Article Overview: The Best Scotch Whisky Bars in New York City
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but finding good scotch whisky bars in New York City (especially ones that don’t break the bank) is no easy task. Sure there’s enough solid bourbon bars here but how about a proper dram?
Now, to say I’m a bit of a whisky nerd is somewhat of an understatement. I’ve been to nearly 100 Scottish distilleries over the years including some of the most prestigious – places like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Balvenie, Highland Park, Bruichladdich, Glenallachie, Springbank, and so many more.
All this is to say, I know my whisky (and furthermore I appreciate it). For those interested, I added a photo of what’s currently on tap in my whisky cabinet at the bottom of the post.
In this article I’ve compiled all of the best spots I’ve personally been able to find. If you know of any other good NYC whisky bars that aren’t on this list for the love of God don’t keep it to yourself – drop it into the comments below and I’ll update accordingly. These places need to be supported!
Recently my favorite whisky bar in the city went out of business (kind of) and I can’t afford to lose another. In that spirit, let’s get on with it!
Let’s talk! I’m hoping this article serves as a conversation starter for lovers of scotch whisky in NYC. Let me know if you agree with this list or not, what other places to add, what your favorite dram is, and where to find the deals in the comments.
How I Chose NYC’s Best Whisky Bars
This list takes into account three basic things: selection, price, & vibe. The first two are the most important. If you’ve got an interesting dram to try at a decent price I’m willing to hop on the subway and go out of my way for it. Great vibes is a nice cherry on top but not the most important factor for this list.
Also, just a reminder, we’re talking scotch whisky, not any other whiskey, and certainly not bourbon (no offense to bourbon).
Top 10 Best Scotch Whisky Bars in New York City
1. Keens Steakhouse Pub Bar
The Bar at Keens is everything you could hope for in a whisky bar – cozy wood paneling, welcoming bar tenders that remember your name, a dazzling display of bottles, friendly locals, and a menu fit for a king at prices the every man can enjoy.
I’m sure my wife will love this next line but walking into the pub at Keen’s feels like coming home. Featuring over 250 single malt scotches alone (not to mention the hundreds of other malts), Keens is easily the best scotch whisky bar in New York City.
My most recent order was a Glen Scotia 15, Longrow CV, & an Arran Port Cask Finish. And while you might be thinking that’s a lot of drams for a single sitting, Keen’s is one of those all-too-rare places that allow 1oz pours.
And as if the whisky wasn’t enough, Keen’s also has some of the finest “pub fare” if you can call it that, in the city – massive steaks, delicious burgers, and so much more.
2. The Brandy Library
For whatever reason I was skeptical going in to this oft-hyped “best whisky bar in NYC”. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit skeptical of the kinds of places that claim to be the best by nature. Or maybe I was intimated by what my tab might end up looking like.
In any event I went, and was really glad I did.
The whisky selection at Brandy Library is easily the best in New York City (that I’ve encountered) with over 500 bottles of scotch alone. It’s hard to imagine a better one (unless you’ve been to Scotland). One bottle that caught my wife’s eye immediately was the Yamazaki 55 in a glass case in the corner which goes for a cool million dollars if you can find one.
The Brandy Library is everything you hope for in a serious whisky experience – extremely knowledgeable “librarians,” excellent drams, wall to wall brown, and fair(ish) prices. We were lucky to have Liam guide us through our tour of some of his favorite drams.
Next time I return I’ll be trying their stave tasting which includes nine half ounce pours selected by their on duty librarian catering to your tastes (scotch, japanese, bourbon etc) for $95.
If you’re looking for a guided whisky experience this is the best you can find in NYC.
3. Fraunces Tavern
Sipping a dram at the bar in Fraunces, one imagines the kinds of conversations General Washington once had with young Alexander Hamilton in perhaps the very same spot over some foul ale of the time.
The vibes are very old world which makes sense given that Fraunces is the oldest bar in New York City. How old you might wonder? Built in 1719, Fraunces Tavern is now over 300 years old – older than America itself by a solid 57 years.
