The Big Apple receives a lot of street cred for its pizzas and bagels. These days, add the best cocktails bars NYC has to offer on that rolling list. Whether you're looking for martinis or Manhattans, some of the top bartenders in the world are shaking and stirring your favorite libations. Belly up to the bar and order one more.
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Best cocktail bars in NYC
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.
At this time-capsule FiDi nook, you can drink like a boss—Boss Tweed, that is. In a redbrick landmark, Belfast bar vets Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry (of Northern Ireland’s acclaimed Merchant Hotel) have conjured up a rough-and-tumble 19th-century tavern. Resurrecting long-forgotten quaffs is nothing new in Gotham, but the Dead Rabbit’s sheer breadth of throwback libations eclipses the competition.
An import from Chicago, The Aviary NYC has obliterated bartenders’ tedious habits to create grandiose thrills, serving over-the-top, fully experiential cocktails in a sweeping 35th-floor Olympus that looks like Don Draper art-directed The Jetsons. The impressive barroom does a lot of big things fantastically, including pyrotechnic displays that not only dazzle in presentation but allows customers to see their drink’s flavors birthed before their eyes.
Sure, the Nomad neighborhood has seen a much-welcome rise in upstanding restaurants, but finding an any-day gastropub that doesn’t reek of postgrad brewskies is harder to come by. Who better to fill the void than the James Beard Award–winning trio behind neighborhood stunners Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, who expanded the latter to include this elegant saloon inside the NoMad hotel, teeming with lofty pub grub, digs worthy of 007… oh, and $198 cocktails.
This standard-bearing cocktail parlor from mixology matriarch Julie Reiner expresses its Victorian bent in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad barkeeps stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu.
It's no wonder that a booze-powered Fantastic Four opened this capacious, teal-daubed barroom. Each tipple is measured on two scales: refreshing to spirituous (how boozy do you take your drink?), and comforting to adventurous (do traditional or quirky flavors appeal?). Situated above a scruffy liquor store on Avenue B, the airy second-floor drinkery is appointed with milky Art Deco lights and wood paneling.
The name Mister Paradise sounds like it would be perfect for a bombastic WWE heel-face turn (a character the audience is supposed to hate but ends up loving), and that’s quite fitting for the East Village bar, which has both pomp and substance. While the space is gorgeous, and the cocktails are complex (Party Lobster: blanco tequila, mezcal, Campari, watermelon, lime, fermented habanero and garlic) it is all entirely amusing and accessible. Not to be missed are the french fries, which can be ordered with sea-urchin aioli or whipped foie gras mousse—sophisticated, surely—but the fries were modeled on those the staff were eating from a place across the street during the build-out, and that little spot is called McDonald’s.
When a sake-and-spirits temple with a Pegu Club–pedigreed barkeep lands on the Lower East Side, there’s no avoiding the chorus of cocktail-geek fanfare to follow. Yet take a seat at Kenta Goto’s glimmering black-and-gold boîte, lodged away from the Houston Street bedlam, and you’ll find the noisy hype storm is curtailed by cool poise.
The trademark horseshoe bar—anchoring a dreamily appointed stage set with multitier oyster towers, tableside martini service and a bronzed Napoleon statue perched atop the green-marble absinthe drip—has not only been a veritable breeding ground for talent, but it’s also become the platonic ideal of what a Brooklyn drinks joint should be.
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.