The craft-beer movement has been in expansion mode recently, colonizing far-flung neighborhoods like Washington Heights (Buddha Beer Bar), Long Island City (Alewife Queens) and Bed-Stuy (Brooklyn Tap House). What’s been glaringly missing from the takeover, however, has been a foothold in the thick of midtown—prime terrain for converting the Bud-swilling masses, as well as tourists who might be unaware of New York’s burgeoning brew culture. Thankfully, 2012 is shaping up to be a turning point: New York Beer Company and Little Town NYC kicked things off by flying the flag for local breweries, and now the long-delayed Beer Authority has upped the ante, christening a whopping 70-plus draft lines right across the street from Port Authority. Fair warning: The massive, multilevel gastropub—a spin-off of brew-geek favorite Rattle N Hum—won’t shake you out of your midtown ennui at first glance. Aside from some brewery decals on the walls and funky beer-tap handles on the bathroom doors, the place feels like a generic Irish pub. But for the suds alone, Beer Authority is a game-changer. DRINK THIS: Rattle N Hum regulars will be familiar with the daily draft menus, printed on white paper and categorized by style, alcohol-by-volume and RateBeer scores. There are some concessions to the ’hood, to be sure: Rattle’s “No crap on tap” mantra has been loosened to allow macrobrews like Stella and Heineken into the mix, and a no-frills ground-floor nook peddles snoozeworthy beers and spirits to folks wandering in off the street. Still, the quality of the 62 taps upstairs is nothing to scoff at, and the prices are generally fair (most pints go for $7–$8). You can put together a fine session with standouts like Belgium’s standard-bearing Saison Dupont ($7), Sierra Nevada’s piney Torpedo IPA ($7) and creamy nitro pours of Sixpoint Otis Stout ($8). The bottle list is also sizable, with a mix of old-world classics (Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, a stash of Trappist ales) and coveted domestic releases such as Maine Beer Company’s Peeper Ale. Serviceable pub grub can help balance out the pints—the pork pie, served with grainy mustard, offers a detour from the usual British Isles standards. GOOD FOR: Commuters, midtown workers, pretheater boozers and anyone else in need of a good brew near Times Square. If you can get over the uninspired decor, you’ll appreciate the extra elbow room. For groups, the best tables are along the large windows overlooking the Eighth Avenue bustle. THE CLINCHER: A third-story patio is in the works, bringing promise of a more casual approach to alfresco midtown drinking than the area’s swanky rooftop lounges afford. But given the bureaucratic snafus that delayed the bar’s opening (it was initially slated for last fall), you’d be wise not to hold your breath just yet. By Chris Schonberger
Haute cocktails aren’t easy to come by around these parts, but this intimate salon—tucked in the back of the Iroquois Hotel—provides an inviting nook for enlightened tipplers. Marble tables, pale blue velvet chairs and Impressionistic paintings help conjure the European salon scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Meanwhile, a small library of cocktail tomes (The Savoy Cocktail Book, Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide) is reflected in the classic mixology behind the bar. Among the more esoteric throwbacks is a heady Boulevardier, a sort of love child of the Negroni and the Manhattan that mellows the spicy bite of Elijah Craig bourbon with Campari and sweet vermouth.
Along with the Empire State–boosting Little Town NYC, this sprawling (and otherwise generic) sports bar has provided a stage for New York’s growing cast of artisanal producers. In addition to upstate standouts like Empire Cream Ale, find hyperlocal pours like Bronx Pale Ale and Sixpoint Sweet Action. Market-based pricing on some of the beers means that your tab can fluctuate depending on demand—it’s gimmicky for sure, but vigilant drinkers can nab serious deals on lesser-known brews hovering around the $4 mark.
From after-work drinks to killing time around Times Square, this subterranean surf shack is a solid card to play when faced with all manner of midtown conundrums. Though there’s kitsch aplenty, including colorful bathing suits strung up on the walls, the under-the-radar drinkery has its bona fides in order: Classic surf bands warble over the speakers, six wave-bashing flicks (including Endless Summer) play on loop, and friendly barkeeps serve the type of dangerously drinkable quaffs you’d expect at an oceanside watering hole. Sample a bright array of rhum arrangé (house-infused rums), or cool off with the “frozen Corona”—a grown-up slushie with beer, vodka, triple sec and lime.
In 2009, this rakish, 1970s-vintage piano bar in the Edison Hotel looked destined to go the way of the 99¢ peep show. But the team behind Tribeca mixology den Ward III ushered in a second act, introducing some key upgrades (including serious cocktails) while maintaining the charmingly offbeat flavor of the place. Forget you're a stone's throw from Times Square while listening to live jazz acts (Wednesday–Saturday nights) and sipping dark-spirit–heavy tipples, such as a funky old-fashioned riff that showcases the rich, tropical complexity of Banks 5 Island Rum. Those who suffer the cruel fate of being in Times Square on a weekend morning can console themselves with a range of six Bloody Marys (11am–5pm).
This buzzy, underground izakaya defies its dowdy location in the heart of Times Square with authentic Japanese flavors that would scare the fanny pack off most tourists. Bring a group, order a few $12 pitchers of Sapporo, and keep the small plates coming: Japanese cucumbers are served with mayonnaise and sweet, funky miso for dipping. Okonomiyaki—a squid-and-cabbage pancake—is topped with a flurry of bonito flakes, while kara-age (hunks of fried chicken) are crispy nuggets buried under mild grated daikon and ponzu sauce. With a menu this vast, a few misses are expected (our takoyaki, or octopus balls, were mushy and bland), but at less than $10 a plate, it’s worth taking a risk on a dish you can’t pronounce.