Warning: You’ll be annoyed with Nitecap at first. The entrance is hard to find (hint: if you pass Schapiro’s, you’ve gone too far), the grizzly-haired doorman will likely tell you there’s a sizable wait, and you’ll have to wrestle an unwieldy velvet curtain the second you step inside. But the effort is well worth it, if only for the cavalcade of cocktail killers at its helm: Death & Co. honchos David Kaplan and Alexander Day own the joint, with drinks maven Natasha David (Maison Premiere, Mayahuel) behind the stick. Together, the trio has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time.
Order this: The inventive, freewheeling menu runs the gamut from crisp session cocktails to hefty late-night slugs. Of the former, find the vibrant, fennel-licked Green Thumb ($13), with frothy egg whites softening the rummy bite of floral cachaça and fruity Caña Brava. The Tartan Swizzle ($13) cloaks a double hit of Scotch smokiness (Laphroaig 10-year single-malt, Famous Grouse) in spring-break garb: pineapple slices, cocktail umbrellas and a balancing splash of passionfruit and peach juices.
Good for: Off-duty barkeeps and the people who want to hang with them. Industry folks like NoMad all-star Dominic Venegas and Naren Young (Empellón Cocina) unwind post-shift at the sultry, cavernous lair, slipping in between the suited financiers and black-clad gallerists huddled at the low-slung oxblood booths.
The clincher: Kaplan and Day may be having even more fun than you are. The taste-making twosome pepper their expansive menu with Rodney Dangerfield jokes, drinking games and tongue-in-cheek pickup tips. (“Wink a lot. Like, seizure-time winking. Both women and men love this.”) They employ a highbrow honor-bar system (pick a bottle and pay only for what you’ve drunk) but aren’t above serving beer-and-shot combos (the $8 OG pairs Point Special Lager and Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon) or jiving to Jamiroquai behind the bar, tumblers in hand. It’s a feel-good vibe that’s almost as intoxicating as the drinks. Almost.—Christina Izzo