The Best Bars On The Upper East Side

Fancy cocktail spots, a retro dive, and so many pubs.
The Best Bars On The Upper East Side image

photo credit: Melissa Hom

If a friend asks you to get drinks tonight and you recommend going out on the Upper East Side, the most likely response will be seven mostly random emojis followed by a, “Seriously, where should we go?” But this neighborhood has plenty of good options for any type of drinking situation. Whether you’re looking to have a few cheap shot-and-beer combos, a high-quality cocktail, or something in between, here are the best places to drink on the UES.


photo credit: Melissa Hom


Upper East Side

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good CocktailsFirst/Early in the Game DatesOutdoor/Patio Situation
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Keys & Heels is a speakeasy disguised as a locksmith and shoe repair shop. Inside, you’ll find lots of bistro tables, a disco ball, comfy couches, and well-made cocktails with names like Pretty Little Psycho and Late Night Lover. It always feels busy here, but you’ll never feel packed in like sardines, and they occasionally host events like magic shows where someone will guess both your birthday and the code to unlock your phone (which will genuinely make you feel uncomfortable).

Walk into Ethyl’s Alcohol And Food, and you’ll feel like you’re in Times Square in the 1970s. The walls are covered in ’70s memorabilia, the bathrooms are filthy, and there’s a disco ball. Also, the whole place smells like incense, the walls are lined with mirrors, and pretty much all the music you’ll hear was made before 1980. It’s a charming place, and it’s where you should be drinking whiskey when you’re in the mood for something on the divier side. They often throw parties here, so check their IG to see what's coming up.

Ryan’s Daughter is a sports bar with much to offer: pool, an impressive beer selection, live music, etc. But you’ll have the most fun here hosting a mini tournament with their basketball arcade game. Turns out, adults are capable of getting excited about even a single arcade game, as long as there's booze involved. This place has the look of a pub but the feel of a spacious dive bar, with semi-divey prices ($9 cocktails). They are, however, popular enough to take reservations. Make one.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux



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2nd Avenue Deli is a classic spot for corned beef sandwiches and matzo ball soup, and they have a very cool bar hidden above their space at 75th and 1st Avenue. It’s up a flight of stairs behind a door with a little neon sign, and it’s one of the best places for a date on the UES. Filled with candles and antique light fixtures, the bar looks like something from the 1920s, and it's easy to make a reservation. If you need a snack, there are a few small bites like deviled eggs and franks in a blanket.

The Penrose is from the same people who own The Wren, and like that Noho bar, it's almost always crowed. This nice-looking pub is one of the few spots on the UES where you’ll find something resembling a scene, so it’s perfect for when you want to have a good cocktail and wind up talking to a stranger who went to school with your cousin. There are plenty of food options, including fried pickles, a burger, and steak fajitas.

The East Pole is a consistently crowded restaurant on the Upper East Side that works for everything from date nights to fun group dinners, but the bar area up front is also useful when you’re just looking for drinks. They serve really good cocktails, as well as some good wines by the glass and beers on tap. You wouldn’t spend the whole night here, but it’s a solid option for after-work drinks or low-commitment dates.

Earl’s feels like it could be a small-town bar. It’s divey, but more in an “everyone’s wearing their intramural basketball team T-shirts” way and less in an “everyone smells like well whiskey” way. There’s naturally an excellent beer selection, and there’s also a lot of food that involves cheese, like mozzarella sticks, various sandwiches, and tater tots with kimchi and cheddar.

“You can’t be all things to all people.” That statement is mostly true, unless you’re The Jeffrey. This place is great for craft beer people, outdoorsy people, sports people, food people, coffee people, and fancy cocktail people. And most importantly, it’s great for people who often find themselves near the Upper East Side or Midtown. Come by yourself to watch a game, or come with a crew of 15 people who all want different things. Everyone will be happy.

This British pub is a full-blown restaurant, and a good one at that, but there’s also a sizable front area with plenty of seating and even some TVs. Do you call soccer “football”? If so, you’ll like it here. Stop by to watch a game on TV while you eat some fish and chips or bangers and mash.

The Upper East Side is full of Irish pubs, but Biddy’s isn’t just another place for televised sports and cheap drinks. Well, actually, it is. But it’s so much more than that. Sort of. We aren’t really sure why Biddy’s feels special. Maybe it’s because of the size. This place is tiny, so it always seems lively. Or maybe it’s because all the regulars get the Olive Garden treatment. There’s also the weekly martini night, when $7 apple pie-flavored beverages flow like tap water. Stop by to make some memories and a hangover.

Five Mile Stone is essentially an overachieving Irish pub. It has two floors and some very nice wallpaper, and it feels like an old-timey house where all the furniture and appliances were replaced with a couple of bars and a bunch of tables. It’s a great place for some casual drinking with a group, there’s a huge menu of all your standard bar foods, and it gets pretty loud and busy (in a fun way) on the weekends.

Doc Watson's is a useful place to know about because it works for almost any type of casual drinking situation. It’s open from noon until 4am most days, and the sidewalk seating and backyard work if you want to drink outside while the sun is still out. If, on the other hand, you want to hole up with a dark beer and drink away your sorrows while watching any New York sports team you may support, there’s a long bar and a dining room with a lot of TVs.

As you’ve possibly gathered by now, the Upper East Side has a good number of pubs that serve good beer and cocktails. The Milton is another one. Use it if you’re in the 90s and want to grab a drink and perhaps watch soccer on TV someplace with super friendly bartenders. The room is tidy and homey, with exposed brick walls and antique knickknacks, and the menu is surprisingly ambitious, with options that include pasta, fish tacos, and a New York strip.

Bemelmans isn’t a place you’re going to visit every day. The drinks are over $20 each, there’s live music, and the walls are covered in fancy painted gold wallpaper. Make of all that what you will. But this bar inside the Carlyle Hotel is a New York classic, and it's a place worth visiting at least once, for a special occasion.

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Suggested Reading


The Best Restaurants On The Upper East Side

The greatest hits of the Upper East Side.

The Jeffrey image

The Jeffrey is an Upper East Side East beer garden and espresso bar, with great bar snacks and excellent cocktails. Be happy you’ve heard of it.

Earl’s Beer & Cheese image

Earl’s in East Harlem serves lots of beers and lots of things with cheese. It’s also a great spot to watch sports.

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