270 Columbus Ave., between 72nd and 73rd Sts., 212-579-0100
This UWS watering hole keeps a few unmarked containers clandestinely hidden behind glossy bottles of premium vodka. After dinner, ask the bartender for a pour of apricot applejack or orange bourbon. These sweet, fragrant digestifs—served in wide-bottomed cognac glasses—have a smooth, mellow taste and a strong finish.
296 Grand St., between Havermeyer and Roebling Sts., Brooklyn, 718-384-7770
The back room of this Williamsburg sushi-and-sake bar resembles a mad scientist’s laboratory: How else would you explain those huge jars filled with eyeballs floating in a mysterious liquid? But take a closer look and you’ll see that the containers hold lychees, peaches and tomatoes, all soaking in sugar-sweetened shochu, a Japanese spirit. Bozu brews 20 variations of this infused concoction ranging from a refreshing melon to an esoteric turnip.
Dylan Prime Lounge
62 Laight St., at Greenwich St., 212-334-4783
At Dylan Prime’s posh annex, the mixologists appreciate a good vodka infusion—their Bloodless Bloody Mary incorporates Finlandia seasoned with celery seed, horseradish and hot pepper. But these bartenders aren’t leaving it at that. Their Gin Zinger has its base liquor enriched by hibiscus and herb while the grappa is layered with lemon and rosemary.
The Flatiron Lounge
37 W. 19th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., 212-727-7741
Martinis are right at home amid the Art Deco trappings of the Flatiron Lounge. But a classic drink sometimes calls out for reinvention. The Scarlet Bloom does that by using gin infused with an herbal bouquet of lemon verbena, hibiscus, elderflower, stevia, and nettle then finishing it off with lemon and a spritz of champagne. A bartop apothecary is used to add fizz and fruit with tiny eyedroppers. Not sure that’s what you want? Consider a flight of three mini-martinis from co-owner Julie Reiner’s seasonally informed drink menu.
The Orchid Lounge
500 E. 11th St., at Ave. A, 212-254-4090
For some, a shot of plain tequila is intoxicating enough, albeit with a lick of salt and a wedge of lime. The rest might consider experiencing the bracing bite of a habañero-pepper-spiked version. This sinus-clearing brain muddling alternative stands in stark contrast to the lemongrass-infused vodka which delivers a clean, lollipop-like flavor that’s as sweet as it is potent. For the holidays, the bar is using vanilla and apple to take the edge off bourbon.
48 W. 21st St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., 212-620-3033
Cocktail consultant Jerri Banks focused on tea, flowers, and herbs when creating infusion drinks for this sexy Indian-themed bar. Her Indian Rose mixes Lebanese rose syrup, gin flavored with cucumber and roses, rosebud tea, and fresh lemon. At first sip the bubbly pink drink has an almost grapefruit-like taste but the strong floral scent that eventually wafts up can be as overpowering as a highly concentrated glass of bubble bath.