Don't Leave New York Without Hitting Up These *Perfect* Bars
Best for: Secret speakeasy vibes
An iconic speakeasy credited with modernizing the trend and bringing it to the mainstream, PDT (which stands for “Please Don’t Tell”) is famously hidden behind a telephone booth inside the hot dog joint Crif Dogs. The bar master, Jeff Bell, has won all sorts of awards, aka his concoctions are super legit. This summer, the bar is even hosting an outdoor pop-up right outside Crif Dogs called Calle San Marcos, with tequila and mezcal-based drinks inspired by bartender Victor Lopez’s hometown of Puebla, Mexico.
Best for: Supporting women in beer (who should not be as rare as they are!)
The beer industry may be dominated by men, but the women behind Talea—Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland; the bar’s name is a combo of their own names—are hoping to change that. They joined forces in 2018 to make approachable, accessible, and inclusive beer, and opened this cheerful taproom and brewery in Greenpoint in 2021, with a second location in Cobble Hill that just opened in June 2022.
If you like fruity, sour beers, you’ll be right at home here, but they also have hazy IPAs, pilsners, and lagers. And if you can’t decide, go for the tasting flight, which will give you four 4-oz. pours for $20. Stop by Saturday mornings for taproom yoga…followed by a post-flow brew.
Best for: The tastiest Negroni outside of Italy
This iconic Italian bar has been around since 1915, and in 2019, it scored the number one spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars, which is basically the Oscars of the cocktail world. All of which is to say: The bartenders know their way around a good drink. In fact, they have almost single handedly increased the popularity of aperitivo (Italian happy hour) in NYC. Dante has an entire menu devoted to Negronis (there are 12 of them), as well as other classics like a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, several martinis, and a long list of spritzes. But you’re really there for the Negroni, so don’t mess around.
Best for: A fun, Japanese-inspired atmosphere
This beloved West Village Japanese bar has a fun atmosphere (check out the vintage Japanese movie posters and the red-lit room in the lower level) along with top-quality drinks like the Hinoki Martini (grey goose, spring 44 mountain gin, fino sherry, junmai daiginjo, hinoki tree essence) and Meguroni #2 (iichiko saiten shochu, genever, aged umeshu, caffo red bitter, kinome).
Pair your drinks with well-crafted bar food like sticky soy garlic wings, deviled eggs with Japanese mustard and white miso, and the downright addictive nori fries with Japanese curry sauce.
Best for: Drinking with the cool kids (hi, Pete Davidson)
Located inside a three-story historic townhouse, this chic new bar is credited with bringing life back to Rockefeller Center and Midtown, which emptied out during the pandemic lockdown. Pebble is backed by a few celebs you’re probably familiar with…including former SNL cast member (and former Kim Kardashian +1) Pete Davidson, Succession’s Cousin Greg (aka Nicholas Braun), actor Justin Theroux, and music producer Mark Ronson.
Get the Oysters Rockefeller (of course) while you sip delish cocktails like Hurley’s Old Fashioned (bourbon, demerara, bitters, lemon, and orange oil) and the French 49 (vodka, sparkling rosé, cranberry, and lemon).
Best for: The MOST iconic New York night
While hotel bars can often feel a bit soulless, Bemelmans—which is located inside the legendary Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel—is an iconic piece of NYC history that’s absolutely brimming with character and classy vibes. To drink here is to experience a sliver of Old New York, the kind that gives you #MainCharacterEnergy in your very own New York-based movie. Don’t miss the masterpiece murals painted in 1947 by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books, and keep an eye out for celebs, who’ve been known to pop in for a drink.
Also of note: A pianist plays at 5:30 p.m. every day, and later, a jazz trio takes the stage, though there’s a cover charge. Make sure you’re all dressed up…no athleisure allowed!
Best for: Tropical shipwreck vibes
When the landmarked restaurant Gage & Tollner reopened in downtown Brooklyn in 2021, it mostly stayed to its historic roots. But it did add something new, hidden away on the second floor: the Sunken Harbor Club, a nautical-themed bar by St. John Frizell, known for his mainstay Brooklyn bar, Fort Defiance (located in the borough’s waterfront Red Hook neighborhood).
