A definitive list of the best cocktail bars in NYC

New York is home of the cocktail and it’s easy to see why—just check out the best cocktails bars in NYC for proof
Employees Only
Photograph: Emilie Baltz Employees Only
By Christina Izzo, Alyson Penn and Time Out contributors |
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New York does many things better than any other city on the planet—pizza, bagels and, yes, cocktails. Martinis to Manhattans to tiki-style mai tais—in New York, you don’t just get to pick your poison, you get that poison shaken and stirred by some of the world’s most notable and acclaimed bartenders. Pull up a barstool to the best cocktail bars NYC has to offer.

RECOMMENDED: See all of the best bars in NYC

Best cocktail bars in NYC

1
Guinness, St. Patrick's Day
Photograph: Daniel Krieger
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Dead Rabbit

icon-location-pin Financial District

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. 

2
Death & Company
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
Bars, Cocktail bars

Death & Company

icon-location-pin East Village

The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. The barkeeps here are consistently among the city's best, turning out inventive and classic drinks such as the Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff made with floral pisco, St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano.

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3
Pouring Ribbons
Bars, Cocktail bars

Pouring Ribbons

icon-location-pin East Village

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.

4
MACE mace cocktail
Bars, Lounges

Mace

icon-location-pin East Village

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. The goods here are bold, sure, but with just enough temperance to leave you wanting more. 

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5
Attaboy
Bars, Cocktail bars

Attaboy

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

Not all spin-offs are created equal: The best retain what you loved most about the original, with enough new material to keep things fresh. Luckily for Gotham’s cocktail-swigging masses, this Milk and Honey offshoot falls into the former school with a livelier, lighter air than the big-league cocktail den. From the up-tempo retro tunes to the brightly lit, lived-in digs (whitewashed brick, tarnished a sign hanging on the wall), Attaboy proves a breezy evolution of the form.

6
Grand Prix winner the NoMad Bar
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Bars, Hotel bars

The NoMad Bar

icon-location-pin Flatiron

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. 

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7
Clover Club
Bars, Lounges

Clover Club

icon-location-pin Carroll Gardens

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. 

8
NITECAP interior
Bars, Cocktail bars

Nitecap

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

The entrance is hard to find and you’ll have to wrestle an unwieldy velvet curtain the second you step inside. But the effort is well worth it, if only for the cavalcade of cocktail killers at its helm: Death & Co. honchos own the joint, with a drinks maven from Maison Premiere behind the stick. Together, the trio has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time. 

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9
The Aviary
Photograph: Courtesy George Apostolidis
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Aviary NYC

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

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.

10
Bar Goto
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Izakaya

Bar Goto

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

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. 

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