Best old-fashioneds in New York
Glowing with candlelight and oozing romantic charm, this historic subterranean speakeasy has been delighting patrons with chef-driven comfort staples and a top-notch spirits program since its rebirth in late 2010. On most nights, the cozy cocktail den fills up fast, the large L-shaped bar and surrounding banquets buzzing with excitement and indulgence. Like Fedora itself, the cocktail program seamlessly blends tradition with innovation, offering a long list of modified classics like the Black Squirrel Old Fashioned, a rich blend of Four Roses bourbon, fresh citrus, sweet maple wash and house-made pecan bitters. Served in heavy bottomed rocks glass and crowned with a sliver of orange peel, this deceptively smooth cocktail is brimming with all the casual sophistication of its esteemed purveyor.
Despite its divey, no-frills appearance, Subject is quietly responsible for one of the Lower East Side’s best cocktail menus. From mixology-driven refinement to bargain beer-and-shot specials, Subject has something fit for just about every palate—even those thirsting for a creative take on the classic old-fashioned. The crowd-pleasing Oaxacan Old-Fashioned (mezcal, tequila, agave nectar, chocolate bitters) consistently tops the list, while newcomer Young and Fashionable wows with small-batch WhipperSnapper whiskey, nutty Cynar, demerara syrup and a dash of rooibos for an extra kick, all stirred to perfection by Subject’s incredibly friendly and palpably passionate bartenders.
Seasoned mixologist and author Greg Seider is the brains behind the Summit Bar, the East Village’s sunlit gem of a cocktail lounge. Exposed brick, plush couches and a narrow, oval bar set the scene for a tasty menu of small bites and shared plates paired with an unstoppable cocktail program. Many of the Summit Bar’s original creations got their start in Seider’s Alchemy in a Glass: The Essential Guide to Handcrafted Cocktails (yours for $25 at the bar), like the Mancini, an old-fashioned variation that marries Old Overholt rye with Meletti Amaro and house-made cinnamon bitters. And Seider’s classic Old Fashioned is also thing of beauty, of course, a deceptively simple mix of rye, agave sweetener, orange and Angostura bitters that, at $10 a pop, is kind to both the palate and the wallet.
With its wide open windows, wood-paneled ceiling and rotating list of super-skilled guest bartenders, Williamsburg’s Dram bar is decisively putting the pep in New York’s craft cocktail culture’s step. Depending on your barkeep, Dram’s offerings can range from lofty highbrow to down-home and dirty, but a bartender’s choice Old Fashioned—a blend of first-rate spirits stirred with the utmost precision—is always in season. Looking for something off the beaten path? Sweet-talk your way into an Oaxaca old-fashioned, where smooth, oaky Reposado tequila, smoky mezcal, Angostura bitters and agave come together in an intoxicatingly rich harmony.
Sharing a block with legendary neo-speakeasy Death & Company might intimidate some bar owners, but the talented folks behind this spot don’t seem to pay the looming competition any mind. And they shouldn’t—this tiny, eight-seat hole-in-the-wall stirs up some of the most original and flavorful cocktails in the city. Outfitted head-to-toe in gorgeous Mediterranean tile, Amor y Amargo—that’s “love and bitters” in Spanish—has become a true imbibing destination by making bitters, those unsung heroes of the cocktail world, its primary focus. As one might expect, Amor offers its fair share of quality old-fashioneds, each as smooth and intricately balanced as the next.
Calling all North Brooklyn cocktail lovers! Your new favorite happy hour spot has arrived. Rye, a laid-back Williamsburg haunt filled with high ceilings and handsome details, has definitively cornered the post-work, bang-for-your-buck market with its $10 happy hour special: a masterfully concocted Classic Old Fashioned (rye whiskey, demerara, Angostura bitters and orange, garnished with a lemon twist) served alongside a massive, mouthwateringly juicy cheeseburger. Have a few extra dollars to spend? Fans of the classic can’t go wrong with the Rye Stirred, a slight departure from the original featuring powerful overproof rye, Cocchi Americano Rosa, Peychaud’s bitters and finished with a tongue-tingling absinthe rinse.
Celebrated beverage director Damon Boelte has been at the helm of Prime Meats’ ambitious cocktail program since the fetching farm-to-table restaurant’s inception, churning out list after list of lovingly tweaked classics like sazeracs, Manhattans, sours and, of course, old-fashioneds. All one has to do to experience a taste of Boelte’s renowned genius is step inside this warm Carroll Gardens bistro, slap a ten-spot on the stately wooden bar and ask for a house Old-Fashioned. Mixed well and served with an impressively huge hand-chiseled cube, Prime Meats’ old-fashioned blends peppery rye with turbinado sugar and a healthy dose of Bartlett pear bitters, produced in-house using fruit harvested from the bar’s own backyard. The slightly sweet, supremely aromatic cocktail demands seconds.
Hidden behind an unmarked door on a crooked little street deep in the heart of historic Chinatown, Apothéke is both eerily mysterious and effortlessly charming. Flanked by antique apothecary fixtures, lab coat sporting bartenders guide inquiring patrons through the extensive cocktail menu—called the Prescription List—littered with an endless supply of curious tinctures, house-made bitters and obscure liqueurs. While Apothéke’s unique atmosphere is worth the trip alone, it’s the candlelit speakeasy’s Catcher in the Rye cocktail (Jim Beam rye, Amaro Nonino, house-made chamomile bitters, Bärenjäger honey liqueur and a spritz of Bowmore scotch) that really steals the show. This delicately spiced, distinctly floral take on a classic old-fashioned will undoubtedly cure whatever ails you.
Every bit of flare and fancy at Fine & Rare harkens back to Old New York, from the midcentury-style Chesterfield sofas to the Art Deco wallpaper to the vintage teller windows sourced from the nearby Grand Central Terminal. Novel takes on classic cocktails include the Choose Your Own Smoke old-fashioned, which comes with a choice of a rye or rum base that’s then smoked with either hickory, applewood, mesquite or cherrywood. The resulting elixir is a fireplace-scented quaff with just enough sweetness (a swipe of fig jam for the rum version, a sprinkling of demerara sugar for the rye) to lighten the smog.