Best bars in NYC
At this time-capsule FiDi nook, you can drink like a boss—Boss Tweed, that is. Belfast bar vets have conjured up a rough-and-tumble 19th-century tavern with a refined cocktail parlor upstairs. The saloon is just the kind the bare-knuckle Five Points gang (its emblem was a dead rabbit impaled on a spike) would have frequented, while the top floor lounge resurrects an astounding breadth of long-forgotten quaffs on a menu that's literally a novel.
The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in New York's now relentless mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, jet black walls, cushy booths, and chandeliers set a luxuriously somber mood. Tipples here are consistently among the city's best, many of which have propelled mixology trends across the country.
It's no wonder that a booze-powered Fantastic Four opened this capacious, teal-daubed barroom. Each tipple is measured on two scales: refreshing to spirituous (how boozy do you take your drink?), and comforting to adventurous (do traditional or quirky flavors appeal?). Situated above a scruffy liquor store on Avenue B, the airy second-floor drinkery is appointed with milky Art Deco lights and wood paneling.
Getting maced in the East Village might sound like a New York nightmare, but not at this pocket-size cocktail club (named after the nutmeglike spice, not the eye-burning pepper spray). The barmen center each of their concoctions around one spice, imported from their respective travels and showcased in mason jars around the spice-market–inspired space. The goods here are bold, sure, but with just enough temperance to leave you wanting more.
Not all spin-offs are created equal. Luckily for Gotham’s cocktail-swigging masses, this Milk and Honey redux falls into the former school—but with a livelier, lighter air. From the up-tempo retro tunes to the brightly lit, lived-in digs (whitewashed brick, tarnished a sign hanging on the wall), Attaboy proves a breezy evolution of the form. At the brushed-steel bar, suspender-clad drinks slingers stir off-the-cuff riffs to suit each customer’s boozy preference.
Tørst—Danish for “thirst”—helmed by legendary “gypsy brewer” Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and chef Daniel Burns, formerly of the planet’s hottest restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen. These warriors are laying waste to tired ideas of what a great taproom should be, with a minimalist space that looks and smells like a modernist log cabin, and rare brews from thoughout Europe and North America.
The James Beard Award–winning trio behind neighborhood stunners Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, expanded the latter to include this elegant saloon inside the NoMad hotel, teeming with lofty pub grub, digs worthy of 007… oh, and triple-digit-priced cocktails. But there are pocket-friendlier picks for those of us outside the 1 percent. A seat at this sleek, fireplace-lit pub lends a won’t-break-the-bank taste of EMP extravagance.
This standard-bearing cocktail parlor from mixology matriarch Julie Reiner (Leyenda, Flatiron Lounge) expresses its Victorian bent in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad barkeeps stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu. Choose among regal crystal bowls of punch or finely wrought drinks, both classic and new.
Come for the negroni, stay for the vibe and just move right in for the pasta. It's that simple, pleasure-seeking ideology that embodies Dante, the beloved MacDougal Street Italian café turned small plates restaurant and cocktail bar in 2015. After a century as a staple in the once predominantly Italian neighborhood, the original owners sold the name to an Australian hospitality group who revamped both the decor and menu, but preserved the storied history through prized negronis.
The entrance of Nitecap is hard to find, but the wandering effort is well worth it, if only for the cavalcade of cocktail killers at its helm. The team has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time. The inventive, freewheeling menu runs the gamut from crisp session cocktails to hefty late-night slugs to help you unwind inside the sultry, cavernous lair.
An import from Chicago, The Aviary NYC has obliterated bartenders’ tedious habits to create grandiose thrills, serving over-the-top, fully experiential cocktails in a sweeping 35th-floor Olympus that looks like Don Draper art-directed The Jetsons. The impressive barroom does a lot of big things fantastically, including pyrotechnic displays that not only dazzle in presentation but allows customers to see their drink’s flavors birthed before their eyes.
When a sake-and-spirits temple with a Pegu Club–pedigreed barkeep lands on the LES, there’s no avoiding the cocktail-geek fanfare. Yet take a seat at Kenta Goto’s glimmering black-and-gold boîte, lodged away from the Houston Street bedlam, and you’ll find the noisy hype storm is curtailed by cool poise. In the absence of distractions, focus directs to the well-lit bar, where Goto effortlessly stirs his Far East–whispered creations, drawing on his Japanese heritage.
