar caters to headbanging honorees and their friends. Shows by up-and-comers and seasoned favorites take place in the back room most nights; recent acts have included Hate Hate Hate and Bloodiest. Nosh on steamed pork buns ($3) and kick back with New York craft beers from breweries like Ommegang and Captain Lawrence. 1120 Manhattan Ave between Box and Clay Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (saintvitusbar.com)

Scratcher
This basement-level Irish pub is the quintessential no-frills watering hole. A favorite of nearby Silicon Alley workers, Scratcher's cozy brick walls, softly twinkling Christmas lights and low-key vibe make it ideal for a casual birthday drink. You can't book space ahead of time, but your odds of snagging a table and some wooden schoolhouse-style benches increase tenfold on weeknights, which is also when a happy hour (4--8pm) offers $4 pints. It's a good idea to give the manager a heads-up if you've got a big group; the place will staff accordingly and have extra bartenders on hand. 209 E 5th St between Bowery and Second Ave (212-477-0030)

Sweet & Vicious
While this bar is especially popular during the summer, thanks to the picturesque garden and the jars of frozen margaritas on the menu, this Nolita standby holds up equally well in the snowy season. Elbow your way through a mix of cool kids and finance types to quaff reasonably priced drinks ($9 draft, $10--$12 cocktails) from the bar; international beats spun by rotating guest DJs provide a hip soundtrack for your soiree. If you're celebrating with a group of ten or more, plan for a minimum of four days' notice and spring for the $150 bar tab in lieu of bottle service. Those who are partying guerrilla-style can easily carve out a standing area with some pointy-elbowed dance moves. 5 Spring St between Bowery and Elizabeth St (212-334-7915, sweetandviciousnyc.com)

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