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The most over-the-top barrooms in NYC

Towering cocktails, smoking glasses, antique artwork and sumptuous digs elevate these over-the-top barrooms in NYC

Photograph: Courtesy Richard Mandelkorn

New York knows it’s the biggest and the best, and the city’s reputation for extravagance extends to its most over-the-top barrooms. While grungy dive bars, woodsy beer gardens and Christmas-light–decorated karaoke bars all have a place in the city’s social scene, sometimes you just want to splurge on an outrageous margarita in an all-gold bar or take in skyscraper views at one of Manhattan’s most elite establishments. For those special treat-yourself days (really, everyday, if you’re doing it right), these seriously high-end bars are waiting for you.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in NYC

Over-the-top barrooms in NYC


Dear Irving

If time travel is on your list of luxurious bar must-haves, step into Dear Irving to travel back a century—or several centuries—in this elaborate cocktail parlor, with rooms that echo back to the glamour of pre-revolutionary France and opulence of Gatsby-era New York. Sink into black-leather club chairs for $16 house cocktails, like the easily sippable Bastille Day (calvados, cognac, cynar, Cherry Heering).

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The NoMad Bar

Beloved by bankers and food snobs alike, slither into an olive-green banquette at this lamp-lit bar by the founders of Eleven Madison Park, featuring the cocktail-making genius of Leo Robitschek. Gather your friends and cozy up around the fireplace with a large-format cocktail, including colorful creative punches and smaller shareables like the Walter Gibson, a martini-like concoction of vodka, gin and Chenin Blanc for two.

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21 Club

A relic dating back to Prohibition – the liquor shelves were once equipped with hinges to drop the bottles down a chute should the police raid the bar – this antique establishment is the epitome of New York indulgence. It’s all about the classics here: A perfectly executed martini or Manhattan is what you’re visiting for—with a side of truffle macaroni and cheese, of course.

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Midtown West

Bar Pleiades

Slap on a pair of oversize Chanel sunglasses and slip into Daniel Boloud’s chic black-and-white bar, which harks back to both 1930s-era Art Deco icons and Manhattan’s late-20th-century art scene. Beyond the classics, you’ll find an internationally inspired cocktail menu drawing from European and Asian flavors, like a $20 Super Junior (vodka, Tokki Soju, green time, pear cider and lime).

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Lenox Hill

The Palm Court at The Plaza

A tropical retreat just a block off Central Park, this seriously elegant lounge—decorated with equal parts palm trees and marble columns—dims its lights following afternoon tea service to transform into a romantic cocktail destination. Bring a guest to indulge in the evening menu, which features standouts like the $70 Chartreusian Velvet Sling, a sweet gin-and-juice creation served in a Hawaiian pineapple.

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Midtown West

Bemelmans Bar

Another artifact of luxury hotel bar past, this bar at the Carlyle doubles as an art gallery, with murals illustrated by the venue’s namesake Ludwig Bemelmans, who illustrated the iconic Madeline books. A cover charge after the nightly jazz trio begins (around 9 p.m.) adds to the already pricey tab: Cocktails are in the double digits, with bar snacks like Ossetra caviar selling at over $200 an ounce. Still, you can’t put a price on a cultural, historical and delicious experience.

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Lenox Hill


You won’t be knocking back the Jose Cuervo shots at this top-shelf tequila bar, where agave-based spirits are meant to be savored and sipped. Colorfully tiled walls flickering in the candlelight add to the laidback atmosphere at this Mexican bar where easy-to-drink cocktails like the La Vida Rose (strawberry-infused tequila, rosé wine and elderflower) start at $15. The extensive library of rare and aged tequila and mescal is where prices start to soar.

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East Village


Precious metals are the theme of this extravagant 2,500-square-foot, gold foil–plated cocktail den. Crystal chandeliers illuminate $18 cocktails, but if you really want to drink over the top, the $75 gold standard cocktails are what you’re here for. Try a Golden Cadillac, made with Patron Platinum, Grand Marnier XO, lime juice and agave syrup— yes, that’s just a really fancy margarita, but you’ll feel expensive with every sip.

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Little Italy

Bar SixtyFive

Adjacent to the Rainbow Room is Rockefeller Center’s sixty-fifth floor bar, Bar SixtyFive, which offers some of the best 360-degree views of the city, from the lower Manhattan skyline to Central Park. Sit on the balcony or near the floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the scenery and sip classic and contemporary cocktails that are colorful enough to Instagram against the setting sun, because that’s really what you’re there for, right?

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Midtown West

The Bennett

From the creators of Raines Law Room and Dear Irving comes this mod cocktail bar decked out with velvet banquettes and leather armchairs that are primed for leaning back and luxuriating in. All cocktails are $15, ranging from the apropos Bergdorf Lunch (pisco, green apple juice, elderflower, orange blossom spritz) and the robust Western Sour (bourbon, grapefruit, falernum, lime, nutmeg).

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Fine & Rare

In a neighborhood not necessarily known for its fine-drinking establishments, this fancy Midtown East bar is indeed a rare gem. Newcomers must start with the $20 Choose Your Own Smoke Old Fashioned, adorned with an elegant plume of smoke in your choice of hickory, applewood, mesquite or cherrywood. Along with the ambiance, you’re here for the liquor-forward cocktails, many of which are centered around dark spirits ready to be sipped while listening to nightly live music.

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By: Christina Izzo