The Not-So-Secret Speakeasy
113 St. Marks Pl., nr. First Ave.; 212-614-0386 PDT is the hot-dog joint for grown-ups. Actually, it’s the cocktail-lounge annex to Crif Dogs, an East Village mainstay known for its deep-fried Jersey-style franks. Accessed through a vintage phone booth within Crif Dogs, PDT (short for Please Don’t Tell) is a snug, sexy speakeasy with a twist: Along with its high-quality classic cocktails and a well-chosen selection of beer and wine, patrons can order food from Crif’s kitchen next door.
The Rum Diaries
149 Second Ave., nr. 9th St., second fl.; no phone Don’t look for Bob Marley tapestries or limbo contests here. Kingston Hall is meant to evoke the Caribbean islands’ grand postcolonial style of the mid-sixties. The space, founded by the team behind Ninth Ward and Shoolbred’s, has high, trussed ceilings, fabric-lined walls, a handsome billiards table, two working fireplaces, vintage Bond posters, and a cocktail menu filled with rummy riffs on the kind of drinks that are usually embellished with paper umbrellas. Try the Drunken Coconut ($13): fresh coconut water and Appleton Gold Rum in a coconut shell that’s had its top hacked off by a machete-wielding employee.
I’m on a Boat
The Frying Pan
Pier 66, at 26th St. and the West Side Highway; 212-989-6363 Built in 1929, this historic lightship (one of the few remaining) is said to have spent three years at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay before being salvaged and brought to Chelsea Piers to become the ultimate “dive” bar. The boat, docked on a railroad car barge, boasts a musty, barnacle-encrusted interior, complete with catwalks and an exposed engine room. The far end of the barge often serves as a moody D.J. lounge and stage for live acts. Booze and burgers are served up on the pier, and a sixteen-foot observation plank offers a fantastic view of activities on the Hudson.
For Fútbol Fans
583 Vanderbilt Ave., at Dean St., Prospect Heights; 718-857-5777 In its mission to satisfy both footies and foodies, this Prospect Heights bar functions as both a soccer haven and a solid source of international beers and organic, locally sourced grub. The impressive oak bar and the surrounding tables offer plenty of good views of the action. And there’s a lot of action, as the numerous 50-inch flat-screen televisions basically turn the place into the Batcave of fútbol. The drink selection does its part to help the faithful get even more into the team spirit by importing an extensive variety of beers and wines from key soccer nations, while house specials like the Pickleback (a shot of whiskey chased by chilled pickle juice) and the Fuck-It-Bucket (six beers for the price of five) come in handy for celebrating wins.
A New Take on Old Favorites
20 Seventh Ave. S., at Leroy St.; 212-929-4360 The third arm of hallowed drinkslinger Sasha Petraske’s empire is a kinder, gentler, larger permutation of its predecessor Milk & Honey: The bartenders wear suspenders, the rules forbid talking loudly or misbehaving, the walls are a warm shade of mustard, and the low ceilings are made from orange-painted sheets of corrugated steel. An old stand-up piano occasionally used by jazz trios also lightens up the subterranean location. Most important, the mixology is rigorous: The staff arrives two hours ahead of opening to squeeze fresh juice, chill glasses, and cut blocks of ice (to keep the drinks from diluting quickly). Name your favorite liquor and they’ll give you an encyclopedic list of old-fashioned cocktails and egg flips that incorporate it.
Death & Co.
1433 E. 6th St., nr. Ave. A.; 212-388-0882 No, the grim reaper isn’t a partner at this cozy boîte. The proprietors are David Kaplan and Bourgeois Pig owner Ravi DeRossi. Nevertheless, the cocktails are serious. Martinis are served in six-ounce glasses with the remainder poured into iced carafes to stay chilled; smoky, fragrant Oaxaca Old-Fashioneds are made from reposado tequila, mezcal, and agave nectar, then finished off with a flamed orange twist. If you’re unwilling to wait for such concoctions—many are stirred 40 to 50 times and taste-tested by the barkeeps a priori—the bar stocks an array of rare, aged brown liquors. Woody, understated classicism is the look of the place, with tucked suede banquettes under black-granite tables, lit by crystal chandeliers.
