- The Gate
321 Fifth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-768-4329
Beneath the Gate’s unpretentious neighborhood-bar décor beats a connoisseur’s heart (it’s frequented by employees of nearby specialty store Bierkraft). Fans of strong, dark brew should try selections from American brewers like Victory and Dogfish Head.
- Spuyten Duyvil
359 Metropolitan Ave. Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-963-4140
This homey establishment is staffed by beer obsessives committed to hunting down obscure and esoteric selections from across the world. Try Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek, a Lambic fermented in open air, or Le Baladin Nora, a Italian beer based on an ancient Egyptian recipe.
41 First Ave.; 212-475-5097
Often packed shoulder-to-shoulder even on weeknights; that’s the burden a bar bears when it has a reputation for a great beer selection and a prime location in the middle of the East Village. D.B.A.’s a leader in the trend toward stocking English-style “cask-pulled” ales, whose warmer temperature and carbonation give them a creamier, stronger taste.
- Pegu Club
77 W. Houston St., second fl.; 212-473-7348
Audrey Saunders stocks specialty gins that make her bar a martini mecca, and the Fitty-Fitty is a sly, silky variant with half gin and half dry vermouth—plus orange bitters and a lemon twist that highlight the two liquors’ botanicals. The devil is in the details. Not only do they serve most martinis in a smaller glass with paired carafe to preserve the drink’s signature chill and keep the stemware frozen, they even chill the olives.
- Dos Caminos Soho
475 W. Broadway; 212-277-4300
A busy night yields 800 to 1,000 orders, and Dos Caminos has the time-tested expertise to juggle a selection of 115 tequilas, from Gran Centenario Leyenda to Chinaco Enterior. All of the lime juice is hand-squeezed, and the exotic fruit purées used for the popular variants are all made fresh in house. Try the chapuline—roasted cranberries drizzled with honey, spiked with ginger, and then muddled with triple sec and tequila.
- Milk & Honey
34 Eldridge St.
Labor-intensive and soda-pop sweet, mojitos are the bartenders’ most-loathed drink, but Milk & Honey’s crack staff grins, bears, and serves the most delightful and fragrant mojito in town. Their trick is “spanking” the mint instead of twisting it—holding the sprig in one hand and clapping, a move that breaks the leaves’ capillaries, diffusing a mint bouquet over the drink.
- Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel
35 E. 76th St.; 212-744-1600
A 40-year veteran at the Carlyle, day bartender Tommy Rowles is the undisputed king of the clean Bloody Mary—crisp tomato, a dash of lemon juice, and savory spices—though the exact ingredients and proportions remain unknown, because he gets to work early to mix his concoction without witnesses. Bring your hangover to Bemelmans Bar but do like the regulars do and arrive early—Tommy’s special brew sells out.
- The Good Fork
391 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-643-6636
The bartenders here treat cocktails like food, fastidiously measuring the caipirinha’s signature sweet and sour to achieve liquid harmony. The key is muddling Fazenda Mae de Ouro, a top-shelf cachaça, with simple syrup instead of straight sugar. The lime wedges are squeezed just for your order, and a vigorous shaking immediately before delivery charges the drink with a touch of effervescence.
Top Spots for Each Poison
Whether you’re in the mood for a newfangled Bloody Mary or a crisp, classic martini, New York has a bar that specializes (and excels) in your potion of preference.
From the 2007 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine