Best-looking bars in NYC
Like the menu, the cozy teal-and-white tiki den is rife with time-warp nods to the Pacific isles, including retro floral-patterned banquettes, hand-carved totem pole stools and mother-of-pearl light fixtures. The effect is somewhat dreamlike—corroborated by a lo-fi pop soundtrack ranging from the Velvet Underground to St. Vincent. If you can brush off the occasional stares of passersby—the gleaming neon sign and effervescent lights garner many a sidewalk double take—you might find yourself lost in booze-soaked bliss.
Copper & Oak could pass for a small library, with backlit bookshelves crammed with 600 bottles of dark-hued elixirs—it’s an apt setting for those looking to expand their whiskey wisdom. The booze-geek haven takes its namesake seriously: The walls are made of deconstructed bourbon barrels and the caps from an old copper whiskey bottle act as knobs on the bathroom sink.
Choice acts keep New York’s most dapper nightspot on the map, while the steep cover charge and white-jacketed service makes sure riffraff doesn’t scuff up the bar’s most valued draw: original Ludwig Bemelmans murals. Mixologist Brian Van Flandern’s spiffy (and pricey) potions preserve the bar’s classic character. Try the popular Paradise cocktail (pear vodka, Aneri and prosecco with lime and bitters), or a rum, lime, tonic and Martell cognac concoction named for the spot’s longtime barkeep, Tommy Rowles.
In the early evening, the height of this dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. A floor of pebbles and slate, trellises woven with flowers and weathered wooden tables recall an upstate country home left adorably to seed. But as the sun descends over the Hudson and darkness encroaches, something stranger occurs. Christmas lights encircling small trees and the rafters overhead blink to life. A brass band waltzes dizzyingly through a funereal tune. An attractive waitstaff in virginal white uniforms materializes out of the shadows, while actors borrowed from the show downstairs weave in between tables, talking to guests in faux-British accents and lending the place the feel of a garden party lost in time.
Scuffed into submission by owner Joshua Boissy and the designers behind nearby Moto, this gorgeous salon—its green walls fogged with a faux patina that suggests decades of Gauloises smoke—is devoted to the twin pleasures of oysters and absinthe: two French Quarter staples with plenty of appeal in Brooklyn. It's dangerously easy to be seduced sitting round the oval, marble-topped bar, emptying beau soleil and belon shells.
Located inside the Pier A Harbor House complex, this outfit from the Dead Rabbit team channels Prohibition-era Cuba, a time when Americans flocked to the island nation for the liquid pick-me-up that U.S. law was denying them. A statue of Cuban lit hero José Martí stands proudly at the rum-flowing bar, where the stools are modeled after those in Ernest Hemingway–frequented joints in balmy Havana. Direct your attention to the walls, covered in 300 framed stills of Cuban life from photographer Vern Evans; the dark-wood bar, studded with brass plaques bearing the autographs of notable Havana lovers like Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and, yes, Hemingway; or the live band blaring Cuban rhythms from the corner.
Branch-offs can often snap under pressure, but Le Bernardin has sprung a stem as strong as its base. Sitting across the galleria from that vaulted seafood restaurant, Aldo Sohm’s annexed vino-hub is far less buttoned-up than its big brother—no reservations or suit jackets required—but the level of detail here proves this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The elegant living-room space hints at ritz (glittering globe lights, rare Keith Haring canvases), but a plush sectional at its center welcomes you to sink in and unwind.
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, from the hostess’s graceful reception to silent servers weaving through tables. In the absence of distractions, focus directs to the well-lit bar, where Goto effortlessly stirs his Far East–whispered creations. Like the cocktails, the 30-seat space’s elegantly composed trappings (dark purple walls, amber lights) are synonymous with Goto’s understated approach.