Home to thousands of bars, New Yorkers are spoiled for choice when it comes to craft cocktails. The social scene is the backbone of this city and nothing relaxes an evening more than a strong libation.
From innovative, avant-garde concoctions to time-honored classics, New York’s cocktail scene is irresistible to locals and visitors alike. After 10+ years of enjoying the various bars in New York City, I thought it’d be helpful to draft a quick list of my favorites. Let’s dive right in!
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The Best Cocktail Bars NYC
Table of Contents: New York City Cocktail Bars
Table of Contents: Best NYC Cocktail Bars
- The Best Cocktail Bars NYC
- Quick recap of the best cocktail bars in New York City
- Best Cocktail Bars New York City (Helpful Map)
#15. Nobody Told Me
A fairly new addition to the city’s vibrant bar scene, Nobody Told Me opened in 2019. The brainchild of mixologist Nick Pfannerstill and Chef Alberto Miranda, this Upper West Side bar quickly gained a reputation for its laid-back yet sophisticated atmosphere.
The bar is celebrated for crafting some of the most creative season cocktails in NYC. The focus is on emphasizing fresh and locally sourced ingredients. One standout cocktail is the Copy of a Copy (mezcal, hibiscus, orgeat, cloosterbitter, lemon, mint), capturing the essence of the bar’s innovative and approachable spirit. Hard to think of a better way to kick off a good weekend.
Chinatown’s Apotheke is a unique cocktail bar that stands out for its apothecary-themed concept and inventive mixology. Opened in 2008, the bar is set in a former opium den which adds a touch of historical intrigue to the ambiance.
The bar’s specialty lies in the use of fresh, organic ingredients and an array of exotic herbs and botanicals, reminiscent of a chemist’s laboratory. Each cocktail is crafted with the precision of a pharmacologist, aimed at healing and rejuvenation.
Among its many innovative concoctions, the most famous is probably the Deal Closer (Quinoa Vodka, Horny Goat Weed Tea, Cucumber, Mint, Lime & Agave, Vanilla Essence) which is a tantalizing blend of aphrodisiac ingredients. The bar’s unique concept, coupled with its speakeasy-style allure, makes Apotheke one of the most unique cocktail bars in New York City.
Sandwiched between SoHo and the Lower East Side, the bar is located inside Freemans Restaurant (on the second floor). Offering a mere 20 seats, this intimate venue is one of the most romantic bars in New York City, making it a perfect spot for a first date.
Top-notch cocktails served alongside delicious small bites, doesn’t get better than this. If you’re looking for recommendations, I suggest the Pineapple Sage (joven mezcal, gentian, pineapple vanilla shrub, jalapeño, lime, agave).
Local’s Advice: Due to limited seating, Banzarbar is one of the most exclusive bars in NYC. As such, reservations are a must! Reservations open up 14 days at a time. If you’d like to take a chance, walk-ins are welcome.
#12. Bemelmans Bar
Found in the classy Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side, this beloved cocktail bar has been attracting celebrities for ages (Jackie Kennedy was a frequent patron). Today it’s best known for the alluring murals that adorn the walls.
The murals were hand-painted by none other than Ludwig Bemelmans (he wrote/illustrated the famous Madeline books). The beautiful murals were commissioned in the 1940s and depict Central Park in all four seasons.
Peel your eyes away from the handsome walls and you’ll notice the pianist serenading patrons. Allow your eyes to wander and watch generous pours of perfectly-executed drinks make their way from one table to the next.
The staff are dressed to impress, the bar is dimly lit and the aged leather banquettes offer an air of sophistication and class. It’s one of the most memorable cocktail bars in NYC so make sure to swing by for a special occasion.
#11. The Up & Up
The Up & Up in New York City is a standout cocktail bar known for its masterful mixology and sophisticated ambiance. There isn’t much in the way of food, most snacks and cheese curated by Murray’s Cheese, but what The Up & Up lacks in food, it makes up for in drinks.
Celebrated for its innovative cocktail menu (featuring more than 2 dozen cocktails), each drink is meticulously crafted with unique ingredients and a creative twist.
