Best-looking 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.
Once you reach the 26th floor of Beekman Tower, you’re instantly welcomed into a decadent barroom fashioned with soaring cathedral windows, jewel-tone blue walls and glass showcases filled with vintage oddities. This intoxicating music-box–like space has four doors that lead to the main draw: a maze of enclosed terraces snaking around the perimeter, outfitted with red-velvet couches, checkered black-and-white floors and sweeping views of Midtown East.
It’s a trade of the booziest kind: a gin joint swapped for a mescaleria. Tucked next to Saxon + Parole in the space that formerly housed Madam Geneva, this Latin-spirited cocktail haunt straddles the line between speakeasy and dive bar, accessible through an interior door from the neighboring American restaurant.
The downtown bar offers Korean-inspired elixirs—non-alchoholic drinks, that you add alchohol to, if you please. If neither you or your date want to imbibe, you can take out the alcohol but leave in perfectly-mixed drinks and a funky spot for good conversation.
The new, shagadelic cocktail lounge Joyface may make your soul swim in ecstasy as you take in the kitschy ’70s decor—the waterbed for lounging and, say, a vintage Playboy centerfold wall for selfies. There’s no cocktail menu, so if you’re stumped, let the cosmos choose: Dip your hand into a magic bowl to pull out a keychain that reveals your preordained liquor. A barkeep will concoct a one-of-a-kind drink and name it after you in a flash.
NO PHOTOS, NO FIGHTING, the hot-pink neon-lit sign commands as you descend below Doyers Street into the Chinese Tuxedo–owned cocktail bar. While nothing stirred us to brawl (the edict is a shout-out to the street’s historic gang violence), it’s harder to resist snapping pics of the cool-kid cavern with its Gucci tiger-print wallpaper, flickering candles and flower arrangements that could be plucked straight from a wedding at the Plaza.
At the 1950s Palm Springs–themed bar, The Springs you'll find pistachio leather banquettes, monstera plants and other mid-century modern design details. We love The Springs' frozen drinks and, in the summer, it's one of New York's most sprawling outdoor patios, with a food truck in tow.
One of our favorite bars in Brooklyn is this special, small spot in Greenpoint, near McGorlick Park. The dark lighting, moody green wall colors and artful stainglass details make it one of our go-tos. We love their mural of a woman reading, a response to the hackneyed 19th century nudes of women, often placed behind the bar.
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.
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 Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns’s West Village bar, the Happiest Hour. Shirley takes her late-1940s aesthetic mighty seriously, with glossy oxblood banquettes and barbacks kitted out in newsboy caps and suspenders like dancers in a Broadway musical.
The tiki bar's space is awash in deep-turquoise walls and old-world landscape murals under high ceilings with wooden beams. Heads turn as the waiters carry the Exotica Bowl, a very large-format pearl-in-the-oyster cocktail smoking with dry ice, and the fruity Hoist The Colors Punch, a ceramic treasure chest filled with splashes of rums, cinnamon, bitters, absinthe, tropical juices and club soda.
Venue says The Polynesian is unprecedented in ambition and scope, honoring Tiki’s past and reinvigorating it for generations to come.
It’s long been a sad but all too real fact of nightlife that a designated gay bar is usually never a solid cocktail destination—until earlier this year, that is, when former Mission Chinese executive chef Angela Dimayuga unveiled this pioneering concept at the Standard East Village. Cow print and colorful illustrative details on the mirror, make it one of our favorite interiors.
The spot is casual enough that you can stop by for just a glass of wine or a full meal. Gorgeous light wood interiors pair a nice selection of pours. Apollonia also has a small, street-facing gallery, where staff members—many of whom are artists—will have a platform to showcase their work, alongside other local creatives who will takeover the space.
“What’s your sign,” bartender and part-owner Bowen Goh told a patron on one recent night. It wasn’t the 1970s clichéd pickup line. It’s the 21st century now: It was the Wi-Fi password at Mood Ring, the astrology-themed bar. The name conjures a psychedelic den with Agnes Moorehead or Stevie Nicks tucked into crushed-velvet booths, but Mood Ring defies expectations. There are velvety booths, but also a homemade arcade game called Yo Fight My Mans and art, including red sneakers, dangling from the ceiling.