But these ruminations can only be temporary at such an epic NYC whisky bar where the mind focuses mainly on the vast selection of single malt scotch whiskies available at one’s fingertips. My most recent order there was an Ardbeg Ardcore for $28.
While they don’t allow 1oz pours here, the bar staff is affable and there’s often live music to enjoy whilst you imbibe.
They say you can only have two: good views, good quality, or good prices – at Manhatta, you can have it all. Located on the 60th floor at 28 Liberty Street, the views at Manhatta are easily the most sensational for a whisky bar in New York City with stunning panoramic views of Manhattan.
The selection, while not as extensive as many of the other bars on this list, is well curated. Worth noting, Manhatta is the only whisky bar in New York City where I have found my personal favorite dram (currently) on the menu – the oh-so-lovely Longrow 18.
On top of that, the prices are surprisingly reasonable for such an upscale bar with a wide range of great 2oz pours available under the $30 range and a few under $20. And while they don’t offer 1oz pours the service is great. Our bartender, Jordan, was both knowledgeable and good-humored.
An added bonus for those accompanied by a non-whisky lover is the cocktails are some of the best in the city.
5. The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel
In this old school meets new school ritzy locale the name of the game is opulence – and that extends to its whisky list.
Designed to impress, “The Bar” at the Baccarat Hotel is the spot to go when you close that big deal or get that long-awaited promotion. The Bar is the kind of place that makes you feel important just by being there.
At any moment some debonair double O might to walk up to the bar and order their signature shaken, not stirred cocktail.
And if you’re wondering what the price tag on this important feeling is, well, let’s just say high. Of all the whisky bars I’ve been to in New York City the Baccarat is easily the most expensive. Standard drams get a hefty luxury tax.
In all fairness though, The Bar isn’t the kind of place to order a standard dram. Here you’ll find some of the finest and rarest whiskies in New York City. Bottles like the Macallan M Black go for a cool $800/1oz – whoa.
But even if you don’t splurge for the M Black, at least you’ll still be sipping whatever you drink from $100+ glasses. All whiskies (and drinks generally) are served in fine Baccarat crystal pieces, so be sure not to drop that glass.
Best Cocktail Bars NYC: 10 Boozy Cocktail Bars You Need to Try in New York City
6. The Copper Still
The Copper Still might be the most surprisingly great place I’ve found to drink scotch whisky in NYC. From the outside the bar is rather unassuming, resembling any number of bars around the city.
And while the vibes trend toward dive, the menu does not. Catch a glimpse of the whisky selection behind the bar and you know you’ve stumbled upon somewhat of a hidden gem.
I was thrilled to find Red Spot & Blue Spot (my favorite Irish whiskies) for reasonable prices. Beyond the Irish, I caught sight an dusty old, ancient-looking bottle of Cadenheads on the top shelf. After a quick call to the manager for a price check I was sipping 30 year gold for under $30.
7. The Lobby Bar at the Ludlow
If this was a ranking of the best whisky bar vibes in NYC then the Ludlow Lobby would be right up there at the top. Fireplaces should be a prerequisite to get your scotch whisky license.
Few things are better in life than sipping a fine single malt scotch while enjoying the warmth of a hearth with friends. The Ludlow Lobby Bar offers this in style.
Now I’ll admit, the whisky menu here is on the pricey side. But, the whisky flights are a fantastic deal. We’re talking a Yamazaki 12, Macallan 12 Sherry Cask, & Old Rip Van Winkle for… $30! Um, hello.
Needless to say if you’re looking for the best whisky flight deals in NYC, the Lobby Bar is you’re spot.
As resident Upper West Sider, I was surprised that Caledonia did not come up on my radar for whisky bars sooner. Perhaps it fell into that too-close-to-home category of places that you say you’ll visit but never do. Well, I finally did – and, lucky me.
The bar is a great spot for local vibes. Nothing too fancy outside of the whisky scene. The bartender was friendly when we visited as we’re some of the local patrons which added to experience.
