They don’t call it the Big Smoke for no reason. New York is one of the world’s most bustling cities with a discovery to be at every corner and alley. For today’s purpose though we’re talking about the intimate, underground cocktail havens to cosy Negroni people watching spots.
Strap in purveyors of a stiff beverage, these are the coolest bars you’ll want to drink at while exploring the endless streets of New York City.
A casual, old-world New Yorker clubhouse feel in Nolita, The Daily is the perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks or a late night tipple. Cocktails rotate daily, pulling from Naren Young’s list of over 600 classic medicines, on a large wall menu characterised by its defining nature such as “Fancy and Improved” or straight-forward “Cocktail”. When in need of a bite, nibble on experimental bar grub like the Pigs Head Banh Mi, The Impossible Burger, or the next innovative plate that’s being offered on the day.
By day, a small espresso bar on 9th in Chelsea. After 5, a time warp back to the bath brewing gin days of the 1920’s prohibition era. Where bedazzled women sip Dry Martinis and Melancholy Punches under tin-pressed ceilings. Men of all tax brackets gather for jazz, burlesque shows and the finest fusion bar food you’ll find in the area. A massive bathtub centrepiece adorns the FB feeds of trendy bar-goers. While Bathtub Gin is a cool bar in NYC to drink at, avoid weekends if possible so you don’t have to wait on line.
The Dante legacy in West Village is recognized in the area for over 100 years. After renovation in 2015, Dante reopened as the neighborhood favourite waiter hole for classic Italian negronis. An ideal stop for days meandering around the village in the hot sun, or a boozy afternoon snack from it’s health-focused menu. It’s casual Italian fitout makes for an enjoyable day people watching from sidewalk, planning your world domination, or a date with that one girl that messaged you on Bumble.
What comes after a shopping trip to Kith is a well-deserved cocktail at The Wren on Bowery. Set in a low-lit, old-timey English bar, the Wren’s become a lively spot for young professionals, visitors and those who enjoy craft cocktails in Downtown. Hole up at the Wren for Happy Hour and indulge on upscale bar snacks, thoughtful beer list and a good spot to get the gang together before heading out for the night. Or simply people watch as you stop in for a nice midday tipple.
The Dead Rabbit is your one-stop shop for quintessential Irish feels in the Financial District. From a charming first floor taproom and grocer, to a classically refined upstairs parlor, it’s spot where time slowly slips away as you sip on mid-1800’s cocktails, whisky varietals and bottled punches. Grab a seat, order a stiff one, and enjoy the World’s Best Bar according to the Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.
Montana Trail House
Brooklyn creatives take kindly to the Montana Trail House for it’s eclectic fit out and Appalachian inspired fare and cocktails. Made from reclaimed Kentucky barn wood, the interior embeds rustic American vibes into the ever-emerging, hip Bushwick area. Old school pennants, faded American flags and a bookcase that leads you out to a side patio make MTH a cool spot to hang at. Get real American. Get yourself a Budweiser, it’s the one spot in Brooklyn you’ll find it offered in 3 different styles.
Pop off the High Line and into The Park for a quick garden party cocktail in Chelsea. Good for any time of day – brunch, lunch or a night out with solid cocktails and a welcoming atmosphere. Find yourself in the penthouse for drinks with a view, or downstairs at the chic, Asian-inspired Red Room. But most notably, brunch in the garden for a cool, relaxing atmosphere as you sip one of their many craft cocktails or a simple glass of prosecco.
Upscale, refined and fit for a gentleman, this old-world inspired NYC restaurant is renowned for it’s expertise in classic cocktails and unique bar experience. Indulge in intellectual stimulation while you sip on The Vieux Carre in the Library and wait for a client. Or land a spot at the 24-foot mahogany bar while pondering on the days work. Perks for those who stay at the NoMad Hotel, for guests are awarded privilege after 4pm.
67 Orange Street
Stop in for a inventive drink and cosy atmosphere while you’re exploring the up and coming area of Harlem. Behind the velvet curtains it’s unassuming location lies a bi-level speakeasy lounge with a welcoming atmosphere and bartenders who might chat you up on a slower night, a real rarity in NYC. From the threadbare menus to exposed brick and surrealist art pieces, the aesthetic is creative and enjoyable, making 67 Orange Street a seriously cool speakeasy in Harlem.