The décor is meant to feel like you’re inside a sunken ship, and there are all kinds of weirdly cool details, like hand-painted tables by Frizell himself. Drinks are tropical in theme (try the White Zombie, made with “white spirits,” grapefruit, lime, and coconut), while the small food menu is Asian-inspired.
Best for: A classic, can’t-go-wrong drinking establishment
Located in a five-story, 19th-century townhouse, this iconic Irish bar with a New York twist has won every award possible, and landed on every list imaginable. And for good reason: The vibe is welcoming and fun, the drinks are expertly-made and poured, and the bartenders are the type that you can talk to for hours (if you want). Plus, with three distinct dining and drinking areas on various floors of the townhouse—from a classic tavern to a fun taproom to a more elegant cocktail parlor—it’s usually not hard to find a spot to chill.
Best for: An island excursion (in NYC)
Going to Roosevelt Island, a small island between Manhattan and Queens accessible by tram or subway, may not be on your NYC to-do list—but the Panorama Room will make you think twice about that. This stunning ode to Art Deco design on top of the Graduate Hotel Roosevelt Island has incredible views of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and even the Bronx from certain spots, allowing for never-before-seen skyline angles, and excellent bridge panoramas (hence the name). But you’re also here for the drinks, and they will not disappoint—nor will the A+ raw bar menu.
Best for: Boat lovers
New Orleans imports Alex and Miles Pincus made a name for themselves in NYC by opening restaurants on boats. The brothers own Pilot in Brooklyn and Grand Banks in Manhattan, both establishments found on docked schooners, and Holywater is their latest venture—and their first on land.
Located in Tribeca, Holywater has maritime-inspired décor (check out the faux-hammerhead shark adjacent to the bar and the hanging boat hull in the back room) and cozy, candlelit tables. Drinks are divided into New Orleans and New York sections—you’ll find the excellent Mezcal Hurricane (mezcal, passion fruit, orange liquor, hibiscus, and lime) under New Orleans, and the super smooth Old Pal (their own Captains Courageous single-barrel rye whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth) under New York. Unsurprisingly, the food menu has a lot of seafood on it, like oysters, tater tots with caviar (!!), and lobster frites. If you have room for dessert, the classic New Orleans pralines is their mom’s recipe.
Best for: All of the sake
Honestly, both Bar Goto Niban (in Park Slope) and its big sister, Bar Goto (on the Lower East Side), are excellent spots. But we’re giving Niban some extra love since it opened right before the pandemic lockdown, and had a bit of a tough time gaining ground as a result. Both spots are Asian-influenced cocktail bars where the food and the drinks are both delish.
Pro tip: Come for happy hour between 5 and 6 p.m. to score a $10 martini. If you don’t want a cocktail, the sake and shochu lists are on point, too.
Best for: Classic craft cocktails
Known for having a hand in bringing about the classic cocktail revival of the early 2000s, Death & Co’s original East Village location is still going strong. It’s won countless awards and accolades and is basically the place to go for well-made craft cocktails that are at once innovative and still true to their traditional essence.
Best for: Cozy craft cocktails in Brooklyn
This BK cocktail den is inspired by the Prohibition era, and it shows in the décor (think velvet couches and tufted leather banquettes) as well as the varied drink list. Snag a seat in the cozy back room with a fireplace, or show up on weekends for the delish and filling brunch. Either way, get the namesake Clover Club cocktail, made with gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white—and you’ll see why this bar has managed to stick around for more than a decade.
Best for: A cozy, wine-fueled escape from the hustle
On the corner of a quiet street in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood, inside what looks like a small cottage, you’ll find what just may be one of New York’s cutest bars—no matter the season. In the summer, Black Mountain Wine House puts Adirondack chairs out front, and in the winter, they’ve got a cozy, crackling fireplace (a very coveted bar feature during long New York City winters). Whenever you go, enjoy the amazing wine list and snacks like cheese and charcuterie boards, paninis, and a nicoise salad. You’ll feel miles away from the city grind.
Best for: A neighborhood-y wine night
Located on a quiet corner in Brooklyn, Place des Fêtes practically ~defines~ cozy neighborhood wine bar vibes. There’s a welcoming bar up front when you walk in, and a back room with a communal table and a few smaller tops—not to mention excellent food from a Michelin-starred team. The move here is to hang out, try a new wine, have a few snacks (it’s mostly seafood-focused plates), and enjoy.
