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The best East Village bars

The best East Village bars include swanky cocktail temples, indulgent beer halls and no-frills dives

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Once a rough part of town, the East Village of yore lives on through its gritty dive bars and no-frills rock establishments. But with trendy shops and great restaurants dotting the nabe, that drinks scene has expanded to include many of Gotham's top cocktail bars and beer gardens. These are the best East Village bars to try right now.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the East Village in NYC

Best East Village bars

Amor y Amargo

At this a colorful nook conceived by Ravi DeRossi (Death & Company, Cienfuegos) and Bittermens, a small-batch bitters producer based in Red Hook, curious drinkers can find plenty of ways to mix edification and inebriation. The focus here is on amari and other bitters, which can be explored via tasting flights or excellent stirred cocktails created by Mayur Subbarao (Dram). Sip your way through a range of trendy fernet or herbal liqueurs made by Carthusian monks, then try the Orchard Street Cel’ry Soda—a fizzy, dry quaff built with applejack, jenever, club soda and experimental bitters laced with caraway and ginger.

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East Village

Booker and Dax

At this tech-forward cocktail joint, housed in the former Momofuku Milk Bar space next to Ssäm Bar, Dave Arnold's boozy tinkerings get a room of their own. Here, glasses are chilled with a pour of liquid nitrogen and winter warmers are scorched with a Red Hot Poker, a rod with a built-in 1,500-degree heater created by Arnold himself. Arnold also showcases new techniques for creating fizzy drinks, like the Gin and Juice, made with Tanqueray gin and grapefruit juice that is clarified (a process that removes the solids) in a centrifuge and then carbonated in a CO2-pressurized cocktail shaker.

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East Village

d.b.a.

When it opened in 1995, this trailblazer embraced all the contemporary beer memes, while most NYC bars were still dealing in Miller and Coors. Though held hostage by B&T types on weekends, there’s plenty of elbow room among the locals during the week. It’s a beer lover’s mecca—more than 200 brews (20 on tap), from the expensive (a Belgian kriek, sour-cherry beer, goes for $25 per bottle) to the unpronounceable (Schlenkerla Rauchbier). Paralyzed by indecision? Think it over in the back garden (it’s open year-round).

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East Village

Death & Company

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, including a fiery Fever Dream (cucumber and chili-de-arbol-infused mescal), as well as top-notch grub such as roast chicken and seared filet mignon bites.

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East Village

Holiday Cocktail Lounge

Keeping a dive bar—and even a beloved one—alive in New York isn’t easy: Just look at the recent demises of Milady’s, Winnie’s and Mars Bar (RIP). Which makes the phoenixlike rebirth of Holiday Cocktail Lounge—a six-decade-old East Village mainstay whose barstools have seen the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Joey Ramone and Sinatra—such a head-scratching anomaly. Three years after the bar 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.

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East Village

Jimmy’s No. 43

This subterranean brew house is the unofficial clubhouse for the New York beer community, thanks to the efforts of garrulous owner Jimmy Carbone. Because of Carbone's hands-on involvement in the local scene, his dozen taps and deep bottle collection are often the first point of entry for both hyperlocal nanobreweries and new-to-NYC imports. On Sundays, sop up the pours at a weekly Filpino whole-hog dinner pop-up by Carbone's longtime cohort chef King Phojanakong.

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East Village

Mayahuel

Barkeep Phil Ward focuses on tequila and its cousin, mescal, at this East Village haute cantina. His wonderful menu features a cool-as-marble Cinquenta Cinquenta—a pairing of chamomile-infused reposado tequila and white vermouth that goes down like iced tea. The Slynx cocktail is a liquid campfire of aged tequila, applejack, bitters and a smoky rinse of 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.

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East Village

McSorley’s Old Ale House

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. Both beverages have a lot more character than PBR, though at these prices, it won’t be long before you stop noticing.

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East Village

Mother of Pearl

Catching a breeze through white-linen curtains while downing an umbrella-decked cocktail is as close to an island escape as you’ll get on a grungy, hookah-fumed stretch of Alphabet City. For this paradisiacal 50-seat revamp of his old Gin Palace space, Ravi DeRossi (Death & Co, Cienfuegos) recruited longtime cohorts Jane Danger (the NoMad) and chef Andrew D’Ambrosi (Bergen Hill) 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.

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East Village

PDT

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 (led by industry icon Jim Meehan) offer thoughtful cocktail creations like the So it Gose, a complex mix of salt-and-coriander-infused wheat beer, tequila, campari, watermelon and grapefruit. The staff is happy to talk you through any libation on the menu or suggest an haute dog brought in from next door. It’s that kind of dedication that makes getting in worth the effort.

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East Village

Pouring Ribbons

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. The latest in a series of ever-changing cocktail menus draws its inspiration from Route 66, a road immortalized in art, literature and music.

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East Village
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