Post-work happy hours, drinks after a Broadway show or a celebratory pint following a game at Madison Square Garden—there are plenty of reasons to drink around midtown and plenty of midtown bars at which to do so. From top-rate cocktail bars to casual beer dives, these are the best midtown bars in NYC.
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Best Midtown bars in NYC
Haute cocktails aren’t easy to come by around these parts, but this intimate salon—tucked in the back of the Iroquois Hotel—provides an inviting nook for enlightened tipplers. Marble tables, pale blue velvet chairs and Impressionistic paintings help conjure the European salon scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Meanwhile, a small library of cocktail tomes (The Savoy Cocktail Book, Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide) is reflected in the classic mixology behind the bar.
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.
In 2009, this rakish, 1970s-vintage piano bar in the Edison Hotel looked destined to go the way of the 99¢ peep show. But the team behind Tribeca mixology den Ward III ushered in a second act, introducing some key upgrades (including serious cocktails) while maintaining the charmingly offbeat flavor of the place. Forget you're a stone's throw from Times Square while listening to nightly live jazz acts and sipping dark-spirit–heavy tipples, such as a funky old-fashioned riff that showcases the rich, tropical complexity of Banks 5 Island Rum. Those who suffer the cruel fate of being in Times Square on a weekend morning can console themselves with a range of six Bloody Marys (noon–5pm).
Located in the Museum of Modern Art, the Modern's barroom is a slightly more casual analogue to the refined main dining room. Opt for a three- or four-course lineup of dishes like roasted watermelon with whipped creme fraiche and caviar, sautéed foie gras glazed in white sesame and pear, and comet-crusted beef with wile leeks and chanterelles.
This boxing-themed dive bar is certainly more colorful than its Times Square brethren: Owner Jimmy Glenn can be found telling tales of his days as a coach at a nearby gym, and mirrors are covered with photos of his right-hook big shots. These days, it’s magazine honchos, not KO kings, who slum it here. The joint ain’t fancy—the full bar is standard, four beers are on tap and there’s soul on the juke—but it covers the basics just fine.
This cozy bar and shop ain’t your typical Hell’s Kitchen after-work joint. For one, it looks like a place your grandpa would have loved—fireplace, old brewery signs, simple pine bar and owner Matt Gebhard’s gramps’s 1952 Kelvinator refrigerator stocked full of Genesee Cream Ale, Schaefer and Pabst cans. Big spenders can try one of the 12 drafts—recent offerings include Saranac's bready and aromatic Clouded Dream.
This frenetic hangout is no Moscow memory lane; it lives for today. Glossy black marble, wall-to-wall carpet and sturdy green banquettes decorate the room. The vast horseshoe-shaped bar is always packed with a mix of young Russian and American rowdies with roving eyes. In the bright dining room, inebriated patrons feast on gravlax with potato pancakes and cabbage pie. Entrées like chicken tabaka (a split Cornish game hen broiled under a press) are unabashed greasy goodness.
Sophisticated pub grub in an Old World atmosphere is the hallmark of the Shakespeare, a British-style tavern tucked inside the William hotel. Accented by weathered wood-beam ceilings and dim, moody lighting, this cozy bar delivers unexpectedly elevated English fare and British brews (everything from Young's of London Ale to a malty pint drawn right from the pub's own casks) in a refreshingly friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
When you're flush with cash and cachet in certain prominent fields—at the head of DreamWorks, the Yankees or even The New Yorker—it's expected you'll poach talent from everyone else. So why aren't there restaurants, like movie studios, sports teams and magazines, that are staffed top to bottom with the industry's most coveted gets? The Monkey Bar, owned by publishing titan Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, may be the first New York restaurant-bar to give that model a shot.