Post overview: Roundup of the best Upper East Side bars
The Upper East Side (UES) is home to New York City’s rich and powerful, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to feel like one. A single trip to an Upper East Side bar will have you feeling like a trust-fund baby in no time.
It’s no secret New York City is expensive, and spending $20+ on a cocktail naturally hurts the soul. So I refuse to allow you to spend your hard-earned cash on a mediocre drink!
Lucky for you, I’ve lived in the neighborhood for five years and happen to know the best bars on the Upper East Side (my poor liver) that are well worth your money.
I know, poor me — drinking my way through the UES so you don’t have to. But hey, just because we feel like a millionaire doesn’t mean we can spend like one, so I took one for the team. 😉
All I ask is that you don’t let my years of “research” go to waste and put this list to good use. But enough about me, why don’t we get into the best bars in the Upper East Side?
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Best Bars Upper East Side
#15. Keys & Heels
Behind a shoe-repair/locksmith storefront you’ll find one of the best bars in the Upper East Side, appropriately named Keys & Heels. Those are the two essentials you need before heading out the door, right?
Once inside you’ll find the Upper East Side speakeasy is dim-lit and intimate, albeit a little small. The petite size of the bar only helps add an air of exclusivity, like you’re a member of a secret-society.
The speakeasy has a strict dress-code and doesn’t allow baseball caps, beanies, hoodies, sports jerseys, running shoes or flip-flops. For some folks the dress-code can be a turn-off, but if you’re looking for a spot to wear your Sunday best Keys & Heels is one of the best bars in the Upper East Side.
I would recommend grabbing dinner before visiting the Upper East Side speakeasy for drinks. The bar only offers small bites (house nuts, olives, etc.) but has an extensive drink menu full of cocktails, beer and wine.
Address: 1488 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
#14. Melody’s Piano Bar
Set to the tune of live music and drinks, Melody’s Piano Bar offers a quaint date spot with a 1940’s vibe. The black and white floor tiles, jungle wallpaper made by Versace and leather booths help exude a sense of elegant charm.
Every night you can expect a lovely live performances either on the piano or by a small band. The music adds to the ambience and helps make Melody’s one of the best bars in the Upper East Side.
You should note that Melody’s Piano Bar charges a $20 cover charge per table after 8PM which is used to pay the musicians. My suggestion is to stay a while to get your money’s worth, and bring a friend to split the cost.
The menu at Melody’s is on the smaller side and divided into sections of shaken, stirred and fun cocktails. If you need a recommendation try the Milky Way (rum, coconut milk, crushed ice) which is aptly found in the fun section.
Melody’s is one of the newest bars in the Upper East Side but word is quickly getting out and locals are eager to give it a try. Unfortunately the bar doesn’t offer reservations so I suggest arriving early to be sure you get a table.
Address: 1020 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10021
#13. Five Mile Stone
From the outside Five Mile Stone looks like a restaurant you’d find in New Orleans. The two-story bar has a balcony that swells with animated locals in the summer like a scene straight out of the French-Quarter.
The bar offers an impressive 24 rotating craft brews on tap making it one of the best bars in the Upper East Side for beer-enthusiasts. The selection goes beyond local breweries too, there’s plenty of international beer up for grabs.
If whiskey is more your speed Five Mile Stone offers plenty, the bar has a staggering 90 different whiskeys for you to try. The joint also lacks the whiskey-snobs often found at tasting rooms so the vibe is easygoing and laid-back.
Not only is Five Mile Stone one of the best bars in the Upper East Side, the food deserves some flowers too. The menu is diverse offering everything from chicken schwarma to short rib bao buns as well as classics like burgers.
Address: 1640 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
#12. Auction House
If you’re looking for a swanky date-night spot perfect for intimate conversations you need look no further than Auction House. Boasting posh red-velvet drapes, a marble fireplace and candle-lit tables this is one of the cutest bars in the Upper East Side.
The lounge-style seating makes it easy to cozy up next to your date and comfortably enjoy your drinks. And on the subject of drinks, Auction House is one of the best cocktail bars in the Upper East Side.
Don’t expect super innovative, award-winning caliber cocktails, instead appreciate simple and delicious drinks. Stepping away from flashy cocktails can help remind you that martinis (and such) are classics for a reason.
Something to note, Auction House is 25 and older on Fridays and Saturdays and doesn’t allow real fur. If you’re under 25 you can visit any other day of the week, and be sure to leave the mink coat at home.
Address: 300 E 89th St, New York, NY 10128
#11. Stella & Fly
Stella & Fly operates as a cozy cafe during the day, but in the evening transforms into one of the best wine bars in the Upper East Side. The neighborhood bar has become a local hot-spot for an after-work drink.
