Summer date bars

Take your new crush to one of these sweet spots.

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  • Max Fish

    Max Fish

  • Sunita Bar

  • Photograph: courtesy of Nurse Bettie

    Nuse Bettie

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Mulberry Project

  • Photograph: courtesy of Pravda

    Pravda

Max Fish

Max Fish

Max Fish
The beloved dive narrowly escaped closing in early 2011; it was granted a year's reprieve to continue shilling PBR ($3) and blasting Grace Slick from the jukebox to a crowd of LES glam-bots, fratboys and moody hipsters. Bet on a few cutthroat rounds of pinball with something sexy—that way, everyone wins. 178 Ludlow St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-529-3959, maxfish.com)

Sunita Bar
Crammed-together couches and low-key music make this minuscule bar ideal for small talk. If potent cocktails like the jalapeo--passion-fruit martini ($10), made with pepper-infused vodka and passion-fruit nectar, don't get the conversation flowing, bubbly owner Sunita Lofters can surely help. 106 Norfolk St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (212-253-8860, sunitabar.com)

The Stanton Social
Order some of the small plates at this dimly lit date spot. Share the potato-and-goat-cheese pierogies with caramelized onions and truffle crme frache ($9), herb-dusted fries with red chili aioli ($7) and kobe beef sliders ($7)—but you'll want your own cocktails. After finishing your meal, grab your drinks and cozy up on the couches in the upstairs lounge. 99 Stanton St between Ludlow and Orchard Sts (212-995-0099, thestantonsocial.com)

Nurse Bettie
An homage to the late, great Bettie Page, Nurse Bettie is a spot where you can grab a cocktail and reminisce about the pinups of days past. There are plenty of stools and couches to get comfy on (and a tasty cocktail list to get tipsy on). Try the Bettie Blue—Stoli Blueberry, Stoli Vanilla, Rose's lime juice and citrus soda—to satisfy your sweet tooth. Norfolk St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (917-434-9072, nursebettieles.com)

Mulberry Project
Your date will know you're part of the in crowd when you sashay into this cocktail den; that is, if you can find it (it's tucked below a handbag shop) and make it inside (there's a strict weekend door policy). Once in, you can sample from the cocktail menu—but you'll look cooler if you let the bartenders craft you a bespoke creation, fashioned from seasonal ingredients and artisanal bitters. 149 Mulberry St between Grand and Hester Sts (646-448-4536, mulberryproject.com)

Bar 89
Alcohol is a social lubricant that's invaluable in romantic situations. Bar 89 understands this and helpfully hawks generous nine-ounce cocktails like the Tartini—a tongue-loosening mix of raspberry vodka, Chambord and cranberry juice ($15). Even more suggestive are the unisex bathrooms with see-through doors that become opaque when locked—especially useful once your inhibitions have been completely drowned in booze. 89 Mercer St between Broome and Spring Sts (212-274-0989, bar89.com)

Pravda
This underground speakeasy specializes in caviar and Russian-inspired fare. Try the Zakouski platter ($30), a sampling of Russian hors d'oeuvres, while sipping on one of 70 available vodkas, taken neat or as part of a cocktail like the Vladimir martini, made of fig vodka and Russian tea syrup ($13). Make a date for Sunday at 8pm, and you'll be privy to free 1920s and '30s Russian cinema. 281 Lafayette St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-226-4944, pravdany.com)

Orient Express
Two-top tables, glowing lamps and swing-era jazz set the scene for an intimate tte--tte at the charming cocktail bar inspired by the legendary rail service that ran between Paris and Istanbul. Among vintage suitcases and antique furniture, you and your date can try the Sleeping Car ($12), an apricot-infused cognac concoction mixed with calvados, lemon juice, mint and bitters. Or sip on the Agatha ($12), made from Old Tom gin, lemon and house-made strawberry-sage soda. After tipping back a few specialty cocktails, you will have completely forgotten that there even was a murder on the namesake train. 325 W 11th St between Greenwich and Washington Sts (212-691-8845, orientexpressnyc.com)

King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel
Belly up to the bar, beneath a stunning mural of Old King Cole, and order a round of Bloody Marys—the $20 drink originally christened "The Red Snapper" was supposedly born here in the 1930s. Once you're feeling the savory drink's effects, impress your date with a bit of bawdy history: According to century-old bartender lore, the mural is a parody of John Jacob Astor IV (King Cole is depicted postflatulence, to the disgust of his fiddlers three). 2 E 55th St between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-339-6721)

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