Overall the whisky selection here was a solid “good-not-great”. The Upper East Side location is the one you want to visit for the better whisky menu.
9. The Parlour Room
Whereas plenty of New York’s whisky bars go for old world charm, the Parlour Room is a new school cool with high ceilings, a mid-century appeal, and over 450 whiskies – the perfect kind of place to impress someone on a first date.
It’s location, in the middle of what I’m calling NYC’s whisky alley, right next door to Keen’s and a block away from the Flatiron Room makes it a great addition to any New York City whisky trip
The highlight for me here are the whisky tasting flights, and while not as inexpensive as those you’ll find at the Ludlow’s Lobby Bar, the selection at Parlour is much greater.
10. The Dead Rabbit
The Dead Rabbit is a famous for winning World’s Best Bar multiple times along with a slew of other seriously impressive awards. Their cocktails are literally world famous and delicious. But this is a post about whisky, and you’ll be glad to know they excel here too.
While it’s easily one of the best Irish pubs in NYC with an amazing Irish whisky selection, the Dead Rabbit also boasts an impressive selection of the brown from their neighbors across the North Channel.
Based on what I’ve seen, I’d say they have at least 50 or so bottles of scotch whisky on hand. While you’re in the hood, be sure to stop in at Fraunces Tavern & Manahatta.
11. Copper & Oak
Copper & Oak is the younger sibling to the more famous Brandy Library. Here you’ll find a similarly spectacular selection in a far more intimate setting. There are roughly eight bar stools available as well as a standing counter to enjoy your drams.
The knowledge of their bartender, Matsushita, is legendary. Ask him anything – he knows. If they don’t have the exact dram you’re looking for, they’ll have something similar.
Now the only reason that I ding Copper & Oak a bit is because they know what they have. Whisky prices here are high.
More Great New York City Scotch Whisky Bars Worth Trying
The Flatiron Room
Library of Distilled Spirits
Down & Out
On the Rocks
Hudson Bar & Books
Website: Hudson Bar & Books | Whisky List
Neighborhood: West Village
Address: 636 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Good to Know: Great prices, excellent selection, cozy vibes, great flights, cigars & smoking
NYC Whisky Bars That Aren’t Worth It (to Me)
Whiskey Tavern, Whiskey Annex, The Little Whiskey, The Big Whiskey, The Whiskey, Tom & Joans
Why: Chain/corporate vibes, high prices, weak selection
These bars are all owned by the same group (or at least seem like it) and I get the same vibes here that I do walking into a Diageo distillery – a lack of soul with high prices.
Why: High prices, meh selection
RIP – Whiskey Ward
Why: New management
The new owners ditched the epic whisky list & seem to be going for dive vibes. Was once my favorite whisky bar in NYC, but alas…
FAQ – Best Scotch Whisky Bars in NYC
Keen’s is the best overall scotch whisky bar when factoring in the combination of bang for your buck, selection, and vibes. Manhatta is best for the views and curated selection. The Brandy Library has the best selection.
Map of the Best Scotch Whisky Bars in NYC
Summary of the Best Scotch Whiskey Bars in New York City
- Keens Steakhouse Pub Bar
- The Brandy Library
- Fraunces Tavern
- The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel
- The Copper Still East Village
- The Lobby Bar at the Ludlow
- Caledonia UES
- The Parlour Room
- The Dead Rabbit
- Copper & Oak
- The Flatiron Room Murray Hill
- Library of Distilled Spirits
- Down & Out
- Travel Bar
- The Flatiron Room NoMad
- The Copper Still West Village
- Caledonia UWS
- On the Rocks
- Hudson Bar & Books*
*smoking is allowed indoors here
My Whisky Cabinet
As promised, here’s a photo of what’s currently cooking in my whisky cabinet along with one of me at Bruichladdich on Islay. If interested, I wrote about which distilleries I enjoyed the most during my last visit to Islay.
Pin the Best Whisky Bars for Scotch in New York City
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