This subterranean booze den may be diminutive, but its Napoleonic ambitions surface in a smart French Colonial–themed drinks list. Far-flung flavors—agave from the Americas, hibiscus from Polynesia—play supporting roles in a dozen balanced tipples. The Africa-inspired Bang the Drum is like a Christmasy old-fashioned, featuring cognac and amaro spiced with a house-made clove-and-allspice syrup. Meanwhile, gin infused with Vietnamese peppers adds a subtle vegetal kick to the refreshing Saigon Folly. Both are a good match for the heat and slight smokiness of tender, bite-size lamb meatballs seasoned with harissa. The foxhole feel of the place—accentuated by throw rugs and orblike Edison bulbs—completes the escapist appeal.
This bar is Le Marquis’s attempt to bring cachet to its boutique hotel. The tiny space is fronted by glass and done up in what might be kindly described as dressed-up Holiday Inn: a curved, red-marble bar with a padded leather edge; nondescript wood furniture; and plenty of mirrors and chrome. There’s enough room for a weeknight guitarist, but nowhere to hide from the drunk, too-friendly locals. Generous bowls of senbei (rice crackers) and nuts are a plus.
Joining the recent wave of underground bars (Shorty’s, Tico’s Tequila Lounge) comes this agave-fueled grotto, operating on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays below Angelo Sosa’s Tribeca taqueria Añejo. (Abajo translates to “downstairs” in Spanish.) The focus is tequila’s smoky sibling mescal, some aged in barrels, some stored in private lockers (we’ll get to those) and all available to sop up with South of the Border snacks like fried guacamole ($7). Yes, fried guacamole. DRINK THIS: Potent mescal mixers include El Tranny ($14), which blends prickly pear and Tapatio 110 mescal with a champagne floater, and the wittily named Haas Muzik ($13), cutting the nutty richness of avocado puree with jalapeño-infused tequila, allspice pineapple nectar and cilantro. Get a drink and a side of show with the Church St. Swizzle punch ($14), which has bartenders wielding meat tenderizers to crush ice before stirring in smooth vanilla-tinged Riazul Reposado, house tangerine cordial and fresh mint. And if you’re going gaga over a specific spirit, splurge on a bottle ($200 and up) and have the bartender store it in one of the bar’s lock-and-key liquor cabinets for easy access on your next visit. GOOD FOR: A spontaneous dance fiesta. A DJ tucked next to a few oak barrels keeps the packed house moving with high-octane tunes and many an inspired Rihanna sing-along. (Eh, eh.) Even the bartenders get into the groove, channeling Cocktail with Cruise-level bottle spinning and shaker flipping. Low lights
Leah Allen, a Carroll Gardens artist, has decorated her watering hole with thrift store scores, a rescued church pew and a 27-foot-long bar. The cobbled together D.I.Y. aesthetic gives the place a personal feel that's echoed in the mostly-local crowd. Dog-toting Brooklynites colonize the sidewalk tables in warm weather. Inside you can soak up the easy atmosphere over a local draft beer, or square off in a Connect Four bout (the games are stacked on shelves near the bathroom).
You’ll need more than your wits and a nice smile to get past the doorman—like 60 Thompson’s A60, an access card (granted to hotel guests and other privileged folk) is required for entrance. Get a peek while you can: The glass-enclosed lounge (the roof is retractable during the warmer months) extends over Allen Street, providing a bird’s-eye view of the Lower East Side. Take it in over cocktails like the Forbidden Fruit (citrus vodka, Aperol, lemon juice and honey) and small plates (yellowtail sashimi, crispy taro puffs) dispatched from chef Susur Lee’s kitchen at Shang, also at the Thompson LES.
Last year, Earl’s Beer and Cheese emerged, seemingly from the ether, along the northern edges of the Upper East Side, bringing youthful buzz and craft brews to a ’hood that had long been a wasteland for both. Now, the previously drowsy area has received another boost from the oenocentric ABV, the latest piece of a loosely affiliated mini empire that also includes the musically inclined Vinyl Wine shop and an in-the-works cocktail bar called Guthrie Inn. With exposed-brick walls, filament bulbs and orange banquettes, ABV lacks the scrappy, fish-out-of-water charm of Earl’s. But while the look is more familiar, the menu is rife with eccentric touches: vino on tap, an exotic all-European beer list and head-scratching grub from Corey Cova, who has left Earl’s to take a starring role at ABV’s chef’s counter. Not surprisingly, the place has struck an immediate nerve, filling up with off-the-clock Mount Sinai residents, thirsty East Harlemites and other locals eager for another new neighborhood joint to call their own. DRINK THIS: While Earl’s makes do with just four beer taps and a handful of craft cans, ABV delivers a hefty binder of drink options. More than 50 wines are organized under user-friendly headers such as “rich, earthy, exotic reds” and “clean, crisp, refreshing whites,” with an eye toward offbeat producers. And those Continental brews, including classics like Kulmbacher pilsner ($6) and beer-nerd bait such as Evil Twin Hop Flood ($7), offer a refreshing detour from th
No bar has a better collection of ’70s lunch boxes, and the rollicking jukebox ain’t half bad, either. Recreational opportunities abound at roomy Ace (two pool tables, Big Buck Hunter), and the 2-to-7pm happy hour, six days a week, is perfect for the serious afternoon drinker (14 beers on tap let you keep the pints rotating). Beautiful locals are attracted by the clublike exterior; inside, the pool-hall atmosphere makes it an excellent place for a birthday party or just a beer among friends.