This Upper East Side spot stands apart from the neighborhood’s sports bars and fancier joints—its exposed-brick walls, retro decorative touches (framed vintage portraits, old typewriters) and curved wooden bar are casually sophisticated. And even though the weekend scene is raucous, it’s a good, spacious option for weeknight outings, with solid beer choices (including Troegs Perpetual IPA, $7) and an extensive whiskey selection, including Irish and American varietals, as well as rye and Scotch. If you’re rolling with a larger crew, book the private Spencer Room, which boasts its own bar and plenty of café tables to accommodate crowds (the best deals are available Sunday through Wednesday). 1590 Second Ave between 82nd and 83rd Sts (212-203-2751, penrosebar.com)
Young after-work imbibers crowd this barnlike West Village beer hall and flock to its rotating selection of ten Greenpoint Beer Works taps. Start the night off right by ordering a comically huge liter stein of the smoky Scotch ale ($17) for each person in the group, as well as several baskets of spicy homemade potato chips with blue-cheese dip ($8.50). Larger parties would do well to plan for a midweek affair, when it’s easier to grab one of the large wooden tables; on the weekends, you’re likely to contend with a wait and a more boisterous (and bro-y) crowd. 222 W Houston St between Bedford and Varick Sts (212-675-9323, houstonhallny.com)
Both owners of this Lower East Side drinkery used to be in bands, and they designed the bar with music in mind: Wood paneling enhances the acoustics, vintage turntables serve as decoration, and the taps have volume knobs. The vibe is mostly low-key, even when DJs are spinning, so your clique can settle in for a while. The drink menu includes six draft beers (such as the house pilsner, $6) and wine available on tap, in a box or by the glass (prices vary). There’s one large table in the narrow front, but if you have a big party, you can call ahead to reserve the low-lit back room, which can accommodate up to 40 on weathered banquettes. 123 Allen St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (212-432-5000, antlerdispensary.com)
Expect to rub elbows with skinny-jeaned, Warby Parker–wearing scenesters at this basement hideaway, located beneath Rye restaurant (hence the name—it stands for Bar Below Rye). The clubby atmosphere is enhanced by weekend DJs (usually beginning after 10pm); get the party started during happy hour, which offers two-for-one beers, wine and well drinks every night from 7 to 8pm. There’s enough variety in the libation list to make everyone in your entourage happy: The bar is known for whiskey cocktails such as the Rye Stirred, a smooth blend of Rittenhouse rye, vermouth and Peychaud’s bitters ($11), but also serves draft beers and $4 cans of Bud. 247 South 1st St between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-8047, ryerestaurant.com)
This heated, enclosed rooftop bar is perched 18 floors above Herald Square, far from the crowds of tourists gawking at the ma holiday windows below. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the Empire State Building from the stylish enclosed outdoor lounge, where you can sip a cocktail such as the signature Monarch ($14)—a mixture of gin, grapefruit juice and lavender bitters—in a plush purple armchair. The 5,000-square-foot space offers plenty of room for a group to spread out, but call ahead if you want to reserve a private area. W 35th St at Sixth Ave (212-630-9957, addisongroupnyc.com/venues/monarch)
During the holiday season, you’ll likely need to find a New York bar that’s big enough to hold a happy-hour gathering, Secret Santa bash or some other group outing. Take out the guesswork and head to one of these New York bars: They’re large enough to accommodate groups, but also have private spaces for rent.
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Looking for the Oktoberfest experience without boarding an international flight? Head to Bierhaus NYC in Midtown East. With its long, communal tables, dirndl-clad waitresses and steins of Hofbrau lager, this bar gives off some serious Munich vibes. There’s almost always live music, often polka, and the rowdy crowd will even break into a tipsy German sing-along from time to time. The kitchen serves up a menu full of beer hall favorites, like currywurst with fries ($11) and flammkuchen, a flatbread topped with sour cream, red onions and bacon ($11). For a heartier meal, try the weinerschnitzel with potato salad and red cabbage ($19) or the slow-roasted pork shank ($23). The soft pretzels served with sweet or spicy mustard are even imported from Bavaria ($4.50 for a small, $9.50 for a large). There’s plenty of beer to wash it down with—available in half liters ($9), liters ($18) and even boots ($36).
Venue says: “24 beers on tap, along with six varieties of Hofbrau beer. Live music Tuesday through Saturday & Giant mimosa towers for brunch!”