The Best Cocktail Bars In NYC

Essential spots for cocktail nerds and anyone who appreciates a well-chilled drink.
An ornate bar with a big chandelier and heavy curtains.

photo credit: Annie Schlechter

In a city where you can walk into almost any establishment (a dive bar, Whole Foods, etc.), and ask for a Negroni, what sets the very best cocktail bars apart? The drinks are obviously a factor, along with the skill of the bartenders and the ingredients involved. But if all you want is an immaculate Old Fashioned, we promise, there are YouTube tutorials for that. The city’s top cocktail bars don’t just serve great beverages, they’re also fun places to hang out. Some are loud, others are perfect for dates, and a few are still doing the speakeasy thing, even though it’s no longer 2009. And it works.


photo credit: Jeff Bell

East Village

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PDT is short for “Please Don’t Tell,” although most people refer to this place as “that bar hidden behind a phone booth in Crif Dogs.” It’s been around since 2007, back when cocktails started to get serious, and there weren’t yet speakeasy-esque bars on every corner—and it’s still a fun place to grab an interesting drink made with carrot juice or pecan bitters. Ridiculous hidden entrance aside, this place doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just a tiny, casual room with brick walls, enormous booths, and a hint of taxidermy. Make a reservation, and try one of the signature hot dogs if you get hungry.

photo credit: Abigail Faelnar


Lower East Side

Drinking a beet salad-inspired cocktail doesn’t necessarily sound very sexy. But in the back room at Double Chicken Please, the thick, dark pink cocktail, served up with a dollop of yogurt and a singular frond of dill, might be the beginning of a very sexy evening. This Lower East Side Bar has a front area that’s walk-in only, but it’s worth it to make a reservation in the low-lit back room, called The Coop, where you can sit on a banquette and watch a very experienced bartender make you a Cold Pizza cocktail while eating a hot honey fried chicken sandwich. 

Tigre is from the people behind Maison Premiere, an absinthe house and oyster bar that looks as though it was built several hundred years ago. Aside from impeccable cocktails, the two bars have very little in common. Think of this place as a ’70s disco without the dance floor. Tigre has mirrored ceilings and a gold color scheme, and, ideally, it’s where you should kick off every big night out on the Lower East Side. If you want, you can drink a screwdriver (made fancy, of course), or you can design your own martini using a scale that ranges from considerably wet to dry as burnt toast. The only downside: There’s an hour-and-a-half time limit.

Attaboy is located behind an unmarked door on Eldridge Street, but it isn’t especially hard to find, because there’s usually a line of people waiting to get into the walk-in-only spot. Once you make it inside, you’ll find yourself in a tiny, narrow room that looks like a rundown, 19th-century tavern. There’s no official cocktail list, so in order to get a drink, you have to talk to a bartender and tell them what you’re into. After they’re done fiddling with bitters and chipping away at ice, they’ll surprise you with an immaculately stirred or shaken beverage. The booths in the back are the most coveted seats, but if you grab one of the stools, you can observe a seminar in the art of bartending.

Sometimes, you look at the menu at Angel’s Share and think, “No way they can pull this off.” Ingredients they’ve been known to use include cream cheese, pistachio milk, and soy sauce powder. And you know what? That soy sauce powder works really nicely with rye and umami bitters. The original East Village Angel’s Share closed in 2022, but now you can find them in a narrow basement on Grove Street in the West Village. Standing isn’t allowed, and they don’t allow groups larger than four, so this definitely isn’t a partytime bar, but if you want to drink something entirely unique, grab a little booth in the candlelit room.

If you’ve ever looked down at your drink and realized you can see your coaster right through the ice, you can likely thank this Long Island City bar: It’s been at the forefront of the clear-ice movement since opening in 2009. But while Dutch Kills now supplies the see-through stuff to other places via its own ice company, it’s so dark inside this long, memorabilia-filled bar that you'll barely be able to make out the color of your drink, let alone what's in it. That hardly matters when the house cocktails are stiff, perfectly balanced, and discounted during Happy Hour. The seasonal drinks are great too, and we’d recommend starting with anything whiskey-based. Sit in a booth with friends, or at the back bar if you’re solo, and order a sandwich when you need a bite.

