Transparently, we could not agree on a title for this bar guide. “The Coolest Bars In NYC?” No. (What does “cool” mean, anyway?) “NYC’s Hottest Bars For Girls Who Just Want To Have Fun?” Obviously, that didn’t get very far in the editorial process. Plainly speaking, use this list of NYC bars whenever you’re looking for an exceptionally good time.
There isn't any dancing at Temple Bar. And there aren't any board games either, as those simply aren't chic enough for a newly-resurrected cocktail den a block above Houston. The fun that you have here is a passive sort of fun. You sit at a small table, pick at some complimentary popcorn, and try to see if you can recognize anyone you've seen on TV (or the screen of your phone). The challenge is: This place is dark. So unless you have superb night vision, you probably won't see much. Start with a Blue Negroni, enjoy a shrimp cocktail in a martini glass, and chase your shellfish with a few of the house shots. Most importantly, book a table. You won't be the only one planning a night out at Temple Bar, and the door here seems pretty strict.
Some places feel like they were made to check off a list of “cool bar requirements.” They have things like secret entrances, low ceilings, live jazz, and a “bartender’s choice” cocktail on the menu. Saint Tuesday in the Walker Hotel Tribeca covers all of those bases—but the place doesn’t feel cheesy. Rather, it’s somewhere you should bring a second or third date, so you can relax in a cushy booth and maybe do some smooching while you listen to a guy named Charlie Roman channel Django Reinhardt on a selmar guitar.
Masquerade is a new bar where you'll find underground DJs and your typical Williamsburg crowd wearing short fringes and dirty white sneakers. But the Iranian cocktails and food bring something truly new to the neighborhood. They currently have a short menu of mezze like hot-pink mast-o-laboo and creamy kashk o bademjoon, which comes with sangak bread from beloved New Jersey Persian bakery Gandom. We especially love the small mound of crispy tahchin and its yolky, custard-like inside. Come by for Happy Hour, or see what sort of late-night events are coming up on their Instagram page.
Twins Lounge is a two-floor bar in Greenpoint that’s like a pool lounge and disco bar rolled into one. In other words—it’s got all of the elements of a great drinking spot. The long wooden bar near the entrance leads to a dark back corner full of pool tables and people who look like they actually know what to do with a pool cue. The bottom floor also has several big booths where your friends can order you round after round of birthday shots as a gesture of love. Upstairs, you’ll find a much brighter area with another bar counter, a disco ball, and floor-to-ceiling windows facing Manhattan Avenue. With all the floral print couches and fuzzy rugs up there, you’ll feel like you’re having a celebratory cocktail hour inside a giant vintage furniture store.
The next time you want to go out or celebrate your birthday with a small group, and possibly rap “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” reserve a private karaoke room at Ms. Kim’s in Flatiron. Each room costs $120 per hour, fits up to 10 people, and has a special air filter that ensures you’re not sharing air with any other rooms. We had a dizzying amount of fun on a recent trip, in which we belted out ballads such as “Mr. Brightside” and “Just the Two of Us” while eating delicious karaage and tender garlic soy chicken wings. Ms. Kim’s is one of the best places to celebrate your birthday in NYC right now, especially if your friend group is roughly the size of a small brass band.
"Let's go to Ray's," said every single person on the Lower East Side at some point in the last two years. This place might look like your average faux-retro neighborhood dive (that isn't really a dive), but it's actually a small clubhouse where you pack yourself in next to others and drink a tequila soda while you attempt to look bored. One of the owners is a cast member of Succession (which is similar to Arrested Development, but with different names), and you'll probably see people here trying to spot him. But it's not like you care. All you want to do is enjoy some whiskey and french fries under a framed picture of dogs playing pool. (Right?)
Bandits has taken over the former Daddy-O space in Greenwich Village with a diner-themed drinking hole that looks great both inside and out. Checkered floors, colorful banquettes, and globe lighting are consistent fixtures inside the dining area and on the their open-air patio, which deserves some kind of design award. On a scale from dive to fancy cocktail bar, this place sits right in the middle, with beer-and-shot specials, and massive tiki cocktails on the menu. While you’ll definitely need a reservation to hang out here on weekends, it’s a great place to go with a big group and eat the type of food you’d expect at a kitschy diner, including four different kinds of loaded tater tots, deep-fried hot dogs, and a smashburger.
If you’ve been to Mexico City, would like to go to Mexico City, or simply swear each day you’re going to move to Mexico City in between jobs, Aldama in Williamsburg should be at the top of your personal drinking Hit List. In addition to a bar full of craft tequila and mezcal available (and daily Happy Hour specials from 5-7pm), they serve Mexican dishes—like tostadas and a cacao tamal with hoja santa. And while our time here was a bit hazy on account of all the small goblets of mezcal, what we remember well were the neutral-toned ceramic copitas and matching platters with refreshing orange slices to provide relief from the smokiness. Plus, their basement-level room has chic bar stools woven like wicker baskets.