I’m a big fan of the Promise of Adulthood (Brennivín Aquavit, Hendricks Gin, Lustau Fino Sherry, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, and Caperberry) and Hold, Please (Banhez Mezcal, Crème de Cassis, Watermelon Shrub, Lemon Juice, and Grapefruit Juice).
#10. Please Don’t Tell (PTD)
In order to find Please Don’t Tell you’ll have to enter through a little restaurant called Crif Dogs. At face value, Crif Dogs appears to be a typical hot dog joint, but in reality you’re stepping foot into one of the best cocktail bars in NYC.
Once inside the shop, head toward the phone booth (to the left of the entrance). Then, step into the phone booth and call a specific number. The phone booth triggers a doorbell to ring before opening a secret door. You’ll walk into a small and intimate set up where you can spend the night ordering impressive cocktails (and/or hotdogs).
#9. Employees Only
The West Village is spoiled for choice when it comes to charming cocktail bars and speakeasies, but there’s something truly special about Employees Only. A staple in the neighborhood’s nightlife scene since 2004, the hospitality is unmatched, and the vibe is always lively and enjoyable (yet intimate).
The most famous cocktail on offer is the Amelia (vodka, elderflower liqueur, and pureed blackberries). Sophisticated yet simple. Whether you’re a fan of the classics like negronis and martinis or lean towards specialty cocktails, Employees Only is bound to impress.
So, next time you want to sip a dirty martini in a Prohibition-era cocktail bar in NYC, look no further than Employees Only.
#8. Bar Goto
Founded by Kenta Goto, a renowned mixologist formerly of the famed Pegu Club, Bar Goto has a loyal fan base of cocktail enthusiasts. Since opening its doors in 2015, Bar Goto has carved out a niche with its unique blend of Japanese-inspired cocktails coupled with a cozy, intimate ambiance.
The bar specializes in seamlessly integrating Japanese ingredients and flavors into classic cocktails, giving beloved staples a modern twist. One of Bar Goto’s most famous libations is the Sakura Martini, definitely one of the most unique cocktails in New York City!
Started by an adventurous duo, Nico de Soto and and Greg Boehm, Mace has graced the list of World’s 50 Best Bars for three years in a row. The cocktails are inspired by the world travels of the founders, featuring unusual ingredients and exciting spices from around the world.
There’s no denying that Mace churns out some of the most creative cocktails in NYC, don’t sleep on the bar’s namesake libation, Mace (Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, young Thai coconut cordial, mace mist). Just for kicks, check out the ambitious drinks menu online before making a reservation, you’ll find something you’ve never heard of before!
#6. Double Chicken Please
This bar’s unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries earns them a spot on any respectable list of best cocktail bars in NYC. Not only did Double Chicken Please rank as one of the 50 Best Bars in the World, but they won the 2022 Disaronno Highest New Entry Award as well (which is presented to the highest-awarded new bar to make the list of world’s 50 best bars).
What makes this cocktail bar unique is their non-traditional approach. Keen to inspire, Double Chicken Please is best known for deconstructing popular dishes and transforming them into beverage form (how clever!).
The current menu boasts drinks called Mango Sticky Rice, Japanese Cold Noodle and Cold Pizza. Regardless of your libation of choice, make sure to pair it with the Taiwanese-inspired fried chicken sandwiches for a memorable night.
#5. The Dead Rabbit
Named after an Irish gang that ran rampant in lower Manhattan, the Dead Rabbit was opened in 2013. The founder, Jack McGarry hails from Belfast, Ireland and had a simple goal in mind when opening this establishment.
He wanted to create an upscale cocktail bar with the atmosphere of an Irish Pub. Say what? Yet somehow it works.
These are some of the best cocktails in New York City, not surprising considering the bar was rated #1 bar in the world in 2016. The cocktail menu is extensive, so if you’re torn, simply ask one of the members for suggestions. They knowledge of cocktails is mind-boggling, so lean on them for some advice!