When most folks think of a wine bar the image of a relaxing and quiet establishment often come to mind. Stella & Fly is anything but thanks to a loaded schedule full of trivia, open mics and live music.
For those of us who are always on the lookout for a good deal Stella & Fly has plenty. Wine Wednesday offers $9 wine all evening, and Cocktail Thursday has $10 drinks. The same pricing applies during happy hour, which runs from 3-8PM Monday through Friday.
It’s easy to see why Stella & Fly has become one of the best wine bars in the Upper East Side, the deals are too good to pass up! If you’re thinking about visiting and want a peek at the schedule visit the official website.
Address: 1705 1st Ave, New York, NY 10128
One of the best bars in the Upper East Side is Bondurants, which has a rustic and homey vibe. The small bar is lined with brick walls and has wooden features that exude a simple charm.
Since the bar is usually full of other chatty patrons, at times it feels like you’re at a party. However, the attentive service and delicious food make you feel like you’re the only one visiting.
Bondurants’ versatility is what makes it one of the best bars in the Upper East Side. The neighborhood joint can easily host you and your college buddies as seamlessly as it can host an easygoing date-night.
Besides the alcohol there are two additional reasons I think Bondurants is one of the best bars in the Upper East Side, the tater tots and wings. A neighborhood bar has no business making food this good, but I’m glad they do.
Address: 303 E 85th St, New York, NY 10028
#9. Serena’s Wine Bar
I’m convinced wine tastes better when enjoying at Serena’s Wine Bar. There’s something magical about enjoying your favorite glass at one of the best Upper East Side wine bars on a sun-soaked afternoon.
The extensive wine list provides something every palette will enjoy. I’ll admit that the wine-world can be daunting, but Serena’s staff is kind and knowledgeable. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask for recommendations.
If you find yourself getting hungry Serena’s Wine Bar’s kitchen is a well-oiled machine. All of the flatbreads are must-tries and the pasta rivals any neighborhood restaurant I’ve been to.
If you only have a small appetite Serena’s sells charcuterie meats and cheeses to hold you over until your next meal. The easy-going atmosphere makes it hard to leave one of the best wine bars in the Upper East Side.
Address: 1268 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10065
#8. Festival Cafe
Festival Cafe has given the farm-to-table movement a twist, instead opting to go farm-to-bar. As one of the best cocktail bars in the Upper East Side every drink is crafted using natural, responsibly sourced ingredients.
The bar even takes it a step further by publishing a list of the farms and business they work with, which adds an admirable level of transparency. It’s easy to enjoy a drink that you know was made using local, natural ingredients.
The same high-quality standard translates to the food too. Not only is Festival Cafe one of the best cocktail bars in the Upper East Side, I’d venture to say they’re one of the best restaurants.
Both the drink and food menus rotate frequently to utilize ingredients that are in season, so popping in after a while is always a treat.
Address: 1155 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10065
#7. The Bar Room
The Bar Room looks like a restaurant straight out of a movie scene, I can’t help but pinch myself every time I visit. The checkered floor tiles and chandeliers are the perfect setting for one of the best bars in the Upper East Side.
A perfect mix between bar and restaurant I don’t know what to compliment first. If you need a drink you can expect expertly made classics like martinis and mojitos, perfect for a sophisticated dinner.
If you only take one thing away from this article I want you to know the crispy duck wings are divine. I never make it more than halfway home before I’m tempted to turn around for more soy-glaze smothered wings.
The Bar Room is also one of the best Upper East Side bars thanks to a solid happy hour. Although there aren’t any flashy drinks, you can enjoy sangria, wine and more for only $10! Happy hour is from 3-6PM, daily.
Address: 117 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022
#6. The Five Lamps
The Five Lamps is one of the best Upper East Side bars for a casual hangout. The neighborhood staple provides a place to watch a game, unwind after a long workweek, or meet with friends.
Created to “feel like home” The Five Lamps has curated an atmosphere that makes it easy to lose track of time. The bar has plenty of seating and the waitstaff is so welcoming they can begin to feel like roommates.
The Five Lamps is also one of the best bars in the Upper East side if you’re looking to score a deal. You can expect $2 tacos and $6 margaritas on taco Tuesday (after 4PM) or enjoy a burger and a beer for only $20 on Wednesday.
If you’re looking to try your hand at trivia you need to head to The Five Lamps. Every Thursday at 7:30PM the bar hosts the NYC Trivia League for good ol’ fashion neighborly competition (prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams).
