Where To Go When You’re In The Mood For A Martini
15 bars and restaurants for when you don’t just want any drink—you want a martini.
This is not a guide to the best martinis in New York City. This is a guide to the best places in New York City for when your shirt is tucked in and you’re feeling dignified. For when the fiery capitalist spirit is melting your soul. Or for when you just read a page of War and Peace after getting out of the sauna, and now you need to rehydrate.
And that’s because martini is a mood. It doesn’t matter if the glass was pre-chilled or if you prefer your martini dry, dirty, shaken, stirred, with gin, or with vodka. What matters is the setting in which you drink it. And, of course, the martini has to be great too. These are the best bars and restaurants for when you’re in the mood for a martini.
Martinis taste best with white tablecloths and someone playing the piano. You’ll get both at Bemelmans Bar, inside the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. Yes, this place has pricey cocktails, but you should go out of your way for a martini here, because Bemelmans is an iconic NYC experience. If you’re lucky, Bill Murray might also be having a martini in the corner while someone plays the piano. You can order dishes like lobster tacos and beef sliders, but that’s not necessary because the best thing to eat here is the free snack mix that’s on every table.
photo credit: Melissa Hom
Deux Chats is from the team behind Le Dive and The Nines, two downtown bars where you’ll meet people who provide fashion advice to their 100 or so TikTok followers. Located under the Williamsburg Bridge, this Belle Époque-themed spot is a little less sceney than those other bars, and it’s perfect for sipping a Kinky Martini (slightly spicy, made with vodka) with a date. The bright, vaulted space is filled with distressed mirrors and ornate light fixtures, and the menu consists of fantastic seafood dishes like chilled sardines and slices of salmon crudo so thick they qualify as filets.
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photo credit: Bex Finch
Around dinnertime, this neighborhood spot in Ridgewood feels like a scene out of Bushwick fan fiction. A group of artist friends who once did an impromptu cabaret show on the dance floor at Mood Ring might be sharing a branzino. Or that DJ who whipped up a 2am set at Elsewhere last weekend could be seated quietly in the corner drinking an espresso martini. Follow their lead and get a Martini Italian (made with lemon gin and Aperol) at the bar, and if you're hungry, get some wood-fired breads with coppa and mortadella as you take in the scene.
photo credit: Natalie Black
When you step into this lounge at the top of a residential building in FiDi, you'll think you're in the type of place where a dapper British spy says witty one liners while drinking martinis before jumping off the roof because taking the elevator is too much trouble. This bar feels fancy, but you can come here dressed casually, and they limit the number of people in the indoor lounge to around 35, so it never feels crowded. The real reason to come to Overstory, however, is the huge outdoor terrace, which wraps all the way around in an uninterrupted circle and has a surprisingly large number of tables and chairs.
photo credit: Annie Schlechter
Lobby Bar in Hotel Chelsea looks like the elaborate foyer of a chateau that was last renovated in the 1970s. It feels like the kind of place where your boss’s boss would grab a drink with their art advisor, and it’s a nice escape where you won’t hear any music, only bits of conversation from people wearing thick-rimmed glasses. Claim a barstool or a couch in the fern-lined garden room, and drink a house martini made with minimal vermouth and a to-the-brim pour of ice-cold gin or vodka. It’ll hit you fast, so get some fries to eat on the side, or plan an after-drinks dinner at El Quijote next door.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
This cocktail lounge is three floors above its sister restaurant Zou Zou’s in Manhattan West, and the space gives us Twin Peaks Red Room vibes. It has velvet chairs and black and white tiles as well as a huge outdoor terrace that's a welcome escape when the weather’s nice and it gets too crowded inside. Their signature martini, the Dirty Zou, is served with a setup that allows you to mix grape leaf/dill brine with olive oil-washed vodka in whatever proportions you want. (You pretty much end up with two full cocktails for the price of one.)
