The best cocktail bars in New York City
Home to boozy classics like the martini, the Manhattan and—even before Sex and the City—the cosmopolitan, New York City bartenders have long doubled as trailblazing mixologists. It’s hardly any surprise then that New Yorkers love a stiff drink and, perhaps more importantly, a great atmosphere in which to imbibe. (The city did spur the global speakeasy movement, after all.) From restored historic mainstays to elegant al fresco rooftop gardens, here are our favourite cocktail bars in New York City right now.
Don’t be fooled by the name—Hotel Delmano is not a hotel, but a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar overflowing with romance and character. It feels old-timey without trying too hard. Antique chandeliers and murky mirrors decorate the intimate, old-fangled spaces, while suspender-clad bartenders serve top-rate cocktails from the stately marble bar. Come here for a nightcap or, really, any time at all.
Say hello to your new favourite neighbourhood cocktail bar: The Wayland. This modest watering hole combines innovative cocktails with American comfort food served nightly until 4 am. House ingredients like apple-spice bitters and tarragon-white peppercorn syrup shine through, promising quality drinks in an unpretentious, friendly atmosphere. Regular live music and performances keep things fresh.
Spearheaded by Angela Dimayuga, a fixture in New York’s queer nightlife scene, the goal is to take New York City gay nightlife mainstream
Tucked away in The Standard East Village, NO BAR is a vibrant gay bar where anyone and everyone is welcome. It’s also one of the first queer bars inside a major hotel chain. The name is a reference to No Holds Barred, setting the tone for the atmosphere of inclusivity inside. Come for everything from after-work happy hour to late-night dance parties and drag shows.
For one of NYC’s hippest cocktail experiences, Pouring Ribbons is a bright, second-story lounge with a small but smart menu. The owners double as award-winning mixologists, so expect new and creative concoctions. Don’t be intimidated by the unique offerings, though; each cocktail includes descriptions on how refreshing, spirituous, comforting and/or adventurous it is, promising a perfect match to your mood.
Caffe Dante first opened in 1915 as an espresso bar and cafe, popular with the South Village’s Italian community. The cosy cafe quickly became a neighbourhood institution, seeing the likes of Hemingway, Al Pacino, and Alec Baldwin pass through its doors. Today, the storied cafe is known simply as Dante and, as a homage to its roots, features Italian aperitivi and cocktails. One sip of their draught negronis and you’ll quickly understand why Dante is regularly dubbed one of the world’s best bars.
This daring NYC cocktail bar gets its name from a seed, aptly setting the tone for its spice-driven drink menu. Expect unlikely combinations of infused liquors, exotic spices and—in some cocktails—even pork and dairy additions. Mace’s namesake drink is a stunning mix of Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, young Thai coconut cordial and mace mist. It all sounds very unusual and experimental (it’s supposed to), yet somehow it works.
NYC’s iconic transportation hub and symbol of the city’s early 20th-century grandeur, Grand Central Station is also home to one of New York’s best-kept secrets: The Campbell
NYC’s iconic transportation hub and symbol of the city’s early 20th-century grandeur, Grand Central Station is also home to one of New York’s best-kept secrets: The Campbell. Located in the restored, historic private office of 1920’s mogul John W. Campbell, the atmosphere here is defined by wood-panelled walls, intricate hand-painted tiles, soaring ceilings, and a grand stone fireplace. Sip on a martini while soaking in the fine details in an undeniably romantic setting.
Need a tropical respite on a Monday night? Hop over to BlackTail, a Cuban-inspired cantina recently dubbed the ‘Best New Cocktail bar in America.’ Influenced by the prohibition-era flying boats that delivered Americans into the embrace of Cuba’s booze-friendly shores, BlackTail brings the romance of 1920s Havana to Battery Park City. A theme that could easily be overly campy is instead executed to perfection, so grab that boozy rum drink and indulge beneath the palm fronds.
Amor y Amargo
As the name suggests, Amor y Amargo gives tribute to an oft-overlooked yet oh-so-necessary drink component: bitters. Famed chef Ravi DeRossi and Bittermans are the creative forces behind the Amari + craft bitters-focused menu, where imbibers can find a bitters tasting room and Italian specialty cocktails in a retro, no-frills East Village establishment.
New York has its fair share of rooftop bars promising spectacular city vistas, but our favourite is located 65 stories above Rockefeller Center: Bar SixtyFive. New York’s highest cocktail lounge quite literally towers above the rest, boasting an outdoor terrace bar and views of nearly all of Manhattan. Make a reservation for sunset, then stay to watch the sparkling NYC skyline as it lights up before you.
Leyenda is a queer-owned Latin cocktail bar and restaurant bringing Central and South American flavours to a chic, cathedral pew-lined Brooklyn space. The outdoor patio is one of the city’s best spots to sip on pisco or mezcal during New York’s gorgeous summer months. Expect fantastic flavour combinations like La Sonambula, a smart mixture of Jalapeño-infused blanco tequila, lemon, chamomile, mole & Peychaud’s bitters.
No list of cocktail bars in New York City is complete without Death & Co, an intimate East Village bar famed for fueling a revived interest in cocktail culture
Death & Co
No list of cocktail bars in New York City is complete without Death & Co, an intimate East Village bar famed for fueling a revived interest in cocktail culture. Here you’ll find some of NYC’s best bartenders donning bow ties and suspenders, expertly serving exquisite “modern classics.” The menu is extensive (in 2010 Death & Co achieved the award for world’s best cocktail list); we can’t get enough of the Crazy Diamond, a mix of cognac, hazelnut eau de vie, strawberry, and sparkling wine.
The Bearded Lady
The Bearded Lady reminds us that not all trendy cocktail bars need to be of the candlelit, speakeasy type. A bright diner-themed lounge straight out of the 1950s, the interior features a magnificent teal floor, stately windows, a friendly wraparound bar, and summertime sidewalk seating. The airy atmosphere is casual chic, making it a perfect option for just about any drinking occasion. Specialty cocktails start at only $9—a steal for NYC.
Long Island Bar
A Brooklyn landmark, this long-standing diner is now a sleek bar mixing up excellent cocktails in a retro, Art-deco building. Reimagined by Toby Cecchini (the famed mixologist behind the cosmo), the atmospheric decor at Long Island Bar feels old-timey yet sophisticated. The boulevardiers are a classic fan-favourite, but they also make a mean sidecar.
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Photo: Taylor Friehl
Photo: Bobby Rodriguezz