This gorgeous, New Orleans-inspired salon—its green walls fogged with a faux patina that suggests decades of Gauloises smoke—is devoted to the twin pleasures of oysters and absinthe. Sip on one of the international varieties of the mythical anise-flavored liqueur, best enjoyed as an opalescent brew made by slow-dripping ice water over a sugar cube. It's dangerously easy to be seduced in the dreamy 1,000-square-foot vine-covered garden out back.
This dapper Gramercy lounge is a railroad space divided into period-piece quarters: a rococo, gold-leaf–kissed Victorian parlor, a glittering Gatsby-era salon veiled in crystal curtains, and an ashtray-dotted hooch den worthy of Don Draper. Spend an hour at this luxe, kistch-free oasis and you’ll completely lose track of time, partying like it’s 1967—or 1923 or 1885. You decide.
At first glance, Primo’s is an oxymoron: an inexplicably sexy space modeled on… a 1950s diner? But swap the black-and-white checkerboard floor for soft-gray terrazzo triangles, the soda-fountain counter for a liquor-stocked bar and the squeaky plastic booths for jewel-tone velvet banquettes, and you have the most downright sensual “diner” we’ve ever seen. Most importantly, change the patty-flipping menu for something you would find at an upscale lounge in Europe.
Pay a visit to the urbane barroom, a second floor sanctum on bustling Houston Street, and explore the eminent opus, which includes new classics such as the Gin-Gin Mule. Equally renowned is the Earl Grey MarTEAni, a frothy and fragrant nod to English teatime traditions made with loose-leaf–infused Tanqueray gin, lemon juice and an egg white.
Walk through an unmarked side door at the front of Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, and you’ll find yourself in perhaps the classiest joint in the East Village. Angel’s Share remains completely unknown to some of its neighbors; that duality is part of its charm. Standing around and groups of four or more are not allowed—but this is really a date place anyway, offering a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, tuxedoed bartenders and excellent cocktails, including one of the city’s best grasshoppers.
A fortune teller greets patrons at this comfortably-worn reproduction of a prohibition speakeasy. There’s a rousing scene in front, a mix of diehard regulars and industry types who jockey for the attentions of the chef-coat–clad barkeeps. Of all of the city’s craft cocktail joints Employees Only is among the most populist, with enough nerd-baiting tipples on the menu to please aficionados without alienating everyone else.
At this sly, effortlessly cool '70s-styled cocktail den, bartenders have torched cocoa butter; stirred red wine ice cubes into a glowing, off-menu lava lamp tipple; and poured sips of wine directly into patrons' mouths from traditonal Spanish porrons. Retro funk beats and amber lighting might at first remind you of your grandparents' basement—as do the wood paneling, beaded curtains, and cheese ball appetizers—but the quaffs, and the service, are far from out of style.
In traditional Irish-pub fashion, McSorley’s floor has been thoroughly scattered with sawdust to take care of the spills and other messes that often accompany large quantities of cheap beer. Established in 1854, McSorley’s became an institution by remaining steadfastly authentic and providing only two choices to its customers: McSorley’s Dark Ale and McSorley’s Light Ale.
The entrance to this taxidermy-strewn saloon is hidden behind an old phone booth inside Crif Dogs. Pick up the receiver and a hostess opens the back wall of the booth. Inside, a team of barkeeps offer thoughtful cocktail creations. The staff is happy to talk you through any libation on the menu, or suggest an haute dog brought in from next door. It’s that kind of dedication that makes getting in worth the effort.
Sitting across the galleria from Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm’s annexed vino-hub is far less buttoned-up than its big brother, but the level of detail here proves this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Toss out any preference—bold and spicy, sweet and bubbly—and your sommeilier-server will cater to your every wino whim. Between pours, you can get schooled on the ins and outs of grapes and regions—without the sniff-and-swirl snootiness.
There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. Who needs a barstool anyway?
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 two dozen taps, two casks and one gravity keg, plus nearly 100 bottles, make this the first port of call for brewhounds who want to track down pours they can't find anywhere else.
Keeping a dive bar—and even a beloved one—alive in New York isn’t easy, which makes the phoenix-like rebirth of Holiday Cocktail Lounge such a head-scratching anomaly. Three years after the bar shuttered its dinted metal doors, the saloon was given a new lease on life. And though the place has been spruced up—duct-taped booths traded for green banquettes, neon beer signs for gold sconces—the joint hasn’t been scrubbed clean of its charm.