From the Folks at Momofuku
Booker & Dax
207 Second Ave., nr. 13th St.; 212-254-3500 It’s pretty much everything you expected from the people who brought you cereal-milk soft serves and crack pie. Officially under the guidance of Dave Arnold (who partnered with David Chang), it nonetheless keeps true to Momofuku style. Just like at Ssäm Bar next door, the techniques here are creative and the endgame delicious. The décor is pleasant enough, if a tad bit sterile (think a dimly lit hotel lounge). Communal tables are available, but the prime seats are at the bar, watching the bartender chill your glass with a smoking wisp of liquid nitrogen or firing up a glass of cognac with a 1,500-degree hot poker. Fortunately, behind all these gadgets is quality and not gimmick.
Absinthe and Oysters
298 Bedford Ave., nr. S. 1st St., Williamsburg; 347-335-0446 Those are the draws at this immaculately executed, Old World charmer from La Barricou’s Joshua Boissy. A U-shaped marble bar frames the room’s centerpiece: a Napoleon-topped absinthe fountain. There’s dollar-an-oyster happy hour (Mon.–Fri., 4–7 p.m., fifteen to twenty varieties), over 25 absinthes, and an otherwise compact yet superb beer and wine list (bottles available). While the real people watching takes place up front, the tables in back offer a little extra elbow room and a view of the oyster shuckers at work.
Buckle Down in a Basement
The Bar Downstairs
485 Fifth Ave., at 41st St.; 212-601-1234 Sometimes it feels like practically every unmarked door in the city leads to a secret bar, but the Bar Downstairs—which, yes, is through a hotel lobby, down an out-of-the-way staircase, behind a minimalist placard—is less a secret than it is merely elegantly discreet. On the lower level of the Andaz Fifth Avenue, the huge, dark-walled, perfectly lit room is anchored by an airy cooking and drink-making space. Mixologists trained by Alchemy Consulting banter with chefs, guests, and one another while shaking up original (but classically minded) cocktails like the Taken to Task (vodka, lemon juice, orange bitters, and seasonal berries) or the aptly named Mexican Firing Squad (Herradura Blanco Tequila, lime, pomegranate molasses, and Angostura bitters).
The Tour for Hops Heads
79 N. 11th St., nr. Wythe Ave., Williamsburg; 718-486-7422 It seems like it should've been here for decades, but the Brooklyn Brewery has only been around since 1987, setting up shop in this ivy-covered, yellow-brick warehouse in 1996. The brewery opens its doors to the public on Friday nights, allowing visitors to imbibe surrounded by enormous vats of prized brews like Monster Ale and Brooklyn Brown. For hops aficionados, there are free hourly tours of the brewery on Saturdays (1 p.m.–5 p.m.) and Sundays (1 p.m.–4 p.m.).
Embrace Your Inner Gamer
388 Union Ave., nr. Ainslie St., Williamsburg; 718-302-6464 If you’ve ever felt nostalgia for the penny-arcade days of your youth, then this is the bar for you. Yes, bar. They serve booze alongside more than 30 vintage arcade games. The airy, loftlike space never feels crowded, and there’s plenty of room to sit and watch the Williamsburg set compete for high scores. Most important, the rotating list of more than twenty microbrews includes many local beers on tap.
Order the Small Bites
588 Grand St., nr. Lorimer St., Williamsburg; 718-218-8555 An ambitious, high-minded bar brought to you by Stephanie Schneider and Andrew Boggs. As seasoned veterans of Danny Meyer Enterprises, you can expect house-made grenadine in your Agave Sunrise, fennel marmalade on your homemade English muffin, and red and yellow beets pickled in gin and plated with Stilton and walnuts. A distinct southern accent is evident in consulting chef Seth Johnson’s boiled peanuts and hard-boiled eggs garnished with Winston-Salem hot sauce. The obligatory meat-and-cheese plates are on offer, too, as are desserts like chocolate cooked cream with huckleberry jam, and they keep the kitchen open late into the night. Classic and seasonal cocktails may take center stage, but the owners claim as much pride in their carefully selected wines and beers, and invite you to enjoy them, as long as temperate weather holds, in the serene garden out back.
Roar in the Twenties
Raines Law Room
48 W. 17th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; no phone This speakeasy in Chelsea is named for an 1896 law meant to curb New Yorkers’ liquor consumption. Past a door buzzer and a discerning host is the windowless space, which nails a sumptuous twenties vibe (Chesterfield furniture, turn-of-the-century wall hangings, and a few bona fide antiques sprinkled in). The cocktail list is packed full of creative, retro numbers like the Arsenic & New Lace (gin, Lillet, creme de violette, absinthe) and the Spyglass (rum, orgeat, lemon juice, and Champagne). You’ll have to arrive early to land one of the private tables surrounded by velvet couches and black gauze curtains: Each comes equipped with a wall buzzer to call your waitress when you need her.
