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The Aviary NYC
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Krieger Photography

The best cocktail experiences you should have in NYC

If you want to call yourself a New Yorker, you need to drink the coolest, funkiest cocktails at the best bars in the city

Written by
Céline Bossart
&
Time Out New York contributors
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New York City’s drinking scene is in a league of its own, and there’s no shortage of cocktail experiences you need to test-drink if you want to truly be part of this city. From classic, high-end quaffs to wacky hot spots and booze with views at rooftop bars, those who crave new experiences face no shortage of choices. After all, that’s what the city’s about: options. Cocktail lovers, drink your heart out.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to cocktails in NYC

Cocktail experiences you should have in NYC

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Greenwich Village
  • price 2 of 4

Come for the negroni, stay for the vibe and just move right in for the pasta. It's that simple, pleasure-seeking ideology that embodies Dante, the beloved MacDougal Street Italian café. Overseen by renowned Sydney-born Naren Young (AvroKO), the bar program centers on the European tradition of the afternoon aperitivo, which is showcased finely through a daily negroni session happy hour from 4pm to 7pm.

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Drink out of a conch shell at ROKC
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • price 2 of 4

ROKC (“ramen, oysters, kitchen and cocktails,” FYI) is an unadorned semi-subterranean room, paint cracking on its white walls and a handful of two-tops crammed at its long wooden bar. But the lounge from the Angel’s Share vets serve some of New York’s most stunning drinks in one of its sparsest barrooms. The Tomato/Clam registers like a smoky Bloody Mary, with mescal, a hit of wasabi and copious cracks of black pepper inside a big, beautiful seashell. 


  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Upper West Side
  • price 4 of 4

The Aviary NYC is a sweeping 35th-floor Olympus that looks like Don Draper art-directed The Jetsons while listening to Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” on loop. It does a lot of big things fantastically. The Science A.F. ($25 on a menu where the cheapest cocktail is $18), a pyrotechnic Rube Goldberg chemistry set of a drink—fire! fog! suction!—is not just a presentational spectacle but also allows customers to see their drink’s flavors birthed before their eyes.

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Get your fortune read at Employees Only
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Village

Whether you’re a New York native or a frequent visitor, chances are you’ve heard of Employees Only, a Manhattan original that was one of the few to spark an entire cocktail movement. Should you find yourself here on the right evening, you’ll be in the company of the house tarot card reader, who will probably tell you your future is looking a bit hazy after all those daiquiris.

Looking for more great NYC bars?

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