Best bars in Little Italy and Nolita: The essential drinking spots

The best bars in these cheek-by-jowl neighborhoods range from no-nonsense dives to laid-back cocktail destinations.

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Whatever your poison, Little Italy and Nolita offer several worthwhile drinking options. The best bars in the area include some great dives and an airy drinkery that serves a good bargain brunch. For more local food, consult our selection of restaurants and cheap eats.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Little Italy and Nolita

Botanica

  • Price band: 1/4

The thrift-store decor (mismatched chairs with sagging seats, statues of the Virgin Mary and a faux fireplace) makes for a charmingly shabby backdrop at this downtown dive, a favorite among laid-back creative types and the occasional gaggle of NYU students. Libations range from basic brews (eight on tap include Blue Point Toasted Lager) to house cocktails like the Mean Bean martini, made with vodka and spicy green beans from Rick’s Picks. DJs spin every night (except Monday),

  1. 47 E Houston St, (between Mott and Mulberry Sts), 10012
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Milano’s Bar

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This no-nonsense Nolita dive has an Italian moniker, but that’s where the affectations end. Suck in your stomach and squeeze through the narrow stretch between the bar and the clammy back wall, a bottleneck for the eclectic crowd of artists and perpetual barflies. You might need to holler your order over the juke’s noisy rock tunes—keep it simple and ask for the signature combo of Guinness and a shot of Jameson ($11).

  1. 51 E Houston St, (between Mott and Mulberry Sts), 10012
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Mother's Ruin

  • Price band: 2/4

At this airy Nolita drinkery, co-owners Timothy Lynch and Richard Knapp bring in a rotating cast of star bartenders to sling classic and contemporary drinks. The laid-back space—done up with a cream tin ceiling, exposed brick and weathered-wood bar—also offers a full menu. Sip your cocktail and nibble on globally inflected bites, including the TONY-approved spicy fried chickpeas, mini merguez meatball grinders and ginger-glazed duck wings.

  1. 18 Spring St, (between Elizabeth and Mott Sts), 10012
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Mulberry Street Bar

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Come by the bar formerly known as Mare Chiaro (a.k.a. the Sinatra Bar) during the week. You’ll find colorful patrons occupying the rickety tables and listening to Mario Lanza on the jukebox while slugging beer and shots. On weekends, the spot takes a turn for the suburban, with would-be Sopranos extras swilling 12-buck Cosmos and telling anyone within earshot that scenes from The Godfather Part III were filmed here.

  1. 176 1/2 Mulberry St , (between Broome and Grand Sts)
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The Randolph at Broome

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In yet another testament to Nolita’s growing nightlife cred, this 1,500-square-foot booze destination occupies the former M Bar space. Classic cocktails (think Pimm’s cups) mingle with signature drinks like the Michael Derry (Stella Artois, vodka and lemon juice). Randolph features weekly theme nights, but Prohibition buffs shouldn’t hold their breath—parties, like the Sunday evening tribute to Prince, tend toward the latter half of the century.

  1. 349 Broome St, (between Bowery and Elizabeth St)
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Sweet & Vicious

  • Price band: 1/4

Two pistols found during the bar’s construction are menacingly displayed in the doorway, but this relaxed downtown bar is more sweet than vicious. Bargoers crowd onto wooden benches or gather on a graffiti-adorned patio, weather permitting, to tip back pints of Hoegaarden. Beware: Like many downtown joints, what’s chill during the week can get packed on weekends.

  1. 5 Spring St, (between Bowery and Elizabeth St), 10012
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