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Photograph: Shutterstock

The best martinis in NYC

What’s more New York than the classic martini? Here’s where to find the gin-and-vermouth concoction.

By Meredith Heil

When properly prepared, a martini can be refined and complex, refreshing and sultry, sweet and salty, and always, always strong—just like the New Yorkers who love them. Dorothy Parker’s literati gossiped over them at New York hotels like the Algonquin, mid-century Mad Men downed them by the dozen, 1980s Wall Street types closed countless deals with their help, and it wouldn’t have been Sex and the City without those four lipstick-smudged, vodka-filled glasses. Whether you’re a lifer looking for new happy hours or just in town for the weekend, these ten martini-centric bars in NYC are sure to make you feel right at home in the city.

RECOMMENDED: Find more cocktails in NYC

Best martinis in New York

Martini at Angel’s Share

Bars Lounges East Village

In New York's cocktail scene today, neo-speakeasies are about as commonplace as small-batch gin. But Angel’s Share, the secret East Village bar inconspicuously tucked away inside a bustling Japanese eatery, continues to stand out from the crowd—even after 22 years of continuous operation. The menu remains complex and incredibly original, littered with head-turning details like plum-salt rims, fresh tomato water and house-made lychee-cello. As expected, the off-menu bartender’s choice martini is a stunner—chilled Hendrick’s Gin and dry vermouth, poured table-side from a pristine cut-crystal mixing glass and sprinkled with an aromatic touch of lemon essence. To top it off, a narrow shot glass containing two small olives comes alongside the paper-thin martini glass, providing the drinker with an optional—and invigorating—umami kick.

Photograph: Shutterstock

MoDERN MaRTINI at the Bar Room

Restaurants Contemporary American Midtown West

After a day spent taking in the Museum of Modern Art’s finest, keep the conversation flowing at the Bar Room, the MoMA’s chic cocktail lounge. The long marble bar and soft leather banquets are the ideal setting for hashing out the meaning of conceptual sculptures while sipping a stiff MoDERN MaRTINI. The sharply designed bar’s signature cocktail derives its distinct kick from a hearty pour of London dry gin infused with cilantro, lime juice, a hint of sugar and lime garnish. Shaken until frosty, this vibrant, summery cocktail is as visually appealing as it is thirst quenching—just be careful not to confuse it for a piece of art.

Bemelmans Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Don Riddle

Vesper Martini at Bemelmans Bar

Bars Lounges Lenox Hill

There’s arguably no better place to enjoy a classic martini than at a swanky hotel bar, and lucky for us New Yorkers, there’s arguably no better hotel bar than this one at the Carlyle. The suited barkeeps behind this long revered Lenox Hill mainstay have been known to charm more than a few discerning cocktail buffs with their legendary Vesper martini. A splash of fruity Lillet Blanc and a twist of lemon enlivens the drink’s signature liquor blend—three parts dry gin, one part vodka—creating an effortlessly harmonious concoction that flawlessly reflects its elegant surroundings.

Martini at Hotel Delmano

Bars Lounges Williamsburg

While some cocktail aficionados thumb their noses at the notion of a dirty vodka martini, Hotel Delmano’s is tasty enough to win over even the staunchest of martini diehards. The trendy Williamsburg speakeasy is known throughout the borough for serving a particularly refined and enticing version of this salty staple, doused with just enough brine to temper the liquor’s chilly bite without offsetting the drink’s vital balance. Paired with a dozen or so oh-so-fresh oysters (both East and West Coast selections are available daily), this dangerously easy-drinking cocktail appears to have been sufficiently elevated.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Old King Cole at King Cole Bar

Bars Lounges Midtown East

Just inside the St. Regis Hotel’s recently renovated grand entrance, through the glamorous marble lobby and past the magnificent crystal chandelier, you’ll find the iconic King Cole Bar, a midtown institution since 1932. Suited gentlemen and posh tourists perch at the stately oval bar, sipping classic cocktails under the gaze of Maxfield Parrish’s beautifully restored “Old King Cole” mural (the bar’s namesake, of course). Whether you opt for a vodka martini festooned with perfectly brined olives or the Hendrick’s Gin version spiked with Amaro Nonino and topped with a wonderfully fragrant burnt orange peel, you’re in for one classy Mad Men–style evening.

Old King Cole Martini at Maison Premiere

Bars Cocktail bars Williamsburg

While it’s a known fact that oysters and martinis go hand-in-hand, Williamsburg’s ultra-sexy cocktail den takes the classic pairing to an entirely new level with its celebrated Old King Cole Martini. The award-winning oyster bar prepares a table-side flavorful homage to midtown’s esteemed King Cole Bar, stirring up a winning combination of Old Raj gin, Dolin dry vermouth and orange bitters garnished with luscious Castelvetrano olives and, for an extra $12, a scoop of Osetra caviar. Martini in hand, a trip to Maison Premiere’s extensive raw bar—with 25 different types of oysters plus clams, shrimp and lavish plateaus—is just the icing on an extravagant cake.

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Early Grey MarTEAni at Pegu Club

Bars Lounges Soho

Strictly speaking, the Earl Grey MarTEAni at mixologist Audrey Saunders’s famed Pegu Club isn’t quite a martini, but the inventive and cheekily titled libation is simply too delicious to omit. The überpopular cocktail combines bitterly floral Earl Grey–infused gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and egg white, briskly shaken and finished with a delectable lemon rind and granulated sugar rim. Served up, this beautifully perfumed sipper finds itself right at home at this ode to colonial era imbibing.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Filthy Russian at Russian Vodka Room

Restaurants Russian Midtown West

A gimmicky tourist trap? Perhaps. But no one in their right mind would doubt the Russian Vodka Room’s ability to mix a mean martini. Wash down your borscht and dumplings with a life-affirming Filthy Russian, a frosty blend of ZYR vodka, olive juice and two monster gorgonzola-stuffed olives. Feeling fruity? Satisfy your sweet tooth with a kitschy, neon-hued flavored martini—your choice of sour apple, peach, pomegranate, watermelon or raspberry. Then sit back, relax and enjoy the musical stylings of the bar’s house band, the aptly named Vodka Duet.

Weather Up
Photograph: Courtesy Hannah Mattix

Martini at Weather Up

Bars Cocktail bars Prospect Heights

It’s no wonder that the most charming cocktail den in all of Prospect Heights boasts a full menu of utterly creative adult beverages, but traditionalists will be thrilled to discover that Weather Up’s team of seasoned mixologists can also dish out a fine à la carte martini. Served chilled in a delicate champagne coupe and finished with a fresh, zesty lemon twist, Weather Up’s gin martini is as crisp, refreshing and elegantly balanced as anything those fancy cocktail bars across the river have to offer.

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