There’s a reason you find Employees Only on most top NYC bar lists. It’s literally the best bar in town for drinks, food, and prohibition style atmosphere. Beyond the classic “Psychic” sign, this energetic joint serves up the best Manhattans alongside their renowned “The Billionaire Cocktail”. Fun, welcoming, and old-timey, don’t miss out on this West Village spot next time you’re in NYC. And the chance to skip the 99 cent corner pizza for a heart 4AM chicken soup.
Does Happy Hour usually have you ready for a quick nap? Not all of us can go party from day till night like we used to and that’s ok. It’s spots like Kubrick Coffee that save us from hitting the pillow and keeping our social lives… alive… with a boozy caffeinated beverage. The only cafe where caffeine and alcohol fall perfectly into the cup together in a relaxing, unfussy atmosphere in Meatpacking.
Maison Premiere is one of my best mates favourite spots for oysters and drinks when he’s in town from LA. If you like bars with personality, this Williamsburg watering hole is a must next time you’re in the neighbourhood. A beautiful, U-shaped marble bar, a quaint, lush green garden and awesome absinthe cocktails make this New Orleans style spot one of the coolest bars in NYC, even if you’re allergic to oysters like myself.
Beyond the nondescript door of Little Branch lies a striking contrast to the sleepy streets of West Village (unless you’re stuck standing on the weekend line outside). You’re greeted a by a three-piece jazz band, a bustling social scene, and a candle-lit underground speakeasy environment with an innovative cocktail menu. Can’t decide on what you want? Throw your favourite spirit at the bartender and let them craft you something special. Cocktails reign in at $16 a pop and it’s cash only so get an ATM before descending.
Sel Rose is a solid Happy Hour spot in Lower East Side known for $1 oysters, creative cocktails, an a list of organic French wines. While oysters (note, allergic) are not for me, the minimal, industrial-chic Parisian vibe certainly is. The location is a perfect for a quick cocktail after a Saturday shopping in Soho. We stumbled upon it doing so and it’s become one of our spots since.
Please Don’t Tell
Don’t stress about not telling your mates about this speakeasy because the words long out. If you show up to it’s phone-booth entry point and try to get in, you won’t unless there’s a cancellation. Book a res by calling them at 3 on the dot. And don’t stop until someone picks up. This is important if you’re a man of quirky, underground bars with some of the best handcrafted cocktails in the city.
Please Don’t Tell
Death and Co
Death and Co leads the NYC cocktailing scene in their refined, high-end East Village speakeasy. Drinks hit all the marks for creative cocktailing and small bites – truffle mac and cheese and a Oaxacan old-fashioned? Fine by me. Set in a cosy, dim-lit atmosphere which adorns the black granite tables and crystal chandeliers. And if you somehow don’t find something that tickles your fancy (which is unlikely), go off menu. These guys know what they’re doing.
The woman who brought us the Flatiron Lounge (Julie Reiner), invites us to a casual, yet sophisticated cocktail den that’s not located in Williamsburg. The once shoe store in Brooklyn was revamped into a cosy, vintage joint with a long list of modernised dosages, including their own namesake drink, that keeps highbrow mixologists in check. Join the Clover Club for live jazz on Wednesdays (who doesn’t love jazz), or a late night Sunday drink alongside a decadent meal of steak frites.
Nitecap is one of the many hip spots in LES for a cocktail, but what sets them apart is their refreshing aperitifs, highball cocktails, and chill atmosphere. Would you expect less from the people who brought you Death & Co. and Maison Premiere? Local Manhattanites, industry professionals and even the curious tourist come together for a night out with good music, drinks, and maybe even an intimate Tinder date.
Most patrons unknowingly fall upon B Flat in TriBeca for a quick drink, only to find it’s actually a happening spot. This laid-back underground Japanese lounge doubles as a live jazz club for those looking for a good show and low-key vibe. And yes, most of the time you’ll find ample seating and an unfussy atmosphere.