Venue says An iconic cocktail lounge/bar located in the heart of the East Village, Manhattan NYC.
Former bar pioneer Sasha Petraske’s formula is pretty familiar: natty bartenders, precise drinks and little (if any) signage. What separates Long Island City's Dutch Kills from the rest is space. The plentiful elbow room makes it a comfortable place to enjoy inventive cocktails. The affordable cocktail price tag is a welcome break from the $18-a-drink norm across the river. And if you go on a weekday, you can escape the city crowds as well.
A giddy enthusiasm electrifies the rooftop bar that crowns the Freehand New York. Located in the no-fun nexus of Gramercy and Flatiron, the Miami import is packed with happy-go-lucky twenty- and thirtysomethings that just seem relieved that the Caribbean rooftop even exists, let alone that they are there. Unlike rooftops around the city with sleek designs and glass parapets, Broken Shaker is meticulously crafted to look and feel like a well-worn and snug oasis.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a minor character in a David Lynch film, then slink into a black dress, smack on a dark-red lip and hightail it to the Art Deco treasure trove that is Slowly Shirley, a sultry hideaway beneath West Village bar the Happiest Hour. True to form, the drinks from a former Pegu Club pro evoke classic cocktails of the era with on-brand names.
Tucked next to Saxon + Parole, this Latin-spirited cocktail haunt straddles the line between speakeasy and dive bar, accessible through an interior door from the neighboring American restaurant. (There’s also an entrance on Bleecker.) For the sliver of a bar—festooned with red lights that cast a glow over everything (an IRL Instagram filter, really)—head barmen Nacho Jimenez built a menu that emphasizes mescal but isn’t committed to the liquor.
This bar focuses on tequila and its cousin, mescal, at this East Village haute cantina. The craftsmanship in the drinks is equaled in the bar menu, featuring shareable snacks like crispy plantain tostones and popcorn dolled up with cotija cheese, ancho chili and lime. Despite its many strengths, Mayahuel wears its ambitions lightly. With so many of today’s top-tier cocktail bars lousy with vanity, that humility is a welcome departure.
This unmarked boîte is the sort of contrived hideout that might be cooked up by an overgrown kid with a chemistry set. The bar is littered with old vials, the cocktails are referred to as “prescriptions,” and the bartenders-cum-mad-scientists are in rare form. Does all this hocus-pocus translate to better drinks? Well, many of them certainly cured our sobriety.
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. Custom-made cocktails—no password or secret handshake required.
At this a colorful nook, curious drinkers can find plenty of ways to mix edification and inebriation. The focus here is on amari and other bitters, which can be explored via tasting flights or excellent stirred cocktails. Sip your way through a range of trendy fernet or herbal liqueurs made by Carthusian monks, then try a modern-day cocktail.
When it opened in 1995, this trailblazer embraced all the contemporary beer memes while most NYC bars were still dealing in Miller and Coors. Beer lovers fond of European classics as much as the domestic microbrewery du jour will appreciate the scope of the 20-deep draft selection.
Nineteenth-century nostalgia rules this Harlem lounge, inspired by Almack’s Dance Hall, the erstwhile Five Points saloon. The owner is also of Harlem’s Society Coffee, and has outfitted the cozy vintage space with purple velvet curtains, distressed mirrors and filament lightbulbs and takes liberties with his cocktail recipes.
Choice acts keep New York’s most dapper nightspot on the map, while the steep cover charge and white-jacketed service makes sure riffraff doesn’t scuff up the bar’s most valued draw: original Ludwig Bemelmans murals. The spiffy (and pricey) drinks preserve the bar’s classic character.
In a mystic-cool space rigged with Indio candles, cathedral-pew booths and a golden tin ceiling imprinted with crosses, a Clover Club alum takes the reins on the cocktail menu and proves she’s worthy of the title leyenda (Spanish for legend). Grab one of the more tropically minded numbers and head for the breezy, tree-filled, salsa-soundtracked patio out back. You’ll feel less like you’re in central Brooklyn and more like you’re in Central America.
