From the Manhattan to the martini, New York is arguably the birthplace of pioneering drink menus. Today, the Big Apple is teeming with cocktail bars that satisfy all manner of tastes and budgets.
Many draw their inspiration from a wide variety of sources that make for a truly memorable hospitality service and impeccably executed cocktails. Whether you relish inventive takes on classics or highly-spirited seasonal creations, this list caters to every occasion. A number of these venues made it onto this year’s list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, which was judged by a panel of 650 anonymous drinks connoisseurs who hail from different corners of the globe.
Katana Kitten’s Director of Deliciousness and award-winning mixologist, Masahiro Urushido, is renowned for his expertise and knowledge in the art of Japanese cocktail-making. Urushido’s Japanese roots are woven into the signature cocktails and small bites on offer at this 80s-inspired, well-lit underground venue. On the menu you’ll find popcorn Fujimi chicken and nori fries alongside the signature Hinoki Martini with a twist.
Double Chicken Please
Co-Founders GN Chan and Faye Chen chose the Lower East Side to launch their restaurant and cocktail bar after bringing their drinking and dining experiences to people throughout the United States in a 1977 Volkswagen minibus. The venue is divided into a Front Room that serves draft cocktails with a more casual, industrial vibe compared to the Back Room, where you can indulge in an array of inventive cocktails. While the duo is renowned for their whimsical and flavorful cocktails, their fried chicken sandwiches are a must.
Once home to Milk & Honey, founded by drink historian Sasha Petraske, behind the walls of Attaboy is where you’ll encounter bespoke concoctions you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Why not try the Penicillin – a blend of Scotch, lemon juice and ginger-honey syrup – invented by Co-Owner Sam Ross? Named after a vintage store in Belfast, Ireland, this legendary bar in the Lower East Side may be modest in size but is bursting with creativity thanks in part to a menu-less environment.
This art deco style bar, located in the West Village, transports its guests into the Golden Age of cocktails with a host of classics on the menu – such as the Manhattan – that are whisked through the air on silver platters. With its other-worldly atmosphere and loyal following, Employees Only is never dull on any given night. And, while every cocktail is impeccably executed and served by white-jacketed staff, the vibe is hardly pretentious. You may even decide to take note of the fortune teller’s details as you pass through the bar’s mysterious foyer.
This Lower East Side eponymous bar is owned by one of New York’s top bartenders, Kenta Goto. It’s a destination that attracts both locals and visitors who appreciate Japanese comfort foods and the flavors of matcha, sake and shochu infused cocktails. Here, you’ll find yourself happily sipping on a sakura martini or shochu cocktail while enjoying a delicately sliced chunk of octopus or a chicken wing dipped in spicy miso sauce. With its amber lighting and wooden accents, the bar exudes understated elegance in an intimate setting.
Influential French bartender Nico de Soto and Greg Boehm, owner of premium manufacturer of bartending tools Cocktail Kingdom, launched their premier cocktail bar in 2015. Built on the age-old traditions of cocktail making, herbs and spices are essential ingredients for the flavor profiles that are pioneered at Mace. This is paired with a seafood small bites menu that is served to customers in a modern setting.
The Dead Rabbit
Designed to bring Irish heritage to the United States in a genuine way, The Dead Rabbit is a multi-tiered bar divided into three rooms that cater to different drinking experiences. However, it’s in the Parlor, on the second floor, where cocktails are the stars of the show. Those who venture beyond the ground floor will be pleasantly surprised to step foot into a more refined setting upstairs. You’ll also find yourself intrigued by the story behind The Dead Rabbit, which pays homage in almost every way to an 1800s New York street gang.
Former head bartender at Angel’s Share – one of New York‘s most iconic pioneering cocktail establishments – Takuma Watanabe launched his first solo project, Martiny’s, in 2021. Spread across three floors in a renovated Carriage House in Gramercy, every customer is welcomed with a warm oshibori (hand towel) as an introduction to omotenashi, the term for Japanese hospitality. Within the walls of this cozy industrial space, no detail is left unnoticed. This means you’ll be sipping cocktails from paper-thin Kimura glassware with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Watanabe’s cocktail menu offers ten classic cocktails with a twist that deliver balanced flavors and complexity. For matcha enthusiasts, The Tea Ceremony is a must and martinis are the specialty.
Those seeking a playful experience will appreciate the element of secrecy required to enter PDT, which stands for Please Don’t Tell. Once you’ve made it past the phone booth, you’ll be met with a wooden bar, exposed brick walls and even some taxidermy. But make no mistake, the cocktails here are beautiful concoctions with innovative blends. And, if they satisfy your taste buds, Saturday is the day when your inner alchemist can come out to play at a cocktail class.
This undeniably elegant Manhattan piano bar offers a rare experience for those looking to enjoy live music, classic cocktails and fine dining in an intimate setting. Designed to transport its customers to old New York, here you’ll be welcomed into a space that evokes warmth and grandeur, thanks to the red-hued walls, glittering chandeliers and leopard print carpet. “We definitely wanted to create somewhere that had sort of an uptown-slash-European feeling of elegance while still being chic, sexy, and downtown,” Jon Neidich, Owner and Chief Executive of Golden Age Hospitality told Elle Decor in 2022.
This cocktail bar is renowned for its oyster varieties and comprehensive absinthe list – the largest selection in the United States – alongside in-house versions of classic cocktails. The bar takes its visual cues from the high-end restaurants, oyster bars and absinthe cafes of world-class cities like Paris. There’s also a lovely garden for which Maison Premiere is famous and which is perfect for champagne toasts during the summer months.
Another brainchild of Petraske, this Long Island city bar features leather booths and low lighting, classic features of any bar owned by the visionary bartender. Cocktail creations comprise premium spirits, fresh seasonal ingredients and hand-cut ice. On the menu, you’ll find Jaguar Nap No 2 with house-made raspberry syrup, cucumber and lime juice. Or, why not try Dragon Punch, with juices of pineapple and lemon blended together with nutmeg and smoked tea syrup?
The Bar at Baccarat Hotel
For an exceptionally classy Manhattan venue to get dressed up for, look no further than The Bar. With its glittering Baccarat chandeliers, black and white checkered floors and scarlet walls that bring to mind the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, it’s difficult not to feel like royalty. Whether you settle for a Baccarat Classic, Champagne Cocktail or Classique, all libations are served in Baccarat crystal flutes. Customers are accommodated on a first-serve basis, so there’s no need to make a reservation.
This Brooklyn-based, year-round rooftop bar offers stunning views from the 22nd floor of The William Vale. For this reason, it’s best to reserve a spot ahead of time, as this is a popular destination for those wanting to catch the sunset with a cocktail in hand. For cooler nights, indoor seating is also available. The menu features a range of cocktails, craft beer and rare spirits that pair well with the global street food small plates.
This hidden underground venue in the West Village provides just enough light to navigate the menu and create an intimate atmosphere in which to enjoy the live jazz. This is definitely enhanced by the low ceilings and yellow walls that add more warmth compared to the bar’s predecessor – Milk & Honey. The cocktails meet Petraske’s standards with chilled glasses and hand-cut ice.