It’s with good reason that New York City is considered the capital of the cocktail world. Concoctions like the ubiquitous Bloody Mary and Cosmopolitan were invented and perfected in the “city that never sleeps.”
And in addition to scores of longstanding, legendary watering holes, hundreds of bars open in New York City every year. So, which ones are worthy of a visit? We’ve done all the exploring. Here’s the Top 10 list of must-visit spots for the cocktail obsessed.
From Pegu Club alum Kenta Goto, this intimate wood-paneled bar specializes in comfort Japanese food and streamlined craft cocktails that showcase Japanese ingredients. An ideal pairing: okonomiyaki (a savory pancake-like dish) and the Sakura martini, garnished with a perfect cherry blossom and served with impeccable hospitality.
Located in Tribeca, the newest bar from Raines Law Room and Dear Irving team member Meaghan Dorman has a similar retro elegance and high-end cocktail list. No need to wave wildly when you’re ready for the next round. Just press a button on the wall to discreetly summon your server. Try the bar’s signature drink, The Bennett (gin, lime cordial and Angostura bitters).
Head bartender/co-owner Nico De Soto has traveled the world and was inspired by spices found in far-flung corners. In this cozy bar, De Soto translates his travels into elaborate, fanciful libations like the frothy Nutmeg (absinthe, pandan syrup, coconut milk, egg and, of course, nutmeg).
Head to this Boerum Hill outpost for oysters and cocktails. The laid-back space has vintage light fixtures and a wood-burning fireplace. You’ll spot tincture-style droppers on the raw bar filled with sauces to accompany seafood. Drinks were developed by head bartender/co-owner Damon Boelte like the Trans-Siberian (vodka, Aperol, lime and grapefruit juice, orange flower water and Maldon sea salt).
The Happiest Hour/Slowly Shirley
Think of this West Village spot as a two-for-one special. Upstairs, The Happiest Hour is a lively bar in a breezy space bedecked with palm trees and nautical knick-knacks. It serves cocktails where you call the liquor (like the celery-spiked Link Ray, made with guest’s choice of jalapeño Tequila, rum or gin) and a killer burger. Downstairs, Slowly Shirley is a smaller, speakeasy-inspired space, featuring Art Deco touches and a menu of updated classic cocktails.
Holiday Cocktail Lounge
The unofficial slogan of this dimly lit East Village dive strung with colorful Christmas lights is “Get Holiday’d.” Closed in 2012, it was revamped and relaunched with new ownership in 2015. Holiday is best known for potent drinks garnished with tiny plastic toys and trinkets. This has become a go-to spot, particularly for late night revelry.
This Brooklyn bar draws inspiration from Latin America, featuring cocktails made with spirits from the region. Helmed by Ivy Mix, cocteles range from originals like the Shadow Boxer (cachaça, Campari, dry vermouth, apricot eau de vie and pamplemousse) to playful takes on the rum-soaked Mai Tai.
(For a bonus, check out this recipe contributed to Wine Enthusiast by Mix, the Tia Mia.)
Mother of Pearl
This breezy green-and-white watering hole has become one of NYC’s premier tiki bars. Among bartender Jane Danger’s tropical-inflected libations is the Shark Eye, known in part to its Instagram appeal. Made with maraschino, Curaçao, Bourbon and lemon, the drink is served in a ceramic shark vessel splashed with blood-red tiki bitters. As of February, the entire bar and restaurant is fully vegan.
The debut bar from restaurateur Danny Meyer has also become a focal point of the burgeoning Hudson Yards neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side. Drinks and food nod to Southern heritage—nab a rocking chair and enjoy boiled peanut hummus chased by a Julep Du Monde (Bourbon, chicory, Meletti amaro, vanilla and mole bitters).
Seamstress is proof that you don’t need to travel downtown for a good drink anymore. You also don’t need to settle for meager bar snacks—the full menu includes hearty options like the cult-favorite hot griddlecakes and mutton burger. Pam Wiznitzer slings original concoctions like the tall, frothy Wiz Fizz (gin, Cynar, vanilla, egg white, cream and root beer), or you can stick with your old standard from a list of 50 classic American cocktails.