The dive bars are still there, sure, but the best East Village bars have expanded to include acclaimed cocktail dens, on-tap wine bars and relaxed beer halls and beer gardens. Whether you’re craving a beer-and-shot combo or a composed cocktail, these are the neighborhood’s best drinking spots to try right now.
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Best East Village bars
Getting maced in the East Village might sound like a New York nightmare, but not when you’re at Mace: Recently moved to a new, more spacious venue, this cocktail club is named after the nutmeg-like spice, not the tear gas. Don’t shy away from the namesake drink, a tangy, sweet candied-beet number that’s misted with earthy—you guessed it—mace, right at the table.
Feeling as if it were airlifted right out of the 1970s and plopped onto Avenue A, Lucy’s evokes a nostalgia for the edgy East Village of yore. On a typical weekend night, the charmingly cluttered red-lit space is packed with people of all ages ordering bottles of Miller High Life while Lucy herself (full name Ludwika Mickevicius), a tiny, ageless Polish woman with close-cropped blond hair and a tight smile, holds court behind the wide dark-wood bar.
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.
Occupying the old Narcbar space in The Standard, 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.
Attached to Ukranian East Village, an old-school New York spot for pierogis and blintzes, here you'll get a window into a fading version of the East Village. As long as you're respectful to the patrons who've been coming to the bar for decades, Sly Fox might just be perfect. You can order from the adjacent restaurant's menu while chugging $2 PBR. Bring cash though because there's a $20 credit card minimum.
Three years after the six-decade-old East Village mainstay shuttered its dinted metal doors following the sale of the building, the saloon has been 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.
In the afternoon, Eastern-European retirees and unemployed folks in their twenties and thirties take advantage of the fine stock of domestic beer and decent liquor starting at $3. At night, the grime-encrusted dive is the place for locals on a budget, who crowd into rickety booths and around the red-felt pool table while downing $15 pitchers of beer. Why blue and gold? They’re the colors in the flag: Forty years after opening, the bar is still owned by the same Ukrainian family.
The nattily attired mixologists are deadly serious about drinks at this pseudospeakeasy with Gothic flair (don’t be intimidated by the imposing wooden door). Black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. Patrons bored by shot-and-beer bars can sample the inventive cocktails as well as top-notch grub.
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.
The new, shagadelic cocktail lounge Joyface may make your soul swim in ecstasy as you take in the kitschy ’70s decor—the waterbed for lounging and, say, a vintage Playboy centerfold wall for selfies. There’s no cocktail menu, so if you’re stumped, let the cosmos choose: Dip your hand into a magic bowl to pull out a keychain that reveals your preordained liquor. A barkeep will concoct a one-of-a-kind drink and name it after you in a flash.
The team behind Mother's Ruin opened another casually hip bar in the East Village. Drink frozen or on-the-rocks cocktails while munching on pizza.
This cocktail den from the Wayland’s Robert Ceraso—taking over the former home of red-curtained, 15-year-old Simone Martini Bar—draws in a packed house with experimental drinks, raw-bar offerings and warmly personal trimmings (exposed-brick walls speckled with family photos, a reclaimed-wood bar sourced from a partner’s ancestral home in Connecticut).
Three years ago, Robert Ceraso and Jason Mendenhall (the Wayland, Goodnight Sonny) set out to add a nautical outpost to their growing cocktail kingdom. After two potential locations fell through, they’re finally ready to set sail with the project. A casual cocktail bar with thrift-store seascapes, vintage maritime photos and a cocktail menu loaded with agave and rum—the Lost Lady adds Wayland vet Ryan to the team’s takeover of the East Village drinking scene. As with their other popular downtown hangouts, the bar also offers a short list of affordable eats, this one leaning toward tacos and dinner bowls. If that’s not enough to get you on board, there’s also shuffleboard and a jukebox to help you drift away.
East Village boozers can go on a sherry-swigging journey at this sea-inspired bar from Nialls Fallon and Gareth Maccubbin, former general managers of Parm and Torrisi, respectively. With port cities like New York and San Francisco in mind—the bar's name refers to waterfront streets—the duo crafts a wine list heavy in coastal sips (Domaine Sigalas, Casa de Mouraz). Sidle up to the ten-seat concrete-topped bar, where you can snack on light bites sourced from local purveyors: smoked and cured fish (Acme), Spanish salami (Despaña) and farmer’s cheese (Saxelby). Accents such as a navy chalkboard menu and pine plank ceiling support the nautical theme.
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. We hope this new haunt from the team behind Drexler's, Mister Paradise and Mother's Ruin will truly revive the space's old New York bohemian soul.
The first thing you notice when you approach Mister Paradise is the flashy green-and-gold exterior and glowing neon sign that immediately sets it apart from its East Village neighbors on either side. The exterior announces that this is going to be a bold, confident and well-designed space, and the interior follows up on that promise with shining brass fixtures, a deep emerald green bar and an entire wall of undulating sand-tone banquettes. There aren’t that many chic interiors like this in the neighborhood, and the bar has a fun, playful vibe. That cheeky spirit continues with the cocktail menu which offers innovate twists on classic drinks. A particularly interesting offering is the Doctor Angel-Face cocktail, which substitutes Japanese shochu instead of vodka or gin, along with verjus, sherry and a clarified tomato water dashi, and puts a savory, slightly herbal spin on a classic martini. The Cafe Disco combines rye whiskey, olive oil, buckwheat, coffee and absinthe for a unique take on an Old Fashioned. The bar also serves shots and large-format cocktails (for 2-6 people) that would be perfect if you snag one of the banquettes with some friends. The food menu, from Jeremy Spector of Brindle Room, seems like it’s having a good time while not taking itself too seriously. You can order fried chicken (available as a half or whole bird) with habanero and black truffle honey, an elevated take on a Hot Pocket (including an apple pie option, an ode to the McDonald’s located acro
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 perfect for washing down a haute dog brought in from next door. It’s that kind of dedication that makes getting in worth the effort.
The menu is 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.
This paradisiacal 50-seat revamp of his old Gin Palace space, Ravi DeRossi (Death & Co, Amor y Amargo) recruited a team to rehash the throwback pours and Orient-skewing grub shaped by 1940s tiki culture. Without a single standard-issue tiki offering on the menu—no mai tais or pupu platters here—Mother of Pearl is a postmodern Polynesian affair pioneering new waters.