20 Best Cocktail Bars In New York City
Since the city’s very beginnings, New York has been a fabulous place to enjoy a drink — or several. The city boasts some of the oldest bars in the country, like McSorley’s Old Ale House, which has been operating since 1854. And when it comes to cocktail bars, New York not only boasts a few historic spots — a couple of which are on this list — but it has also been the birthplace of highly influential bars that have revolutionized modern mixology, like Milk & Honey, which opened in 2000.
New York City’s cocktail bar offerings are as extensive and diverse as the metropolis itself, spread across neighborhoods and boroughs, drawing inspiration from all kinds of sources, and catering to patrons of all tastes and budgets, too. From classic speakeasies to Asian-inspired dives, and from charming hotel bars to pubs with an Irish soul, here is our selection of the city’s top spots.
This West Village speakeasy, formerly known as Little Branch, offers a warm atmosphere, with low ceilings and soft lighting. The bar’s piano frequently welcomes a live jazz trio, bringing a lively feel to the space. LB was founded by the late Sasha Petraske, the legendary New York bartender credited with reviving the city’s cocktail scene with the opening of Milk & Honey in 2000, and maintains his vision and high standards to this day.
Cocktails here are made with care and precision, served by dapper bartenders in chilled glasses with ice cubes cut from large blocks. In true Prohibition-style, Little Branch is the place to go for foolproof classics, like a Sazerac, an Aviation, or a flawless Margarita. However, it’s also the perfect spot for putting your fate in your bartender’s hands — Petraske was famously a fan of the "bartender’s choice," allowing them to concoct a drink that suits your cravings.
Pearl’s Social & Billy Club
For more than a decade, Pearl’s Social & Billy Club has been a favorite hangout in Bushwick. For the team at Pearl’s, "in New York, our bars are our living rooms," and this philosophy guides its welcoming vibe, shown in the staff’s hospitality and eagerness to share their extensive knowledge of cocktails and spirits.
The menu at Pearl’s features clever takes on classics, like The Brooklyn Manhattan (with bourbon, rye, Amaro del Capo, and bitters), the Lavender Vesper (with lavender-infused vodka, Lillet Blanc, and Empress gin), and the Pearl’s Mezcal Negroni (with Banhez Joven mezcal, Carpano Antica vermouth, Otto’s Athens vermouth, and Contratto Red bitter). You’ll also find fun beer and shot combos, as well as a variety of zero-proof options, including beer, wine, and cocktails. The bar’s ultra-casual decor, featuring exposed brick walls, hanging plants, and lots of quirky knickknacks adds to the casual, laid-back atmosphere.
This cozy Astoria bar is celebrating its first decade of welcoming guests with a selection of craft beer, comforting pub fare, and a friendly, unpretentious personality. The signature cocktails at Sweet Afton are creative and fun. Take the Cuffin’ Season, made with Ten to One white rum, dark rum, Cappelletti, chai, ginger, honey, and lemon; or the Excuse my French, with gin, pear liqueur, maple, orange bitters, lime, and Prosecco. Shot aficionados will appreciate options like the Baby Paloma or the classic pickleback.
The space is outfitted in red bricks and wooden details that make it feel familiar and welcoming and also features an airy space called the Glass House/Garden that is perfect for enjoying a drink or two on a summer evening. Sweet Afton also serves an excellent weekend brunch, the ideal opportunity to taste its famous burger, which you can customize to taste. The burger is available at dinner, too, alongside shareable options like fried shishito peppers and a roasted kale and artichoke dip.
Raines Law Room
The Raines Law, passed in 1896, prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays, except for hotels. At the time, most men worked six-day weeks, so Sundays were their only chance to grab a drink at the pub. However, many bars found a loophole and started to add small bedrooms to their buildings and apply for hotel licenses. With two locations in the city — one in Chelsea and another in The William Hotel in Midtown — the Raines Law Room pays tribute to classic watering holes.
