Whatever your poison of choice, Chelsea is brimming with quality drinking options. You'll find high-flying rooftop bars, piano-backed karaoke bars and plenty of top-notch frozen drinks to go around. These are the best bars in the neighborhood.
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Best bars in Chelsea
Red leather booths, mahogany tables and globe-shaped lamps amp up the vintage vibe at this Art Deco space. Co-owner Julie Reiner’s notable mixology skills have made the bar a destination, and her Beijing Pitch (jasmine-infused vodka and white-peach puree) is not to be missed. The 30-foot bar, built in 1927, stays packed well into the wee hours.
There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. The brightly hued Paper Plane—with aged bourbon, amaro nonino, Aperol and lemon juice—makes for a refreshing sip with a boozy kick.
The conceit of this saloon may seem a bit tired: Yes, it's another hidden Prohibition-style speakeasy, this one showcasing a copper bathtub at its center. But the drinks list was created by fresh talent on New York's cocktail circuit. Choose from his creations, like the West Side (gin, sherry, St. Germain, cucumber, basil) and the Jazz Age (rum, pampelmousse rose, cherry liqueur, grapefruit). To eat, find comfort-food small plates.
The team behind Bathtub Gin opens another upscale, Prohibition-style speakeasy in Chelsea cheekily named for the amendment that ushered in the booze ban. Step through a faux coffee shop to sit at the marble-top bar to sip intricate quaffs like the quail-egg–topped Sensi Crickete (rum, stout, cacao), or slink into a velvet banquette inside the moody, Art Deco lounge.
This “lightship”—a floating lighthouse once used by the Coast Guard—sank while docked in Maryland and spent three years underwater. Later salvaged, the vessel is now a floating boat bar near Chelsea Piers that slings burgers and buckets of beer seasonally from May to October. Walk right on the bi-level railroad barge from Pier 66 to order booze and nautical bites, then kick back on the Frying Pan or its accompanying fire boat caboose, which is moored alongside.
In the early evening, the height of this dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. But as the sun descends over the Hudson and darkness encroaches, something stranger occurs. Christmas lights encircling small trees and the rafters overhead blink to life. An attractive waitstaff in virginal white uniforms materializes out of the shadows, while actors borrowed from Sleep No More downstairs weave in between tables.
As the name suggests, American spirits are the emphasis at this dark, sultry bar. Along with a selection of bourbons and ryes, there are gins, vodkas and rums, all distilled in the States. Using the homeland hooch, head mixologists shake and stir top-notch drinks.
You don’t get much more niche than a Chelsea-set piano bar. Sid’s has the kind of downtown clout that draws New York notables (Parker Posey, Andrew Rannells), without the velvet-rope snootiness. Instead, a pink–bow-tied gent cheerfully ushers you through the curtains separating the tamer front bar from the razzle-dazzle clubhouse in back, an anything-goes sanctuary of Hemingway daiquiris and Celine Dion belt-alongs.
Don’t let their contrived apathy fool you—the creative types gathered at the Half King’s yellow pine bar are probably as excited as you are to catch a glimpse of the part owner, author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm). While you’re waiting, order a draft like a Dogfish Head Aprihop, a bottled golden Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier or a specialty cocktail. A better bet for aspiring scribes: the weekly Monday-night reading series.
With 30 years and dozens of restaurants under his belt, Danny Meyer has built one of the most recognizable gastro empires in New York. But this Southern-twanged cocktail lounge put the restaurateur on the drinks scene for the first time. The sleek Chelsea drinkery is decked out with homey touches (the back game room has Life and Yahtzee) and a rustic reclaimed-wood bar turning out first-rate down-home sips that don’t mimic the real deal but instead redefine ’em.