The best daquiris in NYC
When veteran Milk & Honey bartenders Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy set out to transform their former workplace into a cocktail lover’s go-to with a vibe that’s a bit more low-key chill than buttoned-up swank, they did so with an eye toward simplicity and creativity. There’s no menu at this Lower East Side neo-speakeasy. Instead, each customer has a one-on-one chat with the friendly, attentive staff to determine which ingenious libation might best suit their particular tastes. Ask for something refreshing made with white rum, and you may just be directed to the bar’s beloved pineapple daiquiri, a delicately balanced ode to the islands that is as smooth as it is strong. For something a tad more original, try mixologist Tom Walker’s award-winning Maid in Cuba, a mouth-watering variation that incorporates muddled mint leaves and cucumbers into the traditional recipe, served up in an absinthe-rinsed glass.
With a name like the Rum House, the folks behind this timeless theater district jazz club are talking quite a big game. Luckily, their refined cocktail menu and extensive spirits list are more than enough to back them up. The Daiquiri Your Way gives patrons a choice between two different classic daiquiris—a tart cooler prepared with Caña Brava rum and the sweeter Plantation Pineapple variation—as well as a spicier dark rum option and the ever-popular Hemingway, made with El Dorado White. While you’re there, don’t hesitate to take a spin around the grand dance floor—your moves only get better after a few well-mixed daiquiris.
The stylish upstairs cocktail den evokes an upscale 19th-century feel peppered with touches of colonialist exoticism—think velvet couches and carved wood details—but the real attraction is the Soho cocktail lounge’s insanely addictive Honeydew Daiquiri. World-renowned mixologist Audrey Saunders’ beautifully curated cocktail list skillfully balances creative originals and well-executed favorites with forward-thinking twists, like that Honeydew Daiquiri. In it, light rum mingles with fresh, grassy honeydew nectar, fragrant absinthe, earthy honey and puckery lemon and lime juices, creating a soft green cocktail that tastes like the first real day of spring. As if that weren’t enough, the drink is finished with two frozen melon balls, the floating fruit doubling as both a chilling element and a tasty garnish.
Stashed away inside Bryant Park’s posh Iroquois Hotel, Lantern’s Keep is an elegantly designed cocktail parlor serving up a long list of unique concoctions prepared with the utmost precision by a team of expert bartenders. The lounge itself may be small and refined—impressionist paintings in gilded frames hang above a handful of cool marble tables, all centered around a stately functioning fireplace—but, thankfully, the drinks are anything but demure. Siegert's Delight combines the aged rum and fresh lime juice with Orgeat, an aromatic blend of almond, sugar, rosewater and orange blossom. Slightly less adventurous drinkers might opt for the signature Regal Daiquiri, a classic daiquiri shaken with just enough bitter grapefruit peel to dry out the cocktail’s sugary edge.
Standing in vibrant, defiant contrast to some of the more sophisticated, serious cocktail dens, there is nothing subtle about Otto’s Shrunken Head. The unabashedly boisterous East Village haunt has been warming hearts and freezing brains with their potent lineup of tropical tiki drinks and boozy slushies for well over a decade now, and judging by Otto’s near constant stream of spirited, party-hardy customers, it won’t be hanging up its faux grass skirt anytime soon. The daiquiris here wouldn’t charm classic daiquiri lover Ernest Hemingway, but loaded with liquor and bursting with bananas, mangos or strawberries, odds are he couldn’t have handled them anyway.
While this laid-back, 1970’s-inspired second-floor lounge features a deep and ever-changing menu of original tipples—organized into four overlapping categories: refreshing, spirituous, comforting and adventurous—you can never go wrong with “just three ingredients and the truth,” according to a tweet from the Alphabet City spot that deftly describes their picture-perfect daiquiri. There’s no better place to spend a lazy Sunday than this cozy, unpretentious bar, where the conversation flows freely and time passes slowly. And the daiquiris, in that classic combination of rum, simple syrup and fresh lime juice, shaken, served up and sipped with pleasure, are just $10 a pop.
Quirky midcentury design details like the bright-teal, ocean-like ceiling, ornate chandeliers and cream studded-leather bucket chairs help set the tone at Cienfuegos, Alphabet City’s hole-in-the-wall Cuban restaurant and cocktail bar. On any given night, the atmosphere inside the narrow cafe is reminiscent of a Caribbean vacation—lively and fun, with just enough foodie-focused touches to qualify it as a fantastic date spot. The cocktail list revolves around Cuba’s favorite liquor, of course, with drinks ranging from festive punch bowls fit for communal imbibing to thoughtfully updated classic cocktails and the dangerously powerful Zombie (only one per customer—house rules). The guacamole and plantain chips are a must, as is the Captains Blood cocktail, a daiquiri-like blend of Appleton 12 Year rum, fresh lime juice, demerara syrup and a leveling dash of Angostura bitters. Go ahead and grab your Panama hat, compañero.
Long Island City might not yet be synonymous with quality craft cocktails just yet, but if Dutch Kills is any indication, it’s well on its way. The high ceilinged, dimly lit cocktail lounge boasts a boatload of retro quirk and a serious beverage program. Many of Dutch Kills’ top-notch libations have been carefully adapted from classic midcentury bartending manuals, and each is listed on the adorable illustrated menu. Aesthetics aside, Dutch Kills has one thing going for it that’s guaranteed to charm the pants off booze hounds from Brooklyn to the Bronx—a killer Happy Hour, Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 7pm, that features $8 traditional light rum and modified dark rum daiquiris. Run, don’t walk.
South Williamsburg’s chillest piano bar delivered a breath of breezy fresh air to the neighborhood when it opened last spring, and it continues to spread the Southern love with every deliciously creative cocktail and the down-home, Cajun-inspired snacks it serves. Parisian mixologist Nico de Soto, of the ultra-swanky Experimental Cocktail Club and Mace, is the man behind Loosie’s ambitious beverage menu, which includes a variety of draft cocktails as well as the particularly noteworthy Plantain Daiquiri, a frozen blend of real roasted plantains, rum, demerara syrup, nutty green tea and a hit of fresh lime juice for kick. Trust us, nothing cools the flames of a spicy po’boy quite like this icy tropical treat.