Both locations invite guests to lounge in velvet chairs and take in the romantic lighting and atmosphere, yet each one features its own cocktail menu, which changes seasonally. At the Chelsea bar, for example, the latest menu featured sections with titles like Cocktails with a Kick, focused on spicy drinks; Stirred & Strong, featuring spirit-forward creations; and Throwbacks, with drinks for the bar’s early days. At The William, the Orchard Harvest section offers drinks that honor apples and spice; while Sailing South offers a journey to the tropics. At both locations, guests can find zero-proof drinks and a Reserve section on the menu, with cocktails made with limited edition and small production spirits.
For the most curious of patrons, Raines Law Room Cocktail offers cocktail classes, with topics ranging on everything from Mexican spirits to whiskey cocktails.
Follow the neon sign to find one of the best-kept secrets in Cobble Hill. Sleek Art Deco interiors (the bathroom is a definitive highlight), friendly service, and a lively vibe make Elsa an ideal spot for a date or a night of drinks with friends. Tipples at Elsa are clever and inventive, and their cheeky names make choosing one a fun endeavor. The Hotel Danger! is a blend of peach mezcal, chipotle agave, Aperol, lemon, and a grapefruit twist, while the My Old So-and-So is prepared with Scarlet Ibis rum, black pepper syrup, and grapefruit and black walnut bitters.
When you start to feel the New York heat, you can go for one of their frozen cocktails, like the Painkiller (with Navy rum, orange, nutmeg, coconut cream, and pineapple), and hang out in their comfortable backyard. The menu at Elsa features a brief but solid selection of bar snacks, including a generous cheese and charcuterie board.
At first sight, Wiggle Room is a lovely East Village space boasting a long, nicely lit bar and modern sitting areas. Head to the basement, though, and you’ll encounter an entirely different scene: a room with a disco ball, neon lights, and a crowd dancing the night away to the beats of a live DJ.
Wiggle Room’s drinks menu is short and sweet, composed of a selection of wine, beer, and eight seasonal cocktails. House drinks include creations like the Wiggle ‘Tini (with Nordes gin, Ketel One vodka, cherry blossom vermouth, champagne vinegar) and the Slam Dunk Disco, Ilegal mezcal, El Tesoro reposado tequila, Aveze, white miso, banana, apricot), and you can also enjoy a seasonal rotation of cocktails on tap.
Eric Kruvant, Darin Rubell, and Jamie Felber, a trio of New York nightlife pros, are behind Wiggle Room. Previous downtown hotspots by this threesome include Pretty Ricky’s and Mister Paradise.
One of New York’s pioneering cocktail bars, PDT stands for Please Don’t Tell, an appropriate name for a speakeasy with a unique entrance: through the telephone booth inside Crif Dogs, an East Village hot dog joint. A handsome wooden bar, exposed brick walls, and a few taxidermies here and there set the mood for a drinking experience where the drinks are serious but the atmosphere is undeniably fun.
The bar is led by General Manager Jeff Bell, who has worked here since 2010. The menu, which changes seasonally, features cocktails that are consistently beautiful and innovative. On the most recent iteration, you can find creations like the Solera Ceremony, a blend of Brandy de Jerez, Tawny port blend, Barr Hill Tomcat, white chocolate, cream, and grated tonic beans served in a tea bowl.
Those who are charmed by PDT can attend their cocktail classes on Saturdays and learn a few tricks of the trade. And those who are on the other side of the planet can visit PDT Hong Kong at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel.
The glamour of traditional oyster bars, absinthe cafés, and grand hotel lobbies in places like New York, Paris, and New Orleans infuses every corner of this Bedford Avenue space. Maison Premiere boasts beautiful interiors, with low lighting, leather banquettes, and a central bar, complemented by a lovely garden for enjoying the warm season.
House versions of timeless classics, like the Maison Piña Colada (served in a coconut) or the MP Pimm’s Cup #41 stand alongside original creations, like the Chancellor Cocktail (Isle of Skye 8-year, Tawny port, Vergano BVB vermouth, and orange bitters). On a chilly winter day, go for a Maison Toddy, available with a variety of spirits, from cognac to mezcal. Maison Premiere is also home to the largest absinthe selection in the country. Your encounter with the green fairy can take place in the form of a cocktail or a traditional absinthe service, with a sugar cube and chilled water.
