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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczBoudoir

The 14 coolest underground bars in NYC

These basement bars are as far as you can get from NYC's sizzling summer heat.

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako
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Spring and summer in NYC are packed with beautiful breezy days and nights perfect for sipping drinks at rooftop bars and in secret gardens. It is also punctuated by periods of stifling heat that drive us to recoil from the sun like Nosferatu. With projected temperatures nearing 90 degrees, it looks like this weekend is going to be one of 'em. And what better place to escape to than New York City’s finest underground bars. 

Though some share a crossover speakeasy-style appeal, these bars are all literally underground, safely ensconced in basements where you can eschew the SPF and avoid the harsh light of day outside. As cool as they are chill, these are the best basement bars to beat the heat in NYC. 

NYC's Best Basement Bars

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • West Village
  • price 4 of 4

One of many bars to usher in NYC’s cocktail renaissance in the early 2000s, Little Branch was one of few to do so sans-gimmick and with drinks that lived up to its reputation–and wait times. Its tiny triangle entrance betrays a comfortable space downstairs with exquisite classic cocktails that manages to still feel special all these years later. 

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • East Village
  • price 4 of 4

Another one of the old new class of NYC cocktailers, PDT’s as tough a table as ever, even with an unlikely new outdoor extension above. The routine remains: Skip down a few stairs, pop into Crif Dogs, fire up the old-timey phone booth and get ready to wait for the speakeasy-themed bar’s lovely libations. 

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  • Bars
  • Izakaya
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

The “ON AIR” sign outside’s been a beacon for late night eaters and drinkers for years, but Decibel also has one of the best happy hour deals in town if you arrive a little earlier. From 6pm-7pm, select sake cocktails and lychee martinis are $9, and you can get a whole pitcher of the latter for $38. Not only will you beat the crowds, you’ll be heading out just as the sun starts easing its grasp on the East Village. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 3 of 4

Realize your Phantom fantasies below Chinese Tuxedo in the basement of a former opera house. The sleek and dimly lit haunt splashed with sparks of cool-hued neon is back open until 1am, six nights a week, after a period of more sporadic hours that, ironically, gave it more “speakeasy” credibility than ever before. 

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  • Bars
  • American
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

While many of our Old New York favorites evoke general Jazz Age/Hemingway/choose-your-own cliché vibes, The Flower Shop is a throwback of more recent origin: The 1970s. It has a little vinyl, a little wood paneling and a lot of air conditioning, plus cocktails, wine and good old Miller Lite on tap. 

The Up & Up
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Greenwich Village
  • price 2 of 4

Although it’s lit low in true basement fashion, The Up & Up’s vintage prints and fun floral color scheme are so cute we’d almost forgive a neighboring table for turning on the phone flash for one photo frame. But only one. Keep the low-key mood chill over the bar’s many multi-ingredient cocktails.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Harlem
  • price 2 of 4

Home to some of the most photogenic cocktails in town, The Honey Well has a chill basement for days and nights when it’s just too hot to sit and sip in its lovely back garden. The bar here controls smoke, lights fires and pours delicious tipples into darling vessels sure to rack up the Instagram hearts. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Midtown West
  • price 2 of 4

This is another straight out of Central Casting spot that’ll dazzle your visiting pals after a few turns around Midtown, and it’s quite a bit roomier than many of its contemporaries. Bo Peep’s lengthy general interest menu is sized to match, with crowd-pleasing bar snacks, apps and half-a-dozen pizzas alongside its multi-section cocktail menu. 

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Nolita
  • price 1 of 4

Though there is a picture window at sidewalk level, Botanica’s almost as shady as deeper digs in town. Divey enough in spite of its Nolita address, there are a few cocktails on its tidy menu, but keep in mind that they make a good beer here. 

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