Best East Village bars in NYC
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.
It’s right there in the name: love and bitterness. The driving force behind Ravi DeRossi’s dozen-seat East Village tasting room is actually a love of bitter, of those brawny, botanical, can’t-quite-put-our-finger-on-it dashes and drops that can take a cocktail from solid to superb. It's challenging New York’s hardwired taste buds to accept the bitter side of sweet.
Getting maced in the East Village might sound like a New York nightmare, but not at Greg Boehm and Nico de Soto’s pocket-size cocktail club (named after the nutmeglike spice, not the eye-burning pepper spray). The barmen center the booze menu on international flavors from their collective time abroad, with each cocktail titled for a spice used in it.
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. This date-night gem offers a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, tuxedoed bartenders and flawless cocktails.
Ladies should probably leave the Blahniks at home. In traditional Irish-pub fashion, McSorley’s floor has been thoroughly scattered with sawdust to take care of the spills and other messes that often accompany large quantities of cheap beer. Established in 1854, McSorley’s became an institution by remaining steadfastly authentic and providing only two choices to its customers: McSorley’s Dark Ale and McSorley’s Light Ale.
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.
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.
It’s a trade of the booziest kind: a gin joint swapped for a mescaleria. Tucked next to Saxon + Parole in the space that formerly housed Madam Geneva, this Latin-spirited cocktail haunt straddles the line between speakeasy and dive bar, accessible through an interior door from the neighboring American restaurant.
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.
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).
The hotshot cocktail team behind Alchemy Consulting, including owner-bartender Joaquín Simó (Death & Company), helm this grown-up watering hole determined to outgrow the speakeasy genre. Painted blue and green, the airy 88-seat East Village room is lit with white-frosted Art Deco glass shafts and a large arched window spanning the front of the bar.
This East Village haute cantina focuses on tequila and its cousin, mescal. The craftsmanship in the drinks is equaled in the bar menu, featuring juicy pork bellies. Despite its many strengths, Mayahuel wears its ambitions lightly. With so many of today’s top-tier cocktail bars lousy with vanity, that humility is a welcome departure.
When it opened in 1995, this trailblazer embraced all the contemporary beer memes, while most NYC bars were still dealing in Miller and Coors. It’s a beer lover’s mecca with more than 200 brews (20 on tap), from the expensive to the unpronounceable. Paralyzed by indecision? Think it over in the back garden (it’s open year-round).
This no-frills neighborhood bar—from co-owner Greg Boehm and chef Miguel Trinidad— is named for the old-school, sometimes-redneck beer-and-whiskey-shot combination from the Industrial Revolution. Cracking the books on the history of boilermakers, the barkeep mixes and matches four pairings, including a stout-and-amaro combo, that change seasonally with the drafts.
Venue says Voted "Top 100 Burgers in America 2017" by Thrillest. Best "Serious Cocktails" by New York magazine Best of New York issue 2015.
Want to grab a bite?
New York’s best East Village restaurants range from Korean restaurants to Indian upstarts to Carolina barbecue