The Long Island Bar, the Art Deco staple lighting up a corner of Atlantic Ave with neon signs, looks like a restaurant. Because, for over 50 years, that’s what it was. Then, in 2013, the place got new owners, one of whom is widely credited with inventing the cosmopolitan. And now it’s a real bartender’s bar, where you can slump in a vinyl booth and drink an impeccable martini made by someone who can quote from The Savoy Cocktail Book. The mood is diner-casual, and the short food menu features an essential cheese-smothered double-patty burger. 

After a lengthy renovation, Hotel Chelsea reopened in 2022, and it got a new bar. They didn’t really put much thought into the name of that bar, but don’t let that dissuade you from coming here. At Lobby Bar, you feel like you’re drinking inside of the country estate of a well-funded aristocrat. Over the bar near the entrance, there’s a golden chandelier, and in an adjoining room you’ll find some armchairs, rugs, and a sofa nestled into a bay window. Come by for a drink when you need something quiet and upscale, and be careful with the martinis. Lobby Bar makes the coldest, strongest one we’ve had, served with an array of garnishes on the side.

These days, there’s an abundance of nerdy cocktail bars in New York City. It seems like every other spot uses fat-washed spirits and crystal-clear, hand-carved ice. Most of these nerdy places are kind of uptight, but Amor Y Amargo feels like a friend’s rec room where you can stand about and sample hard-to-find booze. This place easily has the most impressive selection of bitters and amari in the city, with countless bottles lining the wooden shelves in the small, saloon-like space. Stop by for a casual drink, and try the sazerac made with eight different amari.

Bar Goto is a tiny Japanese cocktail bar on a relatively quiet block of the Lower East Side. It’s sleek and loungy, with a handful of tables and a hardwood bar surrounded by leather stools. Bring a date, drink a martini with a cherry blossom in it, and try the signature crispy wings smothered in a crispy miso sauce. You can also sample some Japanese whiskey, as long as you’re willing to spend around $40 on a single serving. (The whiskey market is rough these days.)

If you absolutely must drink at a place where the bartenders are wearing suspenders, make it Maison Premiere. Open since 2011, this Williamsburg bar and seafood restaurant has an old-timey look, complete with weathered walls, nautical art, and absinthe fountain. The schtick is as charming as ever, and the oyster selection is always impressive, with lots of hard-to-find East and West Coast varieties. Hang out at a little table in the candlelit room, or take a seat at the bar and watch as a bartender makes you a flawless martini with the focus of a neurosurgeon. 

Katana Kitten is a party that doesn’t stop. This always-packed Japanese-American bar in the West Village is essentially a fun neighborhood izakaya, with signed dollar bills plastered to the rafters and a loud soundtrack that bounces between Blues Traveller and early 2000s dorm room bangers. But this isn’t a place for a vodka Red Bull. The signature cocktails are all inventive and delicious, from the martini made with sake to the simple, ice cold gin and tonic with a shiso leaf stuck in the side. Don’t leave without eating the mortadella katsu sando.

If you make it through the entire cocktail menu at this jewel box of a bar in Harlem, congratulations. It’s five pages long (not including the credits), includes sections like “Cocktails of Ascension” and “Cocktails of Contemplation,” and deconstructs each drink into a compounder’s recipe of ingredients. But if you give up and just order the first cocktail that sounds good, we congratulate you on that too. Faintly medicinal, spicy, herby, and floral, the drinks here add up to more than the sum of their parts, and an evening at Sugar Monk always feels special. Get some truffle popcorn, make a reservation on weekends, and pop in on a Monday for live jazz from 8pm. 

Superbueno is from some of the people behind Katana Kitten, and it's just as high-energy. But while Katana is like a dim, crowded tavern, this East Village corner spot is more like a party in Mexico City’s most glamorous colonia. It’s lit up like a neon sunset, with a large mosaic bar, a wall of miniature luchador masks, and lots of tiny tables. There are about 10 “Mexican American” cocktails on the menu, including one slushy, one “soup,” one shareable tepache, and a couple of drinks that are as neon as the lighting. Try the green mango martini with drops of chili oil, a mushroom margarita, or a salted plum and tamarind milk punch.

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