Address: 1586 York Ave, New York, NY 10028
#5. The Sefton
About time I mention an Irish pub! The Sefton is one of the best Upper East Side bars for a generous pour of Guiness. There’s also cocktails and wine, but the neighborhood favorite is a perfect spot to enjoy a simple brew.
The bartenders at The Sefton are some of the kindest in the city. Even if the drinks were bad I’d visit for their service. I always try sit at the bar for pleasant small-talk and the full Irish pub experience.
There is a generous happy hour from 11AM to 7PM that features the likes of $5 domestic bottles and $9 margaritas. You can spend a full eight hour workday drinking booze on happy hour (although I don’t recommend it).
The decor is charming for a small neighborhood joint so you’re not going to want to miss out. This is one of the best bars in the Upper East Side so I suggest making reservations.
Something to know: The Sefton is named after a horse that was seriously injured in the Hyde Park Bombings in London. The horse remarkably regained its health and became a symbol of defiance against terrorism, even winning Horse of the Year in 1982.
Address: 1373 1st Ave, New York, NY 10021
#4. Doc Watson’s
Founded more than 25 years ago Doc Watson’s has been one of the best bars in the Upper East Side for a long time. The quintessential Irish pub you can expect quality brews and an easy-going vibe.
The bar has darts, jenga and plenty of TV’s playing sports. If any soccer fans are reading this Doc Watson’s is one of the best bars in the Upper East Side for European games (Champions League, Europa League).
If the weather is nice show up early to snag some outdoor seating. There are tables in the front, but the backyard beer garden give a cozy and homey feeling.
This might be surprising, but Doc Watson’s one of the best Upper East Side bars for brunch. Offering a $23 steal of a deal guests can choose a brunch dish and two drinks!
Address: 1490 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
#3. Third Avenue Ale House
Boasting an impressive 30 brews on draft and more than 40 bottles, Third Avenue Ale House is a beer-enthusiast’s dream. The staff is knowledgeable and open to talking-shop, so ask for recommendations on the best new beer.
Offering a ton of traditional bar food you won’t go hungry at Third Avenue Ale House. The old school nachos are the perfect tipsy meal, just be sure to add the chicken tinga. The serving is big enough to share so bring a friend!
As one of the best bars in the Upper East Side Third Avenue Ale House also has plenty of specials. On Mondays you can enjoy a burger and a beer for only $20, and on taco Tuesday you can choose a taco, side and cocktail for $20.
Happy hour is from the time they open to 6PM daily and you’ll get $2 off standard drafts, well drinks (like rum & coke or vodka sodas) and select wines.
Third Avenue Ale House is one of the best Upper East Side bars for dog parents since they’re allowed in the outdoor seating areas. So long as your pup is well behaved they’ll get to hang out at one of the best bars in the Upper East Side.
Address: 1644 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128
#2. The Penrose
Who would’ve thought that one of the best bars in the Upper East Side would also be one of the best brunch spots? Not only is the food delicious at The Penrose but the setting is perfect for a romantic date.
The rustic-vibe in the bar is cozy and during the brunch hour the whole joint is bright and welcoming. Pair your meal with a breakfast cocktail from the bar and make the most of your visit.
If you choose to visit during more tradition bar hours you won’t be disappointed. As one of the best cocktail bars in the Upper East Side there’s a wide variety of drinks to choose from.
The dirty-pickle martini is worth a shout-out because the drink is so unique. Although I wouldn’t label myself a pickle person I can appreciate the ingenuity and flavor behind the cocktail.
You should know that The Penrose is strictly 21+ after 8PM and reservations are only available for parties of 5 or more.
Address: 1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
#1. Bemelmans Bar
When it comes to iconic bars in the Upper East Side, Bemelmans Bar usually graces the top of the list. Found in the classy Carlyle Hotel, this UES bar is best known for the alluring murals that adorn the walls.
The murals were hand-painted by none other than the beloved illustrator behind the famous Madeline books, Ludwig Bemelmans (for whom the bar is named). 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.
In a lot of ways Bemelmans Bar is exactly what an Upper East Side bar should be. 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 the only place to celebrate a special occasion.
Address: 35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021
Best Bars in the Upper East Side (Post Summary)
- Bemelmans Bar
- The Penrose
- Third Avenue Ale House
- Doc Watson’s
- The Sefton
- The Five Lamps
- The Bar Room
- Festival Cafe
- Serena’s Wine Bar
- Stella & Fly
- The Auction House
- Five Mile Stone
- Melody’s piano bar
- Keys & Heels
Best Upper East Side Bars (Map)
And there you have it my friends, the best cocktail bars in the Upper East Side.