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The Penrose
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The very best bars on the Upper East Side

From neighborhood pubs to smart cocktail bars, these are the best Upper East Side bars in New York City

By Christina Izzo, Alyson Penn and Time Out contributors

It's not all penthouse apartments, Ralph Lauren shops and tiny dogs in the pricey uptown neighborhood. The best bars on the Upper East Side range from craft beer bars to laid-back wine bars, plus some of the best cocktail bars in the city. After checking out a museum or restaurant in the area, check out these spots for a perfectly poured drink.

RECOMMENDED: The full guide to the Upper East Side

Best Upper East Side bars in NYC

The Penrose1234
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

1. The Penrose

Bars Gastropubs Upper East Side

The Penrose—named for a neighborhood in Cork, Ireland, where two of the owners grew up—brings a bit of the indie-chic East Village to Gossip Girl territory. Operated by the gastropub specialists behind the Wren and Wilfie & Nell, the joint would be run-of-the-mill farther downtown, where the trifecta of reclaimed wood, craft pours and pedigreed pub grub long ago joined the ranks of food-world clichés, but it’s a welcome change up here.

2. Sugar East

Bars Cocktail bars Lenox Hill

Tucked away on an aggressively average block in the doorman-less part of the Upper East Side, a set of red-velvet ropes leads to a heavy black door. The underground speakeasy seems like a seductive bachelor pad from the 1960s, where the attentive staff serves gussied-up drinks for the parties of overlapping limbs and fused-together faces.

The Jeffrey
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

3. The Jeffrey

Bars Café bars Lenox Hill

The Alewife team opened this Upper East Side hangout. A custom draft system for the beer controls the pressure for optimal fizz. To pad the boozing, the chef will dole out elevated bar snacks, while keg pallets and lighting fixtures fashioned from plumbing parts decorate the space, including a 65-seat biergarten.

Bemelmans Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Don Riddle

4. Bemelmans Bar

Bars Lounges Lenox Hill

Choice acts keep New York’s most dapper nightspot on the map, while the steep cover charge and white-jacketed service makes sure riffraff doesn’t scuff up the bar’s most valued draw: original Ludwig Bemelmans murals. Not to be missed, spiffy (and pricey) cocktails preserve the bar’s classic character. 

Caledonia Scottish Pub
Photograph: Courtesy Caledonia Scottish Pub

5. Caledonia Scottish Pub

Bars Pubs Upper East Side

Upper East Side regulars can get a taste of the Highlands at this Scottish tavern, pouring 180 varieties of Scotch and other whiskeys. Along with dark spirits, Scots suds are on offer at the glossy wood bar. If the maps and tartan flags hanging on the walls don't drive home the pub's Scottish pride, the menu of sausage rolls and Scotch eggs should do the trick.

The Auction House
Photograph: Courtesy The Auction House

6. The Auction House

Bars Lounges Upper East Side

Dangling chandeliers, pressed-tin ceilings and a fireplace decorate this Victorian-inspired spot. On weekends, a 25-and-up policy keeps out the young'uns; cozy up with a date on the red velvet couches or chat with pals over rounds of draft beers and mixed drinks.

Jones Wood Foundry
Photograph: Dominic Perri

7. Jones Wood Foundry

Bars Gastropubs Lenox Hill

The more refined side of British booze culture is reflected at this UES gastropub, helmed by veterans of Orsay and Raines Law Room. English brews share tap space with Belgium suds and a proprietary lager made by Red Hook's Sixpoint Craft Ales. Wine drinkers can explore a number of vino-based cocktails, along with regular glasses.

8. Bar Pleiades

Bars Lounges Lenox Hill

The luxe setting and monied crowd at Daniel Boulud’s Deco beauty might seem a little stiff—but barkeep Cameron Bogue’s drinks are so delicious and exquisitely executed, you won’t mind sharing your banquette with a suit. All of this refinement will cost you: Canapés (snacks are made at Café Boulud next door) are $28 for four people, and cocktails top out at $20.

2nd Floor at 2nd Ave Deli
Photograph: Courtesy Danielle G. Adams

9. 2nd Floor at 2nd Ave Deli

Bars Cocktail bars Lenox Hill

This old-school Jewish establishment adds a bar upstairs, serving creative cocktails and noshes of its classic deli grub in a warm, worn-in space with a tin ceiling and old Yiddish posters.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lisa F.

10. The Pony Bar

Bars Beer bars Lenox Hill

Twenty taps dispense a vast selection of craft brews, like Barrier and Empire, at this 50-seat beer bar, which is decorated with a white-pine-topped tables, exposed brick and lamps made from growlers.

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