If you’re someone who often finds themselves drinking in Brooklyn, we suggest you add Palmetto to your personal list of fun bars in Bushwick. This Knickerbocker Avenue spot near Maria Hernandez Park mostly focuses on cocktails (although there’s a natural wine list as well). We quickly slurped down an herbaceous play on a mezcal negroni called the “Garden Variety” that’s made with cumin and a ton of cucumber. Keep in mind that Palmetto stays fairly calm during the day—in case you ever want to get a quiet drink in a chic leather booth. Come here starting around 11pm for a rowdier experience.
If Austin Powers decorated a bar with whatever he could grab on a shopping spree at the ’70s equivalent of Bed Bath & Beyond, that bar would look like Joyface. This cocktail spot in the East Village has plush couches and rugs in various colors, paintings of tigers on the walls, a spinning disco ball, and a waterbed in the corner. Also, there’s no drink menu. Instead, they have a bowl filled with the names of liquors and mixers—pick out a couple of them at random, and the bartender will make you a cocktail using those as key ingredients. It all sounds gimmicky, but the drinks are actually good, and you can always just order a standard cocktail if you prefer. Get a gin martini or some Frankenstein mixed drink with mezcal and coffee (it actually wasn’t bad), and hang out by the fireplace with a date.
For anyone particularly into nostalgia, neon, and strong frozen Painkillers, mark our words that All Night Skate will possibly be your bar of the year. This Bed-Stuy spot is heavily themed around the late-night roller rink parties you may or may not have attended as a child. There’s an entire room dedicated to retro arcade games, a second-floor balcony for people who are presumably very cool, and a jukebox (playing music you legally must dance to). Despite all of the fun decor, we feel a need to clarify that there is no actual roller skating to be done at All Night Skate. (Our server told us that insurance companies probably wouldn’t take kindly to mixing alcohol with shoes with wheels.) Although if you bring a pair of skates, you do get a 10% discount—but then you might have to carry skates to the apartment of a person you met here.
In our heads, most people’s idea of a fun night out in Park Slope plays out in the backyard of a brownstone. But ever since this gay bar from the people behind C’mon Everybody opened in July 2020, the number of exciting things you can do late at night in this neighborhood has drastically increased. Good Judy has two floors with several booths, banquettes, and high-top tables where you can take jello shots and speak several octaves higher than usual with a group of friends. Plus, their event calendar is packed with weekly drag shows, watch parties for Rupaul’s Drag Race, karaoke nights, and other events where you’ll likely end up embarrassing yourself on the dance floor.
It’s an irrefutable fact that the area between 42nd-ish and 110th-ish Streets in Manhattan has a shortage of “going out” bars. But Nobody Told Me on the Upper West Side is an exceptional spot to know about if you like places with neon signs and sake popsicles. In addition to cocktails and a pretty impressive range of bar food, Nobody Told Me also runs a weekday Happy Hour where you can get a glass of wine for $10, a frozen G&T for $12, or beer on tap for $6.
You know how some European cities are littered with quaint cafes that have woven chairs out front? Dante is the NYC version of those places. This Greenwich Village cocktail bar is always busy, because their aforementioned European-esque sidewalk setup is one of the most charming in Manhattan. Plus, they make reliably delicious negronis, and we once saw Rami Malek sitting in a corner booth here. Arrive early to grab a table for your group of two or four.
This West Harlem cocktail bar is owned by the same team that runs Harlem Public and At The Wallace, and it’s the kind of place where you’ll want to bring a date and sit until it’s far later than you realized. The back garden looks like a music video set, complete with string lights and mismatched outdoor furniture, and the inside space has big retro booths, soft lighting, and fun patterned wallpaper. Make a reservation here, and go drink a cocktail served in one of those bear-shaped honey dispensers.
You possibly know Clandestino as the bar where you hung out while waiting for a table at Cervo’s or Kiki’s years ago (or last week, if you are a Dimes Square community board member). That’s because—and we mean this in the most flattering way possible—this is a normal bar with moderately priced martinis that happens to be in a great location. Remember Clandestino the next time you’re looking for a cool-but-not-rowdy place to drink, and expect to meet some 22-year-olds wearing bucket hats and Thrasher t-shirts.
For anyone who believes activities are intrinsically linked to fun nights out, Madame Marie’s should be your default destination in Astoria. Hanging out here feels like witnessing a dive bar meet a beer bar and figure out they both love Trivia, Drag Nights, and Musical Bingo. Plus, you can bring your dog to their massive backyard space, or simply admire an array of fluffy companions from your dog-less table.
Heaven Or Las Vegas is the ideal venue for those red hotpants you stress-bought at some point during the last year. This queer-friendly spot opened in February 2020 from the same team behind another historically fun bar in Bushwick, Mood Ring. The dimly-lit space has umbrellas stuck to the ceiling, neon accents, and sultry red lighting to make you feel like the protagonist in an early 2000s music video. See if you can snag one of the booths inside, and stop by for karaoke before 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.