Maison Premiere’s award-winning cocktail offerings — the bar won Outstanding Bar Program at the 2016 James Beard awards — pair perfectly with their food menu, which includes caviar service and, of course, an impressive selection of fresh oysters and clams.
Another winning brainchild of the legendary Sasha Petraske, this Long Island City favorite serves fantastic seasonal cocktails using premium spirits, homemade ingredients, and hand-cut, specialty glass from Hundredweight Ice. Recent creations include the Left on Read (Amumbrana cachaca, port, triple sec, and Cynar), plus warm drinks like the Bear Trap (bourbon, apple cider, salted butter, honey, and cinnamon). If you want to sip on house classics, the best time to do it is during happy hour — between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. — when drinks cost three bucks less.
Dutch Kills is outfitted with leather booths, vintage artwork, and an old-school jukebox that gives it plenty of character. Behind the bar, the shelves are stocked with rare bottles. Small tags with information hang beneath each of them, and the bartenders are always happy to provide info on these special finds.
Hungry? Check out their sandwich menu, courtesy of Troppo Stretto, an outpost of LA’s E Stretto, featuring hearty heroes and a couple of salads.
Sunken Harbor Club
Born as a weekly pop-up in Red Hook’s Fort Defiance, Sunken Harbor Club opened in downtown Brooklyn in the fall of 2021. The space’s decor, with plenty of wood, leather banquettes, ropes, and nautical artifacts, transports you to the coolest of sunken ships.
Drinks at Sunken Harbor Club are divided into three categories: In the Shallows, featuring lighter sips, like the Pimm’s Tropicale; The Twilight Zone, with stronger drinks like the Tijuana Taxi (a white Negroni with banana and mezcal); and The Abyss, with the most potent preparations, like the Grog of two Brothers, featuring rums from Mexico and Martinique.
The ship hides a few treasures in the form of rare rums, which guests can sample in 1 or 2-ounce pours, like a Père Labat Reserve Familiale from Guadeloupe. The man behind the liquid magic is Chief Cocktail Officer Garret Richard, whose book on tropical drinks, "Tropical Standard", written alongside Ben Schaffer, will come out in May.
Nearly two decades ago, this West Village bar opened its doors, setting the standard for elevated cocktails, flawless service, and a consistently good time. A psychic’s storefront is the entrance to this legendary speakeasy, beautifully outfitted in Art Deco style. Behind the bar, talented bartenders shake up finely-tuned drinks like the Provencal (lavender-infused Roku gin, Herbs de Provence vermouth, and Cointreau) and the seasonal After Midnight (Zacapa rum, coffee liqueur, raspberry, honey syrup, and lemon juice), as well as timeless classics like a frothy espresso martini that will help keep you awake until closing time at 4:00 a.m.
Dining at Employees Only is an equally delightful experience, with dishes like an excellent steak tartare and the EO burger on brioche that go wonderfully with a classic cocktail. Make sure to book your table in advance. Employees Only has been lauded with the industry’s top awards, including Best American Bar Team and World’s Best Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail, and currently stands at No. 47 at the World’s Best 50 Bars. The bar also has an LA outpost.
The Dead Rabbit
A 19th-century townhouse in the Financial District is home to The Dead Rabbit, which just celebrated its 10th birthday. Its story starts with founder Jack McGarry’s dream to open a place in the United States that represented Irish heritage, yet had a distinct American touch. The bar’s name, in fact, comes from a gang that inhabited Lower Manhattan in the mid-1800s.
The five-story space is divided into three areas. The Taproom is dedicated to beer and serves fabulous pub fare, including a Scotch egg and a corned beef sandwich, while the Occasional Room can be booked for private events. Cocktail lovers should head to The Parlor, where they will find a 16-drink menu, featuring inventive and delicious creations like the Burnt Leaves (Demerara rum, spices like sassafras, Northern spicebush, and cinnamon) and the Cadmus (Don Julio Blanco tequila, Estancia raicilla, green apple, olive, pistachio, and lime).
