As a city that has been pioneering the charge of the modern cocktail revival, nearly every neighborhood in NYC is home to an award-winning mixology program bursting with creative flavors, elusive spirits, and innovative ingredients. Whether you’re winding your way through the alleyways of Chinatown or strolling among Brooklyn’s brownstones, your odds of stumbling upon the best of the best are high. Here’s our roundup of the best cocktail bars in NYC to enjoy a drink at right now.
The Best Cocktail Bars in Manhattan
Lower East Side
Photo credit: Attaboy Instagram
Nestled behind an inconspicuous metal door on the Lower East Side’s Eldridge Street lies Attaboy, a craft cocktail speakeasy featuring no menu – only great mixologists with even greater imaginations. A couple of knocks on the door will allow you to leave your name with the hostess / host (Attaboy takes no reservations, so come early, preferably right when it opens to ensure a seat for the evening). Once inside the bar, the bartender will ask you a couple of questions about your preferred cocktail liquors and flavor profile, and shortly after something very delicious will arrive in front of you. You never know what you might get but what you can expect is high-quality liquor, fresh juices, carved ice, and a level of craftsmanship that puts it all together seamlessly.
Photo credit: Apotheke Instagram
Wind your way through the streets of Chinatown and you might be lucky enough to stumble upon one of its most treasured cocktail gems, Apotheke. An opulent apothecary-themed bar whose bartenders craft cocktails made exclusively with house-made organic produce, herbs, and botanicals. The drinks more closely resemble a morning juice than a traditional cocktail, but that makes them no less delicious. Choose your beverage category: Health and Beauty, Aphrodisiac, Pain Killer, Euphorics, Stress Reliever, or Stimulant, and watch the bartender get to work with ingredients like fresh dragon fruit, roasted seaweed, rum infused with Palo Santo, and absinthe mist. Coming here is as much a treat for the taste buds as it is for the eyes – the cocktails are works of art (we love the jewel-tone hues and fresh fruit peeking out from the rim) and the crowd is as chic and fashionable as the decor.
Photo credit: Patent Pending’s Instagram
Located in the building where Nikola Tesla lived and conducted his radio wave experiments sits Patent Pending, a themed speakeasy dedicated to keeping Tesla’s memory alive one toast at a time. Once through the candlelit coffee shop, the bar’s vibe is dark and brooding with exposed brick walls, leather bar stools, and candles galore. Conversations carry on in hushed tones and the rhythmic sounds of craft cocktails being brought to life – ice clanging within a shaker, citrus being zested, and a spoon stirring a beaker – offer a soundtrack throughout the night. The menu, which is a hand-drawn work of art itself, is built around the primary flavors of the spirits (e.g. clean and bright, dark and rich, or daring) so there’s sure to be something for everyone. Whether you prefer a boozy cocktail served straight-up, or a milder yet fun tiki-themed dessert beverage, you’ll be impressed by the taste, sound, and presentation of anything served here. Come thirsty.
Photo creidit: Dead Rabbit Instagram
There’s something for everyone at the most awarded pub in the world. Situated at the tail end of Manhattan’s Financial District lies the Dead Rabbit, a three-story pub that combines Irish roots with an outstanding cocktail program. Hang out on the main floor for a traditional Irish pub experience, featuring world-famous Irish Coffee and Guinness galore, and take the stairs one level up to the Parlor floor to experience their world-famous cocktails (the ones that earned them the title of world’s best bar…twice).
Photo credit: Mace Instagram
Touting its label as one of the World’s Best 50 Bars three years in a row, Mace shows no signs of slowing down. Helmed by an acclaimed mixology duo, the Greenwich Village bar prides itself on incorporating handpicked exotic spices into each of its craft drinks. Their namesake cocktail, Mace, incorporates Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, young Thai coconut cordial, and mace mist to create a royal-hued beverage served in an elegant coupe glass. The bar’s recent move to Greenwich Village allowed them to take advantage of a front outdoor patio, and what kind of patio would it be without a frozen cocktail on the menu? Last summer we enjoyed a Wasabi and Cilantro Daiquiri – a riff on the Miami Vice with a few fun twists like bacon-washed rum and cilantro piña colada. One can only hope it returns again this summer.
