I went to New York with a list of cocktail bars I knew I had to hit, but discovered more, thanks to recommendations from the bartenders I met along the way. I always ask my bartender where they drink, they know the best places. This list only features the places I made it to and is by no means exhaustive. I’m already starting my list of places to hit on my next trip.
Here are some of my favorite bars in NYC
Mother of Pearl
This Polynesian inspired bar in the East Village was our first stop. The space brings in the tiki flare without being overdone. It’s floral print booths are balanced by white walls and gauzy curtains. My friend and I sat by the servers pass and watched the cocktails go by, each more extravagant than the last, served in glassware shaped like sharks and shells. While some of the glassware toes the line of cheesiness, the quality (and booziness) of the drinks created a balance. The menu has tiki drinks featuring everything from rum and tequila to scotch, wine and gin. The menu also features frozen daiquiri’s, shots, dressed up cans and big drinks for 2-3 people. My first thought was that I could totally take one of those on by myself (this would have been bad).
95 Avenue A
Amaro y Amargo
We stumbled upon Amaro y Amargo thanks to the doorman at Death and Company. It has no juices or mixers, every cocktail is made from alcohol and bitters, so all the drinks are boozy and pure. Bartenders work to both bring out and enhance the flavor of the alcohol, rather than hide it. The atmosphere is like an old school apothecary with shelves covered in bottles and bitters. This place is not for people who don’t like the taste of alcohol, but if you’re adventurous, the bartenders are knowledgeable enough to make something for everyone.
443 E 6th Street
Death and Company
Death and Company actually wrote the book on cocktails. At my last job we called it the bible. I had high expectations for this place, and they delivered. My friend and I each had four cocktails here. Excessive? Maybe. Worth it? Yes. Our bartender, Matthew knew what was up. He talked to us about the Death and Co. process and shared some insight on the drinks he helped create. The menu is broken up into four different sections and within each section the drinks are separated by what is shaken vs what is stirred. My two favorites were the Hurricane Kick for a fruitier drink, and the Side Eye for a more booze forward drink.
433 E 6th Street
I went to New York to visit a good friend. She’s not a big drinker and usually sticks to vodka sodas so Attaboy was her first introduction to craft cocktails, and it was perfect. Attaboy doesn’t have a menu, the bartender makes a special drink based on your taste. The bartender asked us what alcohol we prefer, whether we prefer it lighter or boozier (shaken or stirred), and what flavor we prefer (sweet, sour, spicy, etc). They hit exactly what each of us wanted with every drink. It was perfect for my friend who was new to cocktails. She didn’t have to decipher all the unfamiliar cocktail vocabulary only to pay for something she may or may not like.
Attaboy’s door is unmarked and locked. Knock on the door and wait patiently until the host comes to greet you.
134 Eldridge Street
We stopped at Dante for lunch in the midst of doing touristy things. This bar/café hit the World’s Best Bar list and is known for it’s negroni’s. Negroni’s aren’t my favorite. Campari is a taste I am still acquiring. This negroni may have changed my mind. It was one of the most well-balanced drink I have ever had. Unfortunately, at lunchtime they don’t staff the bar, so the drink menu was limited to a few pretty simple drinks.
79-81 Macdougal Stret
I’m known in my circle for my love of tequila. I will drink it in any form. Give me a pre-batched margarita or a next-level tequila cocktail and I’ll be happy. Mayahuel is right up my alley. Every drink had a base of tequila or mezcal, but the menu was still very broad. My new-to-cocktails friend had one too many tequila shots in college and wasn’t interested in a tequila bar. Thanks to a recommendation from our server, she was able to find something that didn’t remind her of her college years. This spot recently closed down, pour some out.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell)
We tried this place late on a Thursday after leaving Attaboy and weren’t able to get in. It’s a true speakeasy inside a hot dog joint, Crif Dogs. While we waited, we got drunk hot dogs. We had to leave before we were able to get a table after some dudes kept trying to feed me their chili-cheese tots. It got weird. We tried again the next day with more success. The phone booth style entrance is one of the coolest things about it. People in Crif Dogs were looking at me like I was crazy for trying to use a phone booth in 2017. The menu takes variations on classic cocktails as well as highly original cocktails like the Peeking Duck, a vodka based drink with soy sauce.
Bonus Points: Since PDT is located inside a hotdog joint, they have hotdogs and tots on the menu. Eating tots with nacho cheese while drinking fancy cocktails is my aesthetic.
113 St Marks Place
Our server from PDT, Doug, sent us here after we left. Every drink on the menu is based off of a spice, like mace, chipotle, and cinnamon. Each drink uses unexpected ingredients to create the spice. My spearmint cocktail featured peach-infused vodka and sweet pea cordial instead of anything containing spearmint. My friend ordered cinnamon. I avoid cinnamon drinks like the plague because of too much fireball freshman year. This cinnamon cocktail tasted like the spice, without having any hint of syrupy sweetness.
649 E 9th Street
This was another recommendation from Doug at PDT and was my favorite. Each menu has a theme, the menu we saw was famous artists. The beginning of the menu has a chart, with symbols representing each cocktail and ranking them from refreshing to spiritous and from comforting to adventurous. I chose the most adventurous and spiritous which coincided with my favorite painter, Picasso. This was a deconstructed cocktail featuring olive oil powder, a vermouth jelly, a sherry jelly, and a shot of gin. Our bartender Jason told me it’s “choose your own adventure.”
We went on one of those nights where things kept going wrong. Every place has those, where glasses keep breaking and bottles keep spilling. Jason never missed a beat. The drinks were delicious, beautiful, and fast. I don’t think I saw him stop moving once. He also maintained conversation the entire time. While we were there, we were fortunate enough to meet the owner, Joaquín Simó. He was very passionate about his work and talked to us about his menu inspiration.
225 Avenue B
Our friends recommended this place to us. When they went, there was a live band and it was burlesque night. When we went Béyonce was blasting over the speakers. It was not a vibe I expected, but it was a vibe I was down for. I skipped the traditional absinthe pour and went for an absinthe cocktail. It was an good drink, surprisingly fruity and the absinthe didn’t come through as much as I wanted. Unfortunately after going to four bars before this, I started making poor decisions and decided a fernet shot would be a great idea. The shots and the Beyonce caused things to go downhill pretty quickly.
9 Doyers Street
We stopped here after Apotheke and were unable to go upstairs to the cocktail lounge, but remained at the downstairs bar. I immediately ordered fish and chips and chicken pot pie for my friend and me. My cocktail was delicious, but at that point I was more focused on mashed potatoes. My favorite thing about this bar was the two ladies who were killing it behind the bar. Prior to this, the only female bartender I had seen was at Death and Co. Most places had female servers, and maybe they bartend sometimes, but this was the first all female staff. Unfortunately because of my state of mind, all of my photos were blurry pictures of potatoes.
30 Water Street
Blacktail is a beautiful, cuban-style space with a thick book for a menu. They started us off with mini frozen Daiquiri’s (or “Snaquiri’s” for a better term). The menu is split up by glassware, with boozier cocktails in certain glasses. I choose the Dubonnet off of the “Old-Fashioned” category. It featured both tequila and gin, my two favorite spirits that I don’t usually see combined. The drink was boozy, but the spirits meshed well together.
The night we were there, Blacktail took home the Best New American Bar award at Tales of the Cocktail. It’s the first Cuban theme bar to win this award.
22 Battery Place