Forget Frozen Margaritas
304 E. 6th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-253-5888 The mixology masters behind Death & Company set their sights south of the border with Mayahuel, their East Village homage to mezcal and tequila. The dimly lit cocktail den more closely resembles a Mexican monastery than a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, with dark wooden nooks and a row of bar stools cozied up to backlit shelves encouraging quiet conversation. While the upstairs space gets a bit rowdier, with leather booths and red stained-glass lighting lending a rosy glow to the low-ceilinged room, the downstairs area highlights Mayahuel’s main focus: the drinks. For $13 to $14 a pop, this is agave like you’ve never seen it before, with apple cider, cinnamon bark, lemon, and peychaud bitters; mixed with pomegranate molasses and lime; and stirred up with strawberry and elderflower in a single serving of sangria.
An Old World Escape
The Rum House
228 W. 47th St., nr. Broadway; 646-490-6924 The guys behind Tribeca mixology haven Ward III have revived Rum House, midtown’s newest old watering hole. The red-walled and wood-paneled drinking den is accented with nightly piano playing, while the space has been elevated beyond its former existence as a simple, pre-theater hotel bar to a classic cocktail lounge swathed in leather banquettes and lit by glowing candles, obfuscating the hustle of Times Square, which is just around the corner. The cocktails also don't disappoint: classic and strong, and heavy on craftsmanship. The intrigue is found in subtle details, like the burnt orange zest in the smoky Scotch-based Barrymore.
The Neighborhood Classic
The Brooklyn Inn
148 Hoyt St., at Bergen St., Boerum Hill; 718-522-2525 A monumental carved-wood bar transplanted from Germany in the 1870s (and rarely dusted since then) imparts a sepulchral allure to this high-ceilinged drinking relic. Yet the Brooklyn Inn also surprises with its enlivening, truly eclectic jukebox: Cream please meet Art Tatum. A pool table in the back room provides relief from elbow-jostling twentysomethings and hoary regulars nursing pints, but you’ll need to be patient. Games tend to be heavy on the banter and light on the climactic eight-ball shots. As to the well-perused pile of takeout menus augmenting the twelve taps of high-end brews, unless you’ve snagged a place at the bar or one of the window seats, be sure to order something you can eat standing up.
Drink Like a Titan
Beaver Bar at the Astor Room
34-12 36th St., nr. 35th Ave., Long Island City; no phone Once a private cafeteria for Paramount’s brightest stars, the subterranean space below Kaufman-Astoria Studios now caters to locals nostalgic for Jazz Age glamour. The supper-club-inspired cocktail menu, dreamed up by mixologists Lynnette Marrero and Jim Kearns (Rye House, Freemans) and featuring expertly mixed concoctions like the Campari-tinted Valentino and pineapple-splashed Mary Pickford, pays tribute to the silent-screen celebrities who dined and drank here in days of yore. The Astor Room’s full menu is also available at the marble-topped bar. Retro design details include original mosaic wall tiling, a live piano tinkling away at Gershwin and Ellington, and a taxidermy beaver: the animal to which fur magnate and Astoria namesake John Jacob Astor owes his vast fortune. It occupies a place of honor, gnawing on a log high above the Beaver Bar.
Imbibe in the Open Air
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
29-19 24th Ave., nr. 29th St., Astoria; 718-274-4925 If Franz Kafka had a favorite bar in New York, Bohemian Hall would be it—and not just because it used to be a Czech and Slovak social club (and still is the central gathering spot for Astoria's Czech and Slovak community). A city unto itself, this massive, time-warped relic has all manner of side rooms and antechambers branching off from the main bar. Wander these labyrinths after you've polished off a few mugs of the Krusovice or the Staropramen, and you'll have a whole new first-hand appreciation of the term Kafkaesque. The ample garden was made for balmy summer days, but the bar itself is inviting even in the dead of winter. Rockin' Czech and Slovak festivals and concerts, however, are available only in season.