The Best Cocktail Bars in Brooklyn
PC: Barely Disfigured Instagram
The site of a former brothel, Barely Disfigured has kept up its lavish charm with a dark and moody interior vibe, full of heavy velvet curtains to frame their 22-person marble curved bar. Those looking for a daytime aperitivo can wind their way along the bar into the spacious back garden and post up at the many tables lining this bar’s charming outdoor nook. The cocktails are reminiscent of the bar’s seedier past with names like Dirty Old Man, a riff on a margarita featuring tequila, mezcal, chili-infused Aperol, and pineapple, and The Little Death, echoing an Amaro Manhattan. The cocktails at this Cobble Hill haunt are seductive, delicate, and interesting, and the ambiance completes the sipping experience.
Photo credit: Clover Club Instagram
Clover Club has been slinging classic cocktails on Cobble Hill’s Smith Street for over a decade. Less stuffy than its Manhattan cocktail bar counterparts, Clover Club exudes low-key vibes. The bar prides itself on its family-friendly service, and of course, premiere cocktails. While the majority of the cocktail menu offers high-quality ingredients to fill classic drink orders, their beverage program is far from ordinary. The Shuck’n’Jive offers a touch more sea salt than your average martini, featuring oyster shell-infused vodka, manzanilla sherry, seaside gin, blanc vermouth, and seaweed tincture. The spirit-forward Oh Calypso offers a punchy mezcal, chili-infused sweet vermouth, oloroso sherry, passionfruit, and angostura bitters. Drop by on a weekend afternoon to try out a cocktail or two and why not stay for some oysters and small plates to make a night of it?
Sunken Harbor Club
Photo credit: Sunken Harbor Club Instagram
Tucked away on the second floor of critically acclaimed oyster and chop house, Gage & Tollner, lies an intimate nautical hideaway that crafts tropical tiki cocktails in the middle of Downtown Brooklyn. What originally started as a weekly Red Hook pop-up has now – eight years later – made its way to a permanent physical location. Get ready for strong drinks that bring on those sunny, beach vacation vibes at the Sunken Harbor Club. Navigate the menu’s themes ranging in order of alcoholic strength from In the Shallows, to the Twilight Zone, and Into the Abyss. The Tijuana Taxi is a delicious white negroni served with mezcal and banana; the Sultan’s Good Council offers a vodka-sherry recipe with sumac, creamy sesame, and za’atar. Each drink acts to shift the mindset and advocate for tiki drinks as being far more than just fruity beverages full of crushed ice. Just be sure to leave room for dinner – there’s a porterhouse, baked oysters, and house rolls waiting for you in the dining room below.
The Best Cocktail Bar in Queens
Long Island City
Photo credit: Dutch Kills Instagram
Behind an unassuming door in Long Island City lies Dutch Kills, a dimly-lit cocktail den featuring heavy wooden booths, strongly made drinks, and premium hand-cut ice. It’s important that we mention the ice since Dutch Kills takes their frozen water quite seriously. Any cocktail fanatic will tell you that ice shape and taste make a big difference in your drink, plus, the ice served at Dutch Kills was so revered that nowadays, hand-cut ice is sold separately in a variety of shapes and sizes directly from the bar itself. The monthly-changing cocktail menu means you’ll never get bored with your order, and when in doubt, the bartender can always whip you up something on the fly based on your mood. Right now we recommend the Tiger Chilled Coffee filled with two kinds of rum, cold brew, allspice liqueur, cinnamon syrup, and absinthe. Come for the beverages and stay for the cozy, relaxed LIC vibes.
Whether enjoying drinks with friends or bar hopping solo, these top cocktail bars are among the many reasons we love living in New York City.