#4. Katana Kitten
Known for its unique fusion approach, where Japanese bartending precision meets the casual and free-spirited American bar vibe. Katana Kitten has quickly earned a reputation with locals for inventive and playful cocktails.
Found in the West Village, the mastermind behind the magic is Masahiro Urushido, the bar’s owner and creative mixologist. Named New York’s best bartender, he takes his responsibility of crafting the best cocktails in New York City seriously.
One of the signature aspects of Katana Kitten is its focus on highball cocktails, a staple in Japanese drinking culture. The most famous drink on the menu is the Japanese Whisky Highball, meticulously crafted and served in a custom highball glass. This cocktail is a perfect representation of the bar’s philosophy – a simple yet elegant drink, where attention to detail and quality of ingredients shine through.
Dante dates back to 1915. It served as a staple for the community before slowly fading into oblivion before two Australians decided to breathe new life into this beloved NYC institution. The result was striking, Dante was named the best bar in the world in 2019 (a mere 4 years after re-opening) and appeared on the list again in 2020.
The menu is well curated with small fare but the drinks are the stars of the show. The hardest part about this iconic experience is getting reservations because this is one of the most popular cocktail bars in NYC. Dante boasts two locations in Greenwich Village — Dante West Village and Caffe Dante. Located a few blocks apart, both are hard to get into without a reservation, so book in advance.
Happy Hour: Both Dante locations have generous happy hour between 3pm and 5pm. Dante West Village offers martinis for $10 and Caffe Dante offers negronis for $10. The price/quality ratio can’t be beat!
Located in the Lower East Side, this spot was once home to a famous NYC cocktail bar called Milk & Honey, credited for being a pioneer of the speakeasy and craft cocktail movement. After Milk & Honey relocated in 2013, Attaboy emerged, helmed by two of Milk & Honey’s former bartenders, Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy.
It didn’t take long for Attaboy to start earning accolades in their own right, in 2022 it was named the best bar in North America. Oddly enough, they don’t accept reservations, so the only way to get your hands on the best cocktails in NYC is to wait in line.
If you manage to get inside, make a point to order Ross’ Penicillin (scotch, lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup). If you choose to make the pilgrimage, pay extra attention to the address since there’s no signage. Once inside, you won’t even find a menu! You have to have a conversation with the bartender, which adds to the mystique of the bar.
#1. Death & Co.
Much like Attaboy, Death & Co. is a popular NYC Cocktail bar that doesn’t take reservations, so long lines are guaranteed (the wait can clock in at 2+ hours!). Opened in 2006, Death & Co established itself as a vanguard of the modern cocktail movement when it opened its doors on New Years Eve. Dimly lit and sophisticated, few can resist the allure.
Since then, they’ve been named the Best American Cocktail Bar and in 2010, they were recognized for having the World’s Best Cocktail Menu. In fact, the bar is famed for its extensive and innovative cocktail menu, which has been influential in shaping cocktail trends across the world.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to navigate, simply find the section that piques your interest, whether that be “light & playful” or “boozy & honest” and see where the night takes you.
Quick recap of the best cocktail bars in New York City
- Nobody Told Me
- Banzar Bar
- Bemelmans Bar
- The Up & Up
- Please Don’t Tell
- Employee’s Only
- Bar Goto
- Double Chicken Please
- Dead Rabbit
- Katana Kitten
- Caffe Dante
- Death & Co.
More Places to Drink in New York City
Cocktail Bars in NYC: 15 Boozy Cocktail Bars in New York City (Worth The Wait)
Happy Hour in NYC: 20 Spectacular Spots for Happy Hour in NYC (To Quench Your Thirst)
Best Martinis in NYC: 10 TOP-NOTCH Martinis in New York City (Local’s Personal Guide)
Scotch Whiskey Bars in NYC: 20 BEST Scotch Whisky Bars in New York City (Expert Ranking)
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Free Things to Do: 20 Unique Free Things to Do in New York City to Keep Your Wallet Happy!
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Best Cocktail Bars New York City (Helpful Map)
And there you have it, folks! My roundup of the best cocktail bars in NYC. As always, don’t hesitate to let me know if I missed anything.