Best bars for seasonal drinks

Get your hands on a spring cocktail from a master mixologist.

  • forddefiance


  • huckleberrybar

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith


  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson



Fort Defiance
You won't find anyone pontificating on the importance of ice here. And you won't get a lecture about liqueurs you can't pronounce. The vibe and the staff at Fort Defiance are refreshingly breezy: Sit by the grand, open window or climb onto a bar stool to watch the barkeeps mix ginger ale the old-fashioned way (fresh ginger syrup, lime juice and seltzer from a special tap; $2.50). If you fancy something stiffer, look out for the King Bee, arriving this spring. The bar's first-ever listed vodka drink relies on Comb vodka, a boutique brand that gets its subtle malt and floral notes from a Darjeeling-tea infusion. The libation is then shaken with lemon juice, dosed with herbal Benedictine, and finally topped with bitters and bright prosecco ($9). 365 Van Brunt St at Dikeman St, Red Hook, Brooklyn (347-453 6672,

The Gramercy Terrace at the Gramercy Park Hotel
Forget olives—nothing marries with a martini like a pickled Mexican sour gherkin. Also known as the cucamelon, this tiny vegetable is one of many sprouting in the rooftop garden of this 18th-floor bar. The gherkins appear in early summer, and are then harvested and pickled to briny tartness for your gin or vodka, dirty or dry pleasure ($18). But you don't have to wait until then to sample other libations with homegrown ingredients, such as the Gramercy 75 ($18), a gold-leaf garnished refresher made from champagne, fresh Meyer lemon juice, ginger syrup and vodka. Savor it while relaxing indoors or out, amid lush foliage and underneath a retractable glass roof. 2 Lexington Ave at 21st St (212-201-2171,

Huckleberry Bar
This Williamsburg bar grows a mullet when the weather warms: There's still serious business going on in the front in the form of handcrafted cocktails, but there's a more lighthearted vibe in the backyard. Thick wisteria creeps up the patio's wrought-iron trellis, and wafts of mint, hyssop and lovage drift from a garden that the staff plants in April and cultivates till fall. The green space inspires concoctions like owner Stephanie Schneider's Plant's Physician. She plucks chamomile for use in a simple syrup, adds an oak-forward reposado tequila to lemon juice and lemon bitters, and tops it all with celebratory prosecco ($11). 588 Grand St at Lorimer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-8555,

Maison Premiere
Arguably more New Orleans than New Orleans, the atmosphere at Maison Premiere mimics what once was in the Big Easy—before garish frozen-daiquiri shops replaced refined drinking parlors. This is a place where connoisseurs are taught patience: in the hypnotic drip of an absinthe fountain, the extra shake required for a perfect gin fizz and a bartender's capacity for witty conversation. Try a Lafitte's Swizzle (Jean Lafitte was a historical pirate—this ain't no Cosmo): To a serious pour of Pernod 68 absinthe, your capable keep will add tart lime juice, the almond sweetness of orgeat, parfait amour and a splash of chilled water swizzled in to finish it off ($10). 298 Bedford Ave between Grand and South 1st Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-335-0446,

Red Rooster Harlem
Marcus Samuelsson's neighborhood-influenced American spot delivers cocktails that are as worthy of a "hallelujah" as the fluffy corn bread they wash down. The vivid copper bar top, shelves scattered with antique bric-a-brac, warm marquee lights and a lively open dining room all set the scene for the spring menu's playfully spicy and herbal offerings. Don't miss Moses Laboy's Dillio cocktail, a creation that draws on two cuisines Samuelsson knows well, skillfully combining peanut-infused bourbon (an African nod) with muddled dill (Scandinavian), plus lime juice, simple syrup and ginger liqueur ($13). 310 Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave) between 125th and 126th Sts (212-792-9001,

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