A revivalist spirit is at the core of this retro-fitted bar that's a reimagined midcentury greasy spoon the Long Island Restaurant. But the cocktail team behind it does more than simply dig up old bones—they flesh out the joint into a new being entirely. The menu swaps out the tortas that once powered neighborhood blue-collars for Cecchini’s fine-tuned list of bedrock quaffs.
For Long Island City, the transformation from underserved 'hood to serious food-and-drink destination has been percolating for a while. Alewife represents the next crucial piece of the puzzle: a craft-beer destination that can go toe-to-toe with the most pedigreed suds haunts in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
If you're looking for an elegant seaside experience that rivals a day in the Hamptons, step aboard Grand Banks, the historic schooner turned oyster bar docked at Tribeca Piers. If you'd prefer to simply sip and watch the sunset, two brass-tapped bars flank the bow and mizzen-mast, offering prime seating even without reservations.
The underground speakeasy feels like a seductive bachelor pad from the 1960s: The faint smell of cigarettes wafts through the space, which is adorned with dark leather banquettes, wood-paneled walls and working fireplaces. The attentive staff serves gussied-up drinks for parties of overlapping limbs and fused-together faces. The simple cocktail menu lists each drink by its foremost ingredient, like Coconut, Celery and Carrot.
The jammed Wayland may be the nieghborhood's most versatile barroom, with a menu infused with DIY flourishes, crafting proprietary bitters and jams from a pantry of seasonal ingredients. Meanwhile, the memory of Banjo Jim's, a honky-tonk dive that used to occupy the space, is kept alive with Miller High Life longnecks, eclectic tunes on the speakers, and an upright piano that hosts the occasional jam session.
The intimate Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side have whiskey enthusiasts covered like the sealed top of an aged barrel. Dive deep into the brown stuff at Copper & Oak, which boasts a collection of hard-to-find Japanese whiskeys. The gilded barroom could pass for a small library, with backlit bookshelves crammed with 600 bottles of dark-hued elixirs—it’s an apt setting for those looking to expand their whiskey wisdom.
The nice lady with the blond wig and penciled eyebrows is Lucy. Alphabet City residents of all ages shoot pool on the two worn tables and select tunes from a jukebox that features Paul Stanley and Stan Yankovic (the polka king). Come at night for lively atmosphere; in the light of day, the place seems more like Harry Hope’s Last Chance Saloon.
Time Out New York gave the Pool a five-star review, and then Major Food Group officially unveiled the bar within the restaurant. For MFG’s first boozy opening since ZZ’s Clam Bar, the team put Thomas Waugh (Death & Co., Maison Premiere) behind the 75-seat mezzanine bar to craft “poolside-inspired” cocktails mixed with summery ingredients. Small seafood plates from chef Rich Torrisi accompany the cocktails.
This breezy, rum-soaked drinkery sitting secreted away near the Williamsburg waterfront, is mysterious and sexy enough to lure you inside on sight, yet substantive enough to keep you coming back. The cocktails alone could coax aficionados from their habitual perches, but it’s the transporting staging that seals the deal—a fever-dream vision of Central America that takes its inspiration from Spanish-colonial cathedrals, Art Nouveau parlor rooms and the sailor’s flophouse that existed on this site in the 1800s.
This address was a short-lived “massage parlor” before it closed shop. Now, the space's narrow rooms are reminiscent of a Sleep No More chamber, adorned with oversize double-starburst mirrors. A collage of yellow-paged open books lines the walls, and old-world potion bottles and women’s vanity knickknacks are strewn on counters. Slinky nods to its illicit past include a red light bulb hanging above the doorway and a bona fide canopy bed in a back room.
Prepare to geek out at this temple to beer and vintage arcade games: first at the dozens of classic quarter machines (Donkey Kong, Galaga, Contra), then at the ever-evolving beer selection. Opened in 2004, this is the original location of the Barcade franchise that has since expanded to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Venue says Try our new Exclusive Collaboration Beer! The Abita French Quarter IPA inspired by the famous Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.
This spacious, stylish watering hole offers two great bars in one: wines by the glass and half bottles on the ground floor, and cocktails and spirits in a basement lounge. The wine list upstairs features a well-priced collection of offbeat finds while downstairs, you can sip classic and original drinks.
Amid the swank food sanctums sprouting around Park Avenue South, this classic tavern remains a shrine to unchanging values. Most old-time Old-Towners go for the much-praised burger, which pairs perfectly with a cold pint. The more things change, the more they stay the same.