The Best Cocktail Bars For Special Occasions
Where to get some fancy drinks when you have something to celebrate.
If you’re reading this, you probably have something special to celebrate, and we’re happy for you. Here’s where to go. These bars are all fancier than wherever you usually drink with your friends, and they're perfect for anything from anniversary cocktails to a festive evening with a client or some in-laws. Take a look, and find one that sounds right for your next big night out.
photo credit: Kenny Yang
Overstory is a cocktail bar on the 64th floor of a building in FiDi. It has the sort of views that out-of-towners wait in hour-long lines for, but it's significantly more pleasant than any tourist trap in Midtown. After checking in at street level and arriving at Saga (Overstory’s sister restaurant on the 63rd floor), someone will escort you up a flight of stairs to an oval room with a disco ball where you might hear clubby remixes of Madonna. It never gets too hectic here, and there's a huge outdoor terrace that wraps around the space.
Located in a three-story carriage house in Gramercy, Martiny's feels like a little home filled with rugs, sofas, and servers wearing bowties. You don't necessarily have to show up looking as if you just came from a wedding, but this isn't the sort of place for a shot and a beer. The cocktails are all impressively nerdy, with ingredients like banana-infused rum, tomato water, and brown butter-washed bourbon. To accompany your drinks, there's a short menu of Japanese-inspired small plates.
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The Nines is a piano bar, but you get the impression that most of the clientele only tangentially care about pianos. This Noho spot is primarily a scene, and it has the cheetah-print carpets and red velvet furniture to prove it. Reservations are tough, but if you manage to get one, you can sit at a small table, drink an impressive cocktail or two, and listen to a pianist playing past and present top 40. The upscale bar food isn't anything special, but the candlelit atmosphere and occasional T-Pain cover more than make up for this.
photo credit: Art Gray
“Apothecary-themed speakeasy” might sound like a concept that belongs in the year 2009, but Apotheke pulls it off. Their original location is in Chinatown, but this newer one in Nomad is a bit more low-key, and it's especially good for group celebrations. The subterranean space is designed to look like an old-timey Art Deco pharmacy, and there are a few big booths where you can hang out with your friends and drink cocktails described as "euphoric enhancers."
If you just got promoted or broke up with a person that none of your friends like, grab a celebratory drink at Sugar Monk in Harlem. This bar is small, dark, and intimate, and it feels upscale without being stuffy. Grab a velvet chair next to a wall covered with a jungle mural, and enjoy a drink that has more ingredients than your average perfume, such as the Ugly Beauty that's made with gin, elderberry, bergamot, wormwood, tarragon, and lemon balm.
photo credit: Annie Schlechter
Lobby Bar in Hotel Chelsea is one of the least rowdy bars in NYC, and we mean that as a compliment. It looks like the elaborate foyer of an old chateau, and it's the perfect place to sit on a couch and have a conversation with an old friend or someone who shares your bed. There's a brief menu with snacks like steak tartare and fries, and the signature martini is the strongest we've had. It's ice-cold and filled to the brim.
Little Branch is behind an unmarked door at the corner of 7th and Leroy, and, from the outside, it looks sort of like a bomb shelter. Walk down the stairs to the basement, and you’ll find a little room with a couple of bar seats, a row of booths, and maybe even a small jazz band playing live music. It’s usually dark in here, and it’s pretty unpretentious for a speakeasy-type bar. We aren’t saying you should wear sweats, but you can get away with jeans and sneakers.
Each room at Dear Irving has a different theme. One has an Art Deco motif, and another looks like a place where Marie Antoinette would have hung out with her very best friends. This place is on the second floor of an apartment building a few blocks south of Gramercy Park, and you should make reservations well in advance.
photo credit: Eric Medsker
Dear Irving on Hudson
This sister bar to Dear Irving takes up both the 40th and 41st floors of the Aliz Hotel Times Square, so it has plenty of room for larger celebrations. The space features velvet couches and floor-to-ceiling windows with impressive views of the city, and, like the Dear Irving downtown, there are several different themes here. The 40th floor looks like a fancy nightclub from the 1960s, while the 41st has more of a Roaring Twenties feel.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The view at Westlight will remind you why you choose to remain a resident of this crowded and expensive city. This rooftop bar in Williamsburg has floor-to-ceiling windows through which you can see the Manhattan skyline, and there are plenty of tables where you can drink outside in the summertime. If you want to play it safe, make a reservation, otherwise you may find yourself in a line in the hotel lobby waiting to get up here—for a while.
If you need to grab an upscale drink with a client or a family member in Midtown, go to The Campbell. Hidden in the southwest corner of Grand Central, this bar occupies a grand space that used to be the office of a 1920s financier. It has parquet floors, leather chairs, an ornate ceiling, and a classic feel. Try to get a table on the upper balcony.
Clover Club, which opened in 2008, was one of the bars that helped kick off the trend of fancy classic cocktails in NYC. And this Cobble Hill bar has managed to stay relevant, due to the fact that it's a charming place with expertly made cocktails. The space has an old-timey feel with exposed brick walls, a tin ceiling, and a couple of couches, and you can wear either a suit or a t-shirt here. Although you should probably play it safe and wear something in between.
The Raines Law Room
To get into Raines Law Room, you have to go down a set of stairs on 17th, then pull on a little chain attached to a doorbell next to an unmarked door. Next, you’ll enter a dark space filled with armchairs, couches, and a bunch of people on dates. There’s no standing room, and it generally stays pretty quiet, so this is a good choice if you want to be able to have a conversation that you can actually follow. There are also a few curtained-off areas, in case you need to discuss a merger or a bank heist, and there’s a patio in the back for when it’s warm outside.
If you ever need to impress a person who owns several oil fields and/or a yacht, bring them to the bar at the Baccarat Hotel. Cocktails here start at $30 and top out around $1,800 (for something made with vintage Chartreuse). The room is long and ornate with black-and-white checkered floors and some marble busts lying around, and if you brought an oligarch here they would probably say something like, “I have those very same chandeliers.”
Bemelmans is the bar in the bottom of the Carlyle Hotel, and it’s a nice place to drink a martini and listen to live jazz. There is, however, a cover charge once the live music starts (around 9:00 or 9:30pm), and you'll most likely spend a large amount of money on your drinks. But this place is an NYC classic, and you should probably come here at least once.