It’s a scene straight out of Midnight in Paris—or maybe Back to the Future—all golden-age yearning and space-time shuffling. This dapper Gramercy lounge from Raines Law Room operators is a railroad space divided into period-piece quarters, including a tufted Victorian parlor and an ashtray-dotted hooch den worthy of Don Draper. Spend an hour at this luxe oasis and you’ll completely lose track of time—no DeLorean required.
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 easy to be seduced sitting round the oval, marble-topped bar, emptying beau soleil and belon shells.
Like many rich and, ahem, mature New Yorkers, the Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central Terminal has had a little work done. After a change of hands, historic bar reopened with more seating, a relaxed dress code and a streamlined moniker. And just like the most expensive plastic surgeries, the best features are preserved: The landmark space still sports its wooden, hand-painted ceilings, oversize stone fireplace and leaded-glass windows.
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.
The Rotunda is the room that The Pierre is most well-known for. The curved walls and grandiose murals, painted by Edward Melcarth in 1976, make the room feel like it was plucked straight from a rococo fairytale setting. It was newly renovated to include a full bar and light snacks in the afternoon and evening.
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. The indoor space is flanked by two large rooms, both stocked with full bars, ecelectic Caribbean decor (patterned wallpaper, wicker chairs, wood-paneled walls) and separate entrances to the breezy wraparound terrace, which is outfitted with brick columns, string lights and potted plants.
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.
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.
With a mob-movie masculinity, the fireplace-lit space harks back to the late 19th century, when the area was dubbed the Tenderloin due to its beefed-up casinos, brothels and crime. Fittingly, the bar is the most boisterous of the hotel’s bunch, a dazzling anomaly of a pub. NoMad’s nomads: Here is your home away from home.
The British writer’s namesake guise-gone-Wilde bar is equal parts salon, pub and bordello, serving tipples in the Victorian style and Prohibition-inspired cocktails. The venue is awash in deliriously decadent bric-a-brac like painted-glass windows and crushed-velvet chairs, without the impotence of being earnest—and almost everything is dolled up with gaudy marble or heavily lacquered wood.
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. Who needs a barstool anyway?
The midtown rooftop plays up the idea of an “urban amusement park” in its palatial 10,000-square-foot space, with rotating carousel seating, a topiary garden and Foreplay, a putt-putt course filled with animal statues in NSFW positions.
It's easy to overlook Short Stories as just a place where Reformation-clad fashion industry gals post up over avocado toast while dancing to spins by a Hypebeast DJ. But, in fact, Short Stories, a new millennial-pink nightlife spot that also serves brunch, can back up its almost egregiously on-trend vibes with excellent bites and a fun atmosphere.
By the time you score a seat at the Polo Bar, fashion mogul Ralph Lauren’s gold-trimmed restaurant adjacent to his Fifth Avenue Polo flagship, you’ll be champing at the bit. But keep calling, if only to get an eyeful of the beautiful, albeit relentless, space. Upstairs, find a long mahogany-toned barroom emblazoned with jockey portraits and 19th-century riding trophies.
Lavished in plush red-velvet banquettes, gilded mirrors and castle-like sconces, this blast from the French past has just one anachronistic inaccuracy: the Jazz Age music crooning through the sound system. In fact, if Marie herself were a boozehound (we already know she was nuts about cake), it’s easy to imagine her opulent ghost haunting the bar’s bathroom, a duplicate of her private powder room—hopefully, with her head still attached.
The Jane Hotel may be best known for the raucous late-night party scene in its hidden ballroom, but a new restaurant and bar replacing Cafe Gitane might make the hotel a destination in the earlier hours, too. The airy interior is shaded in hues of white, gray and black, with illustrated murals by Stefano Castronovo and has a spacious bar to camp out before your big night out.
Designed by Home Studios, SISTERS is one of Propsect Heights/Clinton Hill's most important bars. Beyond excellent drinks, SISTERS has gorgeous interiors, with sweeping ceilings, skylights and Art Deco glamour. Attention to design details extends even to the bar's exterior, where a clock on the facade reminds you it's time to have a good time.
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.
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, and 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 and excellent cocktails, including one of the city’s best grasshoppers. The rotating list of inventive quaffs is organized by spirit, though the tuxedoed bartenders will gladly surprise you with a custom concoction.