For an authentic taste of the Irish experience, spend a Sunday at The Dead Rabbit, feasting on a Sunday roast and listening to live music. This year, The Dead Rabbit will be opening in New Orleans and Austin.
Grand Central Terminal, one of the most heavily transited areas in Manhattan, is also home to one of its greatest cocktail bars: The Campbell. The space was once the private office and reception hall of financier John W. Campbell, and it still features gorgeous details from the 1920s. High ceilings with intricate paintings, a leaded glass window, a fireplace, and even Campbell’s safe. The roofed Palm Court with views of the terminal and the outdoor terrace is ideal for enjoying a drink when the weather is warm.
The Campbell’s old-school interiors and frequent live jazz performances make ordering a quintessential cocktail, like an Old Fashioned or a classic Negroni, almost mandatory. After sipping on one of these timeless tipples, make sure to explore house creations like the Who’s That Ginger (Patrón silver tequila, ginger, fresh lime, and candied ginger) or the Peachy Keen (Dewars 12-year, peach preserve, lemon, black tea, and elderflower).
Latin spirits and flavors shine at this whimsical Brooklyn bar, developed by industry icon Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix, author of "Spirits of Latin America." Behind the bar, colorful candles and Catrinas stand alongside cabinets of all shapes and sizes, stocked with everything from mezcal and pisco to cachaca and sotol. The result is a menu that is extensive, delicious, and explorative.
Creations at Leyenda include the Café de Nadie (coffee-infused Oaxacan rum, Branca menta, cold brew, and lava salt) and the Santero (Caribbean white rum blend, Comiteco, epazote, banana liqueur, and lime), as well as flawless classics like Palomas, Margaritas, and Micheladas. The tribute continues with natural wines from Latin America and a varied food menu featuring yucca fries, fava bean empanadas, and an assortment of tacos.
Leyenda has earned multiple accolades, including Best Bar in America by Esquire in 2016, and nominations for Outstanding Bar Program at the James Beard Awards in 2019 and 2020.
Greenwich Village saw the first iteration of Dante open its doors back in 1915, attracting Italian immigrants, artists, and writers from the time who made it their favorite hangout. During the 1970s, it was equally beloved by neighbors and celebrities like Al Pacino and Jerry Seinfeld. Now, more than a century later, Dante boasts historic photos on its walls and honors its rich past, while boasting a superior cocktail program and comforting Italian fare.
The sipping experience at Dante features seasonal cocktails like the Heart of Gold (Rémy Martin VSOP, Cocchi Torino, oloroso sherry, chocolate bitters, and cocoa), as well as signature drinks Dante’s Garibaldi (Campari and orange juice). The mighty Negroni boasts its own section of the menu, with a dozen versions like the Negroni Bianco (Brooklyn gin, quinquina, Dolin Blanc, Carpano dry, lemon bitters, and verjus) which are best enjoyed for $10 during Dante’s Negroni Sessions, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.
In 2019, Dante was named the world’s best bar at both Tales of the Cocktail and The World’s Best 50 Bars. It has a sister bar, Dante West Village, which also has great cocktails and a martini hour every afternoon.
Helmed by Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross, who led the influential Milk & Honey back when it occupied this same Lower East Side space, Attaboy is a sleek yet welcoming cocktail den that will celebrate its 10th birthday in March. The intimate bar is perfect for small groups (the bar takes parties of six or fewer only) who are ready for a fascinating liquid journey.
There is, in fact, no menu at Attaboy, yet what happens behind the bar is proof of the team’s talent and expertise. Let your bartender know what spirits you like and what flavor profile you’re into, and you’ll be taken care of. Takes on timeless classics include the Greenpoint (made with rye, vermouth, and green herbal liqueur) and a frothy Dark n’ Stormy. You’d be smart to order the Penicillin, a modern classic made with Scotch, lemon juice, and ginger honey syrup that was created by Ross himself.
Attaboy is currently ranked No. 22 by The World’s 50 Best Bars. Its Nashville location opened five years ago.
