Best bars in NYC
Getting maced in the East Village might sound like a New York nightmare, but not at this 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. Mace recently moved to a new, more spacious location, a few blocks down from the original. It's here Mace has become the grand host it always wanted to be, helping cement the bar in our #1 slot. Inventive cocktails like the Kimchi drink with purple yam help, too.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elsa, a sister bar to Ramona in Greenpoint, serves up the same elegance as its original East Village location in its decadent Cobble Hill reincarnation. The luxurious environment was designed by Home Studios (who work on some of the city's most aesthetically-pleasing interiors).
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.
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.
Nora O'Malley (Alphabet City Wine Co.) and Phoebe Connell (ABC Beer Co.) exclusively pour vino via draft at this wine bar, outfitted with 16 taps and a small-plates menu featuring house-made pork rillettes, duck-confit corn cakes and sourdough slathered in Szechuan-peppercorn butter.
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 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.
Think of the Grimm team as the mad scientists of beer. Inside the Bushwick brewery, you'll find experimental flavors like their recent "Butterfly Door," a double IPA with gummy bear hops and flavors of pineapple, guava, lime, coconut, orange blossoms, mango, gumdrops and creamsicle. 160 oak barrels—one-fourth of the brewery’s space—is for aging sour beer, unheard of in NYC. They also have some of our favorite graphic design, with an ever-changing roster of artists making one-off editions for their cans. The best part? Middle eastern spot, Samesa does the taproom's food programming.
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.
At Peachy’s, you’re bound to break half of the rules. NO PHOTOS, NO FIGHTING, the hot-pink neon-lit sign commands as you descend below Doyers Street into the Chinese Tuxedo–owned cocktail bar. While nothing stirs us to brawl, it’s harder to resist snapping pics of the cool-kid cavern with its Gucci tiger-print wallpaper, flickering candles and flower arrangements that could be plucked straight from a wedding at the Plaza. Indeed, the bar is all #vibes, right down to the cocktails.
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.
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.
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 mezcal but isn’t committed to the liquor.
The only thing that seems old-school about this fun Nolita wine bar is its French name (it sounds like a baguette is stuck in our mouths every time we try). The two Eleven Madison Park alums behind La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels have pulled pack all the pretense of wine snobbery with parties like Track Suit Tuesday nights and Wine Boot Camps. Caleb Ganzer, the wine director, offers an approachable wine list complemented by chef Eric Bolyard's "Fringe France" cooking.
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.
At this a colorful nook, curious drinkers can find plenty of ways to mix edification and inebriation. The focus here is on amaro 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.
Hunky Dory might just be one of Crown Heights' most fun bars. The name, a nod to David Bowie's fourth studio album, signals the joy that comes from imbibing there. Owner Claire Sprouse brings her expertise from Tin Roof Community, a collective she started with co-owner Chad Arnolt to help bartenders make their drinks more sustainable. At Hunky Dory, cocktails like the "The Golden Year" and "Smoky Mountain Song Bird" use ingredients that work in tandem with the kitchen's own planning, recycling ingredients like lemons used in various drinks, into the menu's veggie broth.
For all of us who can’t squeeze into Jody Williams and Rita Sodi’s megahit Via Carota, there’s a few more spots across the street in the couple’s new all-day spot, Bar Pisellino. This Italian jewel box serves coffee, pastries and sandwiches during the day but it shines for its plays on Italian classics such as a crafted drink with pistachio and another inspired by spumoni.
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?
You’ll need a magnifying glass to navigate the chalk-drawn wine list at this dimly lit vino depot, oddly named for Jack the Ripper’s hunting grounds. Happily, knowledgeable servers are there to help, and the collection of global organic wines—16 glasses, most for less than $10, and 50 bottles—rewards your troubles. Standouts include Morocco’s fruit-forward Syrocco syrah or a floral Austrian Grüner Veltliner.
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.
One of New York's most underrated bars is Pokito. This tiki spot is run by artists and it shows through kitschy-yet-thoughtful design details throughout the colorful, cozy space and tropical-infused cocktails, like one made with kiwi. It's also where you'll find fun alternatives to usual bar snacks with yuca fries, wasabi peas and Pocky sticks rounding out the menu.
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.
Contrary to what the name might imply, there’s no swearing on the menu at this basement bar from Paris-born chef Johann Giraud and manager-barman Ricardo Valdez, who met while opening the first U.S. outpost of Ladurée in Soho. There are, however, picturesque French cocktails served in a narrow 30-seat space, fitted with blue-and-gold damask wallpaper and budget replicas of famous paintings, alongside traditional small plates, which are steeped in house-made ingredients as well as French history.
With the right mix of tacky and glamorous '70s casino-esque décor, Goldie's has become one of New York's most evocative bars. This Greenpoint favorite magically always has the perfect amount of people in it, so you never have to worry about folks crowding the pool table. There's a backyard, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Former bar pioneer Sasha Petraske’s formula is pretty familiar: 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.
Occupying the old Narcbar space in The Standard East Village, this new gay hangout is decked in cow print, neon and a discoball. We look forward to watching Ru Paul's Drag Race there while unapologetically munching on dishes like the "schmaltz popcorn" and chicken strips with bacon-fat ranch.
For Major Food Group’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.
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.
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.
It’s all about the locals at this lovable dump, where a greeting—“Yo, Richie, looking good tonight!” —goes up each time a regular enters. From a barstool by the large window, offset by a curved glass wall, you can watch the East River flow by in the distance. And maybe Richie and his crew will invite you to join their conversation.
This breezy, rum-soaked drinkery sitting secretly 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.
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.
Paper Daisy, now in the former digs of Cafe Orlin, takes its name from an Allen Ginsburg poem. Orlin was a meeting-of-the-minds enclave for artists and NYU students for 36 years, until closing in October 2017. This new haunt from the team behind Drexler's, Mister Paradise and Mother's Ruin hopes to truly revive the space's old New York bohemian soul.
Opened by Sam Thonis and Regina Dellea, Getaway bar serves up mixed drinks with a slick-yet-casual environment. That alone wouldn't be enough to separate Getaway from other cocktail spots in Greenpoint. The catch? All the cocktails are sans alcohol making it an appealing social setting even if you don't drink. Expect housemade shrubs with flavors like fig, fennel, or strawberry rhubarb, as well as a full roster of cocktails.