Three Bars, One Location
355 W. 16th St., nr. Ninth Ave.; 212-229-2559 This sceney Chelsea hotel offers the complete decadent party experience in one building. In the basement: a shabby-chic dance spot, Electric Room, the kind of place where you might spill your beer on a celebrity who’s there to D.J. On the ground floor: Marble Lane, a sleek restaurant at which to impress your prospective client or romantic partner over steaks prepared by Mike Armstrong of Tao Las Vegas. From there, a mirrored elevator rises to PH-D, a rooftop club with unobstructed views of the Empire State Building that attracts the most glittering of the glitterati.
Upper-Crust New York
35 E. 76th St., at Madison Ave.; 212-744-1600 Nowhere is the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie more palpable than in this bastion of post-war decadence: think white-jacket waiters, 24-karat-gold-leaf ceilings, and nickel-trimmed glass tables splayed around the ivories. Settle into a leather banquette and order something strong and adventurous—perhaps with Champagne and cognac or fresh mint and muddled lemons. Murals of frolicking animals painted by bar namesake and former Carlyle Hotel resident Ludwig Bemelmans offer a whimsical counterpoint to what might otherwise be suffocating sophistication. Feel an extra boost knowing you're enjoying pretty much the same thing as the folks across the lobby at Café Carlyle, for a fraction of the cover.
Classy Daytime Drinking
1 Central Park W., nr. 60th St.; 212-299-3900 With day drinking comes some rather unsavory connotations, usually involving insobriety in a dark, grimy watering hole. Reclaim the venerated pastime with a cocktail at the revamped and now airily streamlined Nougatine, Jean Georges’s more casual sister space. Daily from 11:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., settle in at the Modernist, metallic-accented bar and ask one of the vested, old-school bartenders to fix you a raspberry-litchi Bellini ($18) or JG G&T with Reisetbauer Blue gin—the point here is sophisticated grandeur, not “mixology.” While you drink, eavesdrop on the power players down a stool or two and peep at Central Park passersby out the huge wall of windows.
Historic Hot Spot
Grand Central Terminal, 15 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. 43rd St.; 212-953-0409 Tucked away in Grand Central Station, this classy lounge is the restored private office of early twentieth-century tycoon John W. Campbell. On weeknights, the 2,000-square-foot space is a bit overrun with commuters grabbing a Prohibition Punch or the Kentucky Ginger before catching the train home. It’s more fun to go on the weekends or closer to closing time when you can get a seat and sip your Scotch while you pretend you’re in a Hemingway novel. You can also nosh on a small list of pricey “cocktail accompaniments,” like the artisanal-cheese plate, roast-beef sliders, and a variety of desserts.
The Everyman Dive
Rudy's Bar & Grill
627 Ninth Ave., at 44th St.; 646-707-0890 Settled in the heart of Hell's Kitchen in the thirties, this dive was "discovered" by the cool kids only during the last decade. Old-timers still drink themselves to death around the bar, but local youngsters, businessmen, and the ubiquitous hipster element now rule the prime-real-estate red-leather booths. The real draw here has always been dirt-cheap booze (order the house brands, Ruby’s Red and Ruby’s Blonde, by the pint or pitcher) or the increasingly rare jukebox, accepting dollars for your enjoyment.
210 Smith St., nr. Butler St., Cobble Hill; 718-855-7939 The cocktail craze that has intoxicated New York spills over into Cobble Hill, where Flatiron Lounge’s Julie Reiner opened Clover Club. Drinks are divided into nine categories, from sour-style swizzles to group-friendly punches; small plates range from fried oysters to steak over toast; and the circa-1892 mahogany bar comes from a Pennsylvania coal-mining town.
A Taste of the Irish
The Dead Rabbit
30 Water St., nr. Broad St.; 646-422-7906 New York is lousy with world-class cocktail joints, boutique beer bars, and familial Celtic pubs. It’s rare, however, to find all three under one roof. This Fidi saloon from Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry functions as a kind of new-school, tipsy exaltation to Gotham’s legacy of Irish immigrants. Downstairs, in a sawdust-scattered taproom hung with murals of the 69th Regiment, bartenders pour craft brews (the beer menu changes weekly) and glugs of native whiskey (Connemara, Tullamore Dew). Upstairs, McGarry tends to a list of 72 cocktails that may just be the city’s most ambitious: The rigorously historical menu spans punches, absinthe, nogs, slings, smashes, and more, each dutifully footnoted, thoughtfully prepared, and—most significantly—damn delicious.
More Bar Recommendations
Bars of Every Persuasion: View the slideshow to see drinking holes for whiskey lovers, beer guzzlers, fist-pumpers, and more.