Best for: Geeking out on wine
All you winos out there will looooove Temperance, where the sommelier curates the list of more than 100 wines (all of which are offered by the glass). Try new pours and delight in old faves as you snack on shareable plates, or test your skills with a blind tasting offered weekdays between 4 and 6 p.m. and all day on Sunday. If you can name all four grape varietals correctly, your flight is free!
Best for: An unpretentious, dive bar kinda night
Sometimes you don’t want to pay $18 for a cocktail and get all dressed up. Sometimes you need to just post up at the bar and order a cheap beer from the completely unpretentious bartender. When that dive bar need beckons, head to Bed Stuy’s Do or Dive and lose yourself amid the exposed brick walls, vinyl barstools, and kitschy throwback décor. And if you do want a cocktail, no worries—they’ve got a few classics, plus their version of the homemade Nutcracker bottled drinks people peddle in Prospect Park—you know you want Electric Blue.
Best for: All of the bubbles
Who doesn’t love Champagne? The answer is no one, which is why this bar is so successful. The dream of Ariel Arce (who also owns Tokyo Record Bar and Niche Niche, two other excellent spots), this pastel-colored, plant-filled jewel box has lots and lots of bubbly. Complement it with some caviar, and you’ve got all the ingredients for the fancy-as-hell evening you obviously deserve.
Best for: The indecisive among us
This menuless cocktail bar with around 20 seats has been making waves (not to mention all of the “best bar” lists) since it opened back in 2012, and was just named the #1 Best Bar in the World’s 50 Best Bars for 2022. All you have to do is tell the expert bartenders what you usually like, and they’ll whip up a personalized (and always amazing) cocktail just for you.
Pro tip: The bar is small and they don’t take reservations, so if you want an actual seat, it’s best to get there around 5:30 pm (they technically open at 6, but the line starts forming earlier).
Best for: Drinks that taste like food (trust us on this one)
GN Chan and Faye Chen, who met while bartending in Taipei, opened Double Chicken Please after years of making cocktails for customers out of a roaming vintage VW van. The two-room bar on the Lower East Side has a more casual front room with rotating cocktails on tap and tasty chicken sandwiches, while the sleek back room features a drink tasting menu with food-inspired drinks like the Waldorf Salad, made with Dewar’s, Laphroaig, apple, celery, ginger ale, and walnut bitters. (Sounds weird but tastes amazing…trust.)
Best for: The 1970s design obsessed
Located on the rooftop of the Pendry Manhattan hotel, Chez Zou opened earlier this year. This gorgeous spot has both indoor and outdoor seating that throws it back to the 1970s (think fringed umbrellas and lots of bright colors), not to mention fun cocktails and great Eastern Mediterranean food. Grab a seat and sip on drinks like the Fig and Honey (with sherry, red wine, fig leaf, honey, soda, and compressed fig), and the Pickle Spritz (with vermouth, Champagne, verjus, and pickled fennel).
Best for: Outdoor drinks with a side of skyline
With excellent views of the Manhattan skyline, the Wythe Hotel has long been a Williamsburg fave—and now it has an excellent new rooftop bar. Bar Blondeau’s sleek minimalist design lets the skyline be the star of the show, and the drink menu is equally appealing, with an approachable wine list, frozen drinks for summer, classic cocktails with a twist, and zero-proof drinks for the sober or sober curious.
For snacks, get the fried artichokes with aioli and boquerones with piparras, which go perfectly with cocktails like the Skyline (with vodka, plum liqueur, yuzu and sparkling wine), and the Martini Blond (with gin, cucumber botanical vodka, blond vermouth, lemon oil, castelvetrano olive, and house-pickled onion).
Best for: Brooklyn diehards
While this bar originally grabbed people’s attention because it was opened by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy—a born-and-raised Brooklynite—it quickly proved itself as a legit wine bar worth visiting beyond the chance of spotting Murphy or other celebs. The 49-page wine list has sections for orange wine/skin contact, German white and red, sparkling, and seven sections just for France. The food doesn’t disappoint, either: Enjoy your vino with snacks like fried squash blossoms, or sea bream with hon shimeji mushrooms and green garlic.
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