Best cocktail bars in NYC
At first glance, Primo’s is an oxymoron: an inexplicably sexy space modeled on… a 1950s diner? On one hand, there’s glass-block partitions, chrome-edge tables and doo-wop music. But swap the black-and-white checkerboard floor for soft-gray terrazzo triangles, the soda-fountain counter for a liquor-stocked bar and the squeaky plastic booths for jewel-tone velvet banquettes, and you have the most downright sensual “diner” we’ve ever seen.
This dapper Gramercy lounge is a railroad space divided into period-piece quarters: a rococo, gold-leaf–kissed Victorian parlor, a glittering Gatsby-era salon veiled in crystal curtains, and an ashtray-dotted hooch den worthy of Don Draper. Spend an hour at this luxe, kistch-free oasis and you’ll completely lose track of time, partying like it’s 1967—or 1923 or 1885. You decide.
The storied cocktail lounge, the Pegu Club, begat many of today's standard-bearers, including Death & Company, PDT and Mayahuel. Pay a visit to the urbane barroom, a second floor sanctum on bustling Houston Street, and explore the eminent opus, which includes new classics such as the Gin-Gin Mule.
The entrance of Nitecap is hard to find, but the wandering effort is well worth it, if only for the cavalcade of cocktail killers at its helm. The team has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time. The inventive, freewheeling menu runs the gamut from crisp session cocktails to hefty late-night slugs to help you unwind inside the sultry, cavernous lair.
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. Standing around and groups of four or more are not allowed—but this is really a date place anyway, offering a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, tuxedoed bartenders and excellent cocktails.
At this sly, effortlessly cool '70s-styled cocktail den, bartenders torch cocoa butter; stir red wine ice cubes into a lava lamp tipple; and pour sips of wine directly into patrons' mouths from traditonal Spanish porrons. Retro funk beats and amber lighting might at first remind you of your grandparents' basement—as do the wood paneling, beaded curtains, and cheese ball appetizers—but the quaffs, and the service, are far from out of style.
Late, great bar pioneer's Sasha Petraske’s formula was pretty familiar: natty bartenders, precise drinks and little (if any) signage. What separates Long Island City's Dutch Kills from the rest is space. The plentiful elbow room makes it a comfortable place to enjoy cocktails like the rye-based Garibaldi, made with lime juice, Campari and mellow white grapes. And if you go on a weekday, you can escape the city crowds as well.
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. 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.
There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof.
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.