New York is where the American cocktail scene took off, and there are now dozens of bars that serve up authentic, fresh craft cocktails. From speakeasy-style holes in the wall to swanky hotel bars, there’s something for you no matter if you like things fun and fruity, or serious and stirred.
The bar: Maison Premiere
298 Bedford Avenue (Grand Street), Brooklyn
This ‘oyster house and cocktail den’ is a new addition to the New York scene, but feels like it has been around for centuries and is already attracting its fair share of accolades. Its authentic, sincere décor is somewhat Parisian, with more than a dash of New Orleans, and this Williamsburg bar boasts the largest list of premium absinthes in the city. Have the unpretentious bar staff fix you up something to whet your appetite as you browse the list of around 20 tempting oyster dishes. There’s a healthy selection of juleps for those sultry summers, too.
The cocktail: Absinthe Frappe. Simple and refreshing, absinthe and sugar syrup over ice.
The bar: Mayhuel
304 East 6th Street, Manhattan
Sitting between a row of curry houses on a quite sidestreet in the East Village, Mayhuel has been bringing a touch of Mexico to New York for a couple of years now. The drinks list specialises in tequilas and mescals, and as you duck through the doorway, there’s a church-like feel to the interior. The service isn’t too formal, but the staff really know their drinks, and are happy to recommend for those that are new to tequilas. It’s much more than slammers here, and you can sip on the nectar of the gods while snacking on the excellent small plates.
The cocktail: Division Bell. Delicious smokey mezcal with Aperol and lime juice.
The bar: Dram
177 South 4th Street, Brooklyn
One of the most casual and non-pretentious cocktail bars to open in New York recently, this Williamsburg joint is a testament to simple design and an uncomplicated idea done very well. A testament to its greatness is its popularity with other service industry workers; it’s a real bartender’s bar. That doesn’t mean they’re snobby, though, and you’re more than welcome to ask for a dealer’s choice after letting them know your favourite flavours. The atmosphere is casual and buzzy. Grab a cheap can of Pork Slap beer or a fancy cocktail: either way, it’s a cool, late-night experience.
The cocktail: Viceroy’s Daisy. Gin, raspberry and fresh lemon. Divine.
The bar: Angel’s Share
8 Stuyvesant St, Manhattan
Walk through an unassuming door in a Japanese restaurant in lower Manhattan and you’ll find yourself in the bar that started the whole New York cocktail revival. It’s a tiny room and it’s seating only, so prepare to go early or face a wait. Once sat in the plush bar and given a menu, though, it’s an entire new world of delights. It’s a sophisticated, sexy and somewhat formal room, with very professional bartenders and frowns towards rowdiness or mobile phones. For a purely drinks-focussed experience, though, the original speakeasy is very hard to beat.
The cocktail: The Evidence. Sophisicated gin and Earl Grey.
The bar: Pegu Club
77 W Houston St
There’s a colonial air to this West Houston cocktail bar, which has long been the standard by which its peers are judged. There’s a long bar and Asian-themed décor and the people making your drinks are the best in the business. Their choice and preparation of martinis is legendary, and it’s all without a hint of gimmick, just balanced, well-thought out drinks. Each table has eyedroppers of citrus and bitters in case you have a strong predilection for these flavours. Its low-key entrance makes it feel like a secret, and you feel somewhat exclusive as you climb the stairs.
The cocktail: Pegu Club Cocktail. A tantalising mix of gin, orange liqueur and bitters.
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