A beloved Brooklyn bar, Clover Club opened its doors in 2008, drawing inspiration from 19th-century cocktails and updating them through innovative techniques and ingredients. The bar’s name, in fact, pays tribute to a group of Philadelphia journalists who gathered for drinks and conversation at the Bellevue Hotel during that time period.
The varied menu features several sections, ensuring no palate will be left unsatisfied. In the Sours & Cobblers section, you’ll find the bar’s namesake drink, made with gin, dry vermouth, raspberry, lemon, and egg white. You can also choose among Royales, Low-to-No-Proof sips, Punch Bowls, and Stirred & Spirit Forward options, like the Wood Nymph (mezcal, amontillado sherry, Sorel, and cardamaro).
The heart of Clover Club is its fantastic service, led by Julie Reiner (also of Leyenda) and Tom Macy. The bar’s cool yet neighborly atmosphere makes it ideal for enjoying its hearty dinner menu, featuring dishes like steak frites and buttermilk fried chicken.
It’s a vibrant scene at this Japanese dive bar, led by Masahiro Urushido, aptly named the bar’s Director of Deliciousness. With an ’80s aesthetic and a fun, welcoming vibe, Katana Kitten offers an excellent take on the izakaya experience, with a food selection that includes items like deviled eggs, several skewers, Japanese BBQ ribs, and crunchy sandos (the grilled cheese is a highlight).
The house’s signature cocktails make a small yet gorgeous family. Highlights include the stunningly-presented Hinoki Martini (Grey Goose vodka, Spring 44 Mountain gin, fino sherry, junmai daiginjo, and hinoki tree essence) and the Panda Fizz (Haku vodka, pear, calico, pandan, lava salt, and lemon). Of course, in keeping with the bar’s theme, you can’t go wrong with a highball, like the Shiso Gin & Tonic (Ford’s gin, shiso, and lime) or the Toki Highball (Toki Japanese whisky, lemon oil, and koume). Boilermakers, like the Ichi Mas (lager and Toki whisky), are equally appealing.
Katana Kitten is one of the absolute best bars in the U.S. It’s ranked No. 9 by The World’s 50 Best Bars, and Urushido was named Bartender of the Year in the North American edition of the awards.
Although New York City has plenty of excellent hotel bars that have put the old "hotel bars are boring" myth to sleep, Bemelmans has a unique blend of old-school New York charm, flawless hospitality (led by manager Dimitrios Michalopoulous), and fabulous drinks that makes it particularly special. The bar is located inside the Carlyle Hotel and gets its name from the beautiful murals of Central Park painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the Madeline books.
Some of the best and strongest drinks at Bemelmans are named after iconic characters, like the Jackie O (X-rated and Grey Goose vodkas, lime juice, and champagne) and the Bobby’s Manhattan (Santa Teresa 1796 rum, Carpano Antica, Cherry Heering, and orange and Angostura bitters). In true New York fashion, Bemelmans also specializes in martinis, and Madeline’s Vesper (Bombay Sapphire gin, Grey Goose vodka, and Cochi Americano) might just be the perfect way to pay tribute to the painter’s heroine. Every evening, Bemelmans is filled with the sounds of conversation from patrons from all ages and walks of life and the harmonies of a pianist and a jazz trio.
Opened by industry icon Nico de Soto and Cocktail Kingdom’s Greg Boehm in 2015, Mace’s inspiration comes from flavors the duo has encountered around the world and is poetically stamped in each cocktail by highlighting a spice used to prepare it. The namesake drink, for example, is made with Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, young Thai coconut cordial, and mace mist, while the Thyme is a blend of goat cheese-washed rye and cognac, cashew syrup, and thyme bitters. Creativity makes its way to the food menu, as well. You can feast on upscale bar bites like mozzarella salad with peaches and tomatoes or potato rösti topped with smoked whitefish and caviar.
Bright and inviting, the decor at this Greenwich Village spot features sleek, smooth wooden surfaces, wicker chairs, lots of plants, and a beautiful bar, stocked with premium spirits and delightful spices. Outside, you’ll find a lovely terrace.
Mace has been included in the World’s Best 50 Bars list five years in a row and was named Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu in 2022.