50 best spring bars

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson



Manhattan | Brooklyn | Queens

The diminutive 1534 packs a punch. Actually, it packs several on the spring menu ($35--$130). Based on the geography of the French colonies, the drinks list is divided into various regions—French Polynesia and the Pacific, Indochina, Africa and the Americas—and you can explore each via three cocktails, served either as an individual size ($12) or in a larger group format ($35--$130). While the flavors sometimes veer into extreme exoticism, it all works thanks to skilled mixologists. Balance is achieved in complex tipples like the Tirailleurs Punch, in which Zu bison-grass vodka gets a bitter splash of Aperol, acidity from fresh lemon juice, and cinnamon and clove notes from ras el hanout--spice-infused apple cider. Clean, sophisticated design completes the experience: Cream-hued walls bear a faint design of grass stalks, puddles of light pool on tiled floors, and dark wood booths are easy places to sequester for intimate conversations. 20 Prince St between Elizabeth and Mott Sts (212-966-5073, jacquesnyc.com/1534)

The two floors of uninterrupted glass walls make this venerable dive, bustling with day drinkers and late-night revelers, a prime (and reasonably priced) place to booze in the East Village, especially at happy hour (daily 4--8pm). Snack on bowls of gratis popcorn while sipping on a gin-and-juice "Sans-gria" cocktail ($8) or order a beer-shot combo ($5). 25 Ave A at 2nd St (212-505-2466)

The Bar Downstairs at Andaz 5th Avenue
This basement bote compensates for its annoying door policy—seating for one of the carved wooden seats at the bar is on a first-come, first-served basis—with a luxe, alluring environment. A long, polished wooden table is flanked by rich hanging tapestries and shelves of leather tomes cast in candlelight. Cocktails, made with fresh juices and house-made syrups, bear the bespoke mark of their creator, Alchemy Consulting. Their new spring cocktail list features shining stars like the beguiling Smoke Ring ($15). A slightly vegetal Siete Leguas blanco tequila gets a dose of char from smoky Tobala mescal. It's stirred together with agave syrup and Benedictine, which lends the drink a bright orange essence. 485 Fifth Ave at 41st St (212-601-1234, andaz5thavenue.com)

Bier International
Whether the forecast is clear or questionable, Harlem's first beer garden beckons with its bright, modern interior and a roster of ten impressive drafts and 25 bottled suds ($6--$14). Murky skies call for the rich and toasty Erdinger Dunkel Hefeweizen ($7), while slightly sweet Reissdorf Klsch ($6) sates palates on days when the floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto the pavement. Come early May, the venue will roll out a sidewalk caf with additional seating. 2099 Frederick Douglass Blvd (Eighth Ave) between 113th and 114th Sts (212-280-0944, bierinternational.com)

Blind Tiger Ale House
The menu at Blind Tiger—an eclectic hideaway on a trendy stretch of Bleecker Street—is what makes it a blue-ribbon standard for all-day drinking. Choose from 30-plus varieties of American-craft, Belgian and cask ale on tap. People-watch through the tall windows while nursing a Nebraska IPA ($6.50). Snag a table early—and order bowl of beanless boar chili ($9)—for a calm, casual afternoon before the evening revelers descend. 281 Bleecker St at Jones St (212-462-4682, blindtigeralehouse.com). Daily 11:30am--4am.

Boat Basin Caf
To wind down from the afternoon revelry, continue along West 79th Street straight to the Hudson River. There you'll find this sprawling bar-eatery, where you can sip a cocktail while taking in the sunset over New Jersey. Choose a seat on the open-air patio for the best view of the marina, then share a 54-ounce pitcher of frozen margarita ($30) or a cold beer like Blue Moon ($22). W 79th St at the Hudson River (212-496-5542, boatbasincafe.com)

The shtick here is improvisational mixology—and while that prospect is risky at $15 per cocktail, it's meant to create a dialogue between you and the vested barkeeps, who can tailor their creations based on your tastes and the freshest ingredients. What lands in your glass also depends on the findings of Kate Galassi, the joint's house forager, who sources produce weekly from area farms: Her current obsessions are watercress from Max Creek Hatchery in East Meredith, New York, and rhubarb from a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Although Compose occasionally gives in to its stuffy tendencies, the twists on old classics make it worth indulging the geekery. Request a staff favorite like a tequila mint julep ($15) and rest easy. 77 Worth St between Broadway and Church St (212-226-1444, composenyc.com)

The energy level at this West Village lesbian bar is rivaled only by the hyper decor. Brightly colored trinkets—including tiny striped parasols, blond Barbie dolls and cow-spot painted model airplanes—dangle from the ceiling, so there's plenty to gawk at. Bump elbows with a mix of gay and straight patrons as you toss back draft beers and jam to snarky pop divas like Gwen Stefani and Ke$ha. The set of corner windows won't let in too much light, but what's missing in UV rays is more than made up for in spirit. 281 W 12th St at 4th St (212-243-9041, cubbyholebar.com)

An early champion of the NYC craft-beer scene, this East Village elder provides a comfortable rain-or-shine sipping spot. On mild evenings, convivial drinkers fill the back garden for a light, crisp lager—we like Dogfish Head Golden Era pilsner ($7)—or an effervescent Fantme Saison (25oz bottle $15). Then there's the right-for-a-rainy-day interior: a dim, publike affair stocked with some of the city's best small-batch suds. The rotating list of 20 drafts ($7) and more than 200 bottles ($6--$20) is sure to include a few bad-weather warmers, but for extra heat, peek at the dizzying whiskey selection, which features rarities from now-shuttered distillers. 41 First Ave between 2nd and 3rd Sts (212-475-5097, drinkgoodstuff.com)

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