To help you navigate beyond the blogs, guidebooks and Yelp, we asked mixology master Naren Young—beverage director at Empellón, who’s also helmed bars at Saxon + Parole, The Dutch and The Daily—to share where he and his brethren like to go when off-duty. Here’s his insider’s guide to boozing in the Big Apple.
If you blink, you might easily pass by tiny Ten Bells wine bar. With an ever-rotating chalkboard of wines, ask for what they have off-menu and you’ll be treated to a pour that’s fun and often unusual. One of five in the city, Terroir in the East Village is the brainchild of local wine legend Paul Grieco, whose love for Riesling is unmatched in Gotham. Let the super-learned staff be your guide. Rooted in making wine accessible to all, Corkbuzz is a part wine bar, part wine school. Come after 10 pm for half-price bottles of Champagne and you’ll likely overhear the city’s top sommeliers talking shop and dissecting each sip. While it should be on your list of places to eat, Maialino, in the Gramercy Park Hotel, the giant bar is a treasure trove of Italian wine. Check out sommelier Jeffrey Kellogg’s occasional by-the-glass verticals.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell) has garnered as much attention for its secret phone-booth entrance as for its cocktails. The order: the Benton’s Old Fashioned, made with bacon fat. Yes, bacon fat. What was once Milk & Honey—the bar that started the whole neo-speakeasy craze in 2000—is now Attaboy, which boasts one of the best drinks in the city: bartender Sam Ross’s Scotch-based Penicillin. The Dead Rabbit is the most buzzed-about bar on the planet right now among pro drink slingers. The must-have: Combatant. Even the city’s most hardened cocktail nerds can’t get bored with The Daily, my alma mater, since the entire menu changes, as the name implies, daily.
Cocktails (Brooklyn & Queens)
Julie Reiner—NYC’s reigning mixology maven—forecasted Brooklyn’s thirst for serious cocktails when she opened Clover Club in Carroll Gardens in 2008. At Sunday brunch, try the bacon sampler and any of her cobblers. Just down the street, Long Island Bar, owned by writer and veteran bartender Toby Cecchini, is a simple, no-nonsense affair with killer Boulevardier cocktails. Some of the freshest oysters in New York are at Maison Premiere, where at happy hour, you can devour bivalves for $1 a pop. The Carondelet cocktail, with a tiny pinch of salt, is the perfect foil. Drink No. 2: any Julep on the menu. Basik, in Williamsburg, is a modest bar catering to locals and barkeeps who enjoy the simple pleasure of a well-made classic, like the negroni. Tip: There’s a hidden courtyard out back. Dutch Kills, in Long Island City (only a 15-minute subway ride from Midtown), is one of the darlings of the bartender world. It’s technically in Queens, which scares off the snobs, leaving a crowd of locals and cocktail geeks. Bartenders make their own block ice and ice-pick it for each drink.
Mother’s Ruin has become the bartender’s post-shift hang, since it’s open until 4 am and serves grub until last call. Try the clam juice-free Micheladas. 7B is one of the last authentic dives in New York. At the horseshoe-shaped bar, you get cheap beer, shots and a surly staff. Grab a P.H.O. Real sandwich from nearby bodega Sunny & Annie’s and bring it in. It’s the only food you’ll get here. Old Town has been open since 1892, so they’re clearly doing something right. Any visit should include a shot of Old Granddad, a Guinness (one of the purest in the city) and its lauded bacon cheeseburger—in that order. Brave Daddy O’s cranked-up-to-11 music and you’ll be rewarded with a great beer list and one of the best American whiskey menus in town. You won’t see them on the menu, but order the cheese-and-jalapeño tater tots.
Long Island Bar