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.
RECOMMENDED: See all of the best bars in NYC
Best cocktail bars in NYC
Keeping a dive bar—and even a beloved one—alive in New York isn’t easy, which makes the phoenix-like rebirth of Holiday Cocktail Lounge such a head-scratching anomaly. Three years after the bar shuttered its dinted metal doors, the saloon was 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.
Venue says An iconic cocktail lounge/bar located in the heart of the East Village, Manhattan NYC.
A giddy enthusiasm electrifies the rooftop bar that crowns the Freehand New York. Located in the no-fun nexus of Gramercy and Flatiron, the Miami import is packed with happy-go-lucky twenty- and thirtysomethings that just seem relieved that the Caribbean rooftop even exists, let alone that they are there. Unlike rooftops around the city with sleek designs and glass parapets, Broken Shaker is meticulously crafted to look and feel like a well-worn and snug oasis.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a minor character in a David Lynch film, then slink into a black dress, smack on a dark-red lip and hightail it to the Art Deco treasure trove that is Slowly Shirley, a sultry hideaway beneath West Village bar the Happiest Hour. True to form, the drinks from a former Pegu Club pro evoke classic cocktails of the era with names like Loose Lips Sink Ships and Ingrid Bergman.
This Latin-spirited cocktail haunt straddles the line between speakeasy and dive bar, accessible through an interior door from the neighboring American restaurant. (There’s also an entrance on Bleecker.) For the sliver of a bar—festooned with red lights that cast a glow over everything (an IRL Instagram filter, really)—head barmen Nacho Jimenez built a menu that emphasizes mescal but isn’t committed to the liquor.
This unmarked boîte is the sort of contrived hideout that might be cooked up by an overgrown kid with a chemistry set. The bar is littered with old vials, the cocktails are referred to as “prescriptions,” and the bartenders-cum-mad-scientists are in rare form. Does all this hocus-pocus translate to better drinks? Well, quaffs like the Tainted Love as well as the Sitting Buddha certainly cured our sobriety.
At this a colorful nook conceived by Ravi DeRossi (Death & Company, Cienfuegos), 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.
The drinks at this clubby, low-ceilinged Village rathskeller are nigh perfect. If you choose to deviate from the menu, just give the neatly attired, polite bartenders a base liquor and a hint of your mood, and they can tailor a drink on the fly. A call for rye got us a spot-on Italian twist on a Manhattan, featuring maraschino liqueur, Carpano Antica vermouth and amaro. Custom-made cocktails—no password or secret handshake required.
A fortune teller greets patrons at this comfortably-worn reproduction of a prohibition speakeasy. There’s a rousing scene in front, a mix of diehard regulars and industry types who jockey for the attentions of the chef-coat–clad barkeeps. Of all of the city’s craft cocktail joints Employees Only is among the most populist, with enough nerd-baiting tipples on the menu to please aficionados without alienating everyone else.