Temple Bar in Nolita opened in 1989, then closed in 2017, and now it’s back in its original location. The space maintains its old hardwood-Art-Deco feel, but the cocktail program feels completely up to date—largely on the strength of a long martini list that includes a version made with apricot and absinthe. This might just be the darkest bar in Manhattan, and it's a good place to try to spot someone you recognize from social media—but don't forget to make a reservation. It can be tough to get a table, and the front bar area isn't nearly as pleasant as the clubby back room.
You could walk by Anyway Cafe in the East Village for years without ever noticing it. But after your first sip of dill or black pepper-infused vodka at this Russian bar and restaurant, it’ll be top of mind whenever you want to get vaguely drunk on martinis while sedentary. (There’s no standing room here.) Everyone in this place seems to be ordering martinis in multiples of at least two, and when the server brings yours over, you’ll have to lean over and sip like a cat to avoid sloshing it all over your candle-lit table. The live accordion or Spanish guitar might tempt you to order a third, but be careful. A wise stranger at a table over once gave us some good advice: “Martinis are like nipples. You should only have two.”
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The Grill feels like the kind of place where Roger Sterling would go for a three-martini lunch or The Rat Pack would smoke cigars all night at a booth in the corner. In other words, this restaurant in the old Four Seasons space in Midtown makes you feel like you’re a bigger deal than you actually are. While the square bar isn’t as fancy or heavy on production value as the dining room, it overlooks the dark, attractive space, and is a good way to feel important without committing to a whole (very expensive) dinner. Order a Tuxedo, which has fino sherry in it, an Alaska, which is made with Chartreuse, or anything else from the martini menu here.
Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
A foolproof way to justify all of your turtlenecks is by drinking martinis at Smoke on Broadway and 106th. It’s a little jazz club that brings in noteworthy musicians from all over the world to play on an intimate red-curtained stage. If you want to eat dinner while catching a show, we recommend making a reservation in advance to ensure that you get a table. But you could also show up, sit at the bar, and fall into a conversation with an ex-mayor of Philadelphia or someone else who could probably give you some good life advice.
photo credit: Kate Previte
Drinking a martini often feels like a special occasion. But when you’re drinking one at Bernie’s, you’ll ask yourself why you don’t do this every day. This place is designed to feel like Greenpoint’s Cheers—with red-and-white checked tablecloths, red shiny booths, TVs behind the bar, and a menu full of things like ribs, caesar salad, chicken parm, and burgers. There’s no cocktail list, but when you look around the room, you will see many, many martinis. The Bernie’s version comes out very cold and is the perfect accompaniment to a basket of mozzarella sticks.
Keens has been around for more than 130 years, and the ceilings of this Midtown steakhouse are covered with the smoking pipes of former regulars like Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. In other words, this isn’t the kind of place where you ask the bartender what types of West Coast-style IPAs they have. You order a classic martini, and you drink it while eating a two-pound mutton chop.
King Cole Bar
Even if the legend is true and the Bloody Mary was really invented here, King Cole Bar—an extremely fancy cocktail bar inside the St. Regis Hotel—feels much more like a place to drink a martini. The fur coats and businesspeople who probably should’ve gone to bed two drinks ago make for very good people watching, and the leather bar seats and booths with table service make King Cole Bar a good option for a date in Midtown.
Clover Club in Cobble Hill is the kind of place that will suddenly help you understand how robber barons must feel. As you look around at the curtain-covered windows, working fireplace, and red leather booths, you’ll feel ready to take on an antitrust case. Or, at the very least, you'll feel ready to drink another martini. Their excellent classic one comes with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth.
Harry’s is a classic steakhouse a block from Wall Street that tends to be filled with people who look like they took off their ties on the walk over. Join them in the dark, slightly underground dining room if you want to pair your martini with some jumbo shrimp cocktail and dry-aged filet mignon—or if you just want a drink after work, get a bar seat in the casual bar room. The martini here is old-school in that it’s relatively heavy on vermouth, and it comes with a sidecar on ice.