New York City Travel Guide: Mixology 2011

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    by Emily Bell with Will Blunt
    Will Blunt and Shannon Sturgis
    August 2011

    Is it us or is boozing in the big city getting a lot easier? OK, so New York has never been withholding of its alcohol; just stroll along 9th Avenue on a weekday morning and you’ll see just how many obliging pubs open their doors well before lunchtime. But boozing well hasn’t always been this easy. Or colorful. Over the years, city mixologists have shaken and stirred their ways through tunnel-vision cocktail historicism, speakeasy chic, and even the genteel exclusivity of the members-only club. And while those elements still exist, in influence and archetype all over the city, the tipple trend seems to veer heavily toward freedom of improvisation—the unapologetic unleashing of bartender mojo.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t get a seriously spirits-forward, well-informed cocktail. Quite the opposite. It means you can get it more readily, at places that aren’t obviously branded “old school.” And just as easily, you’ll find spots where tropical drinks get the kind of meticulous craftsmanship once reserved for the perfect Negroni. Themes aren’t lost; bars are basing entire drinks programs in history and geography. But rather than dusting off Prohibition-era drinks books (they’ve got those memorized), mixologists are using the cocktail craft as a means of exploration. The menu is their map.

    Spirit-centric bars are alive and well, again simply incorporated into a broader swath of concepts. Absinthe drips from a meticulous reproduction of a 19th century Nola fountain at Maxwell Britten’s ode to the Big Easy of yesteryear, while Katie Stipe stirs up genevers and akvavits with a hip Euro twist on the Lower East Side. And when all else fails, try the new dens of bespoke, or sidle up to the nearest bartender and get on his or her good side with a shot of Fernet and a smile. Because feelin’ good is what the industry’s about these days. If you don’t believe us, just check out any of the spots below. We won’t say “I told you so.” We’ll be too busy drinking in the good vibes. So to speak.

    DRINK

    1534

    20 Prince Street
    Soho
    New York, NY 10012
    (212) 966-5073
    www.jacquesnyc.com
    Hours: Sun-Wed 5pm-2am; Thurs-Sat 5pm-3am

    “You must enjoy yourself here.” So says rule number one at 1534, the dark, cozy, and subterranean Soho bar from Contemporary Cocktails duo Justin Noel and Willy Shine. “Rules” is probably the wrong word to describe 1534’s preferred code of conduct, which rejects pretense (and celebrates a safe amount of folly), even in the midst of its Napoleonic theme. Of course, a laid back attitude doesn’t mean you won’t get a damn good cocktail, appropriately set to a French theme. Imperialist ingredients span the globe, from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, but Noel really shines with a bold (and mercifully savory) take on a “dessert” cocktail with the nutty, tahini-enriched “Zanzibar.”

    Recommended:
  • Zanzibar: Aged Jamaican Rum, Coconut Milk, Demrara syrup, Tahini Paste, and Coffee Tincture
  • Napoleon’s Loss: Anejo Tequila, House-made Ginger-Agave Syrup, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Sombra Mezcal

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    Amor y Amargo

    443 East 6th Street
    East Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (646) 926-6702
    www.amoryamargo.com
    Hours: Varies, Opens 5pm

    If you want to drink among drinkers—the professional kind, not the 10am pub crowd—head to Amor y Amargo, Avery Glasser’s tiny temple to all things bitters. Conceived as a pop-up bar and tasting room, the space is part of the tipple-triad housed at 443 East 6th Street (head next door to El Cobre and upstairs to Cienfuegos for rum worship in coupe and punch glass, respectively). Glasser uses his space efficiently, featuring his own line of “very small batch” Bittermens bitters and preaching the culture of bitters generally, from their medicinal roots to their role in the origin of the cocktail. The result is a kind of bitters salon for the contemporary cocktail set, with seminars and a weekly roster of guest bartenders, who demonstrate the magic of amargo one drink at a time.

    Recommended:
  • The Française Fourplay: Louis Royer Force 53 VSOP Cognac, Lillet Blanc, Bonal Gentiane Quina, Yellow Chartreuse, Simple Syrup, Bittermens Hellfire Shrub, and Soda Water

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    Brushstroke

    30 Hudson Street
    Tribeca
    New York, NY 10013
    (212) 791-3771
    www.davidbouley.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm

    Brushstroke combines culinary reverence with downtown chic, a combination we’ve come to expect from David Bouley. It’s a triple threat restaurant (with excellent food, wine, and cocktails), a challenge to consume in one visit. So even if you’re courses deep into the restaurant’s kaiaseki menu (courtesy of 2009 StarChefs.com New York Rising Star Isao Yamada with sake pairings, you’ve got to save room for the cocktails. Gen Yamamoto might be a quiet mixologist, but he’s a standout in a city like New York, where cocktail culture verges more often toward the boozy end of “spirit-forward” (not that we’re complaining). At Brushstroke, Yamamoto continues his legacy of produce-focused, well-balanced drinks. More often savory and vegetal, with a common trend of umami and an unapologetic faith in vodka, Yamamoto’s drinks are a lesson in the power of subtlety.


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    Cienfuegos

    95 Avenue A
    East Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 614-6818
    www.cienfuegosny.com
    Hours: Daily 6pm-2am

    Anywhere else it might seem like something borrowed from Dashiell Hammett, but at Cienfuegos, a name like Jane Danger makes perfect sense. Even if she is an international spy (these days most of us have two jobs), we’re happier with Danger’s cover as a bartender at this funky, spunky East Village Cuban-themed rum room. And she fits right into its culture: take the drinks, and nothing else, too seriously. You’ll find gin, Scotch, and cognac scattered around the menu, but the emphasis here is on rum, and Danger knows it like an old Cubana, puckering up a 4-year Flor de Cana with Aperol and a bold pinch of sea salt for her aptly named “Intro to Awesome.” A generally well-parsed menu (with seasonal cocktails, twists on classics, and those giant, festive punches) means you’ll be exploring Cuban cocktail culture with a trustworthy map.

    Recommended:
  • Intro to Awesome: Flor de Cana 4-Year Extra Dry, Aperol, Cucumber, Lime, Simple Syrup, Soda, and Sea Salt
  • Velvet House Punch: Cockspur 12-Year Rum, Velvet Falernum, Lime, Ginger Syrup, Bittermens Tiki Bitters, and Soda

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    Clover Club

    210 Smith Street
    Cobble Hill
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    (718) 855-7939
    www.cloverclubny.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-2am; Fri 5pm-4am; Sat 2:30pm-4am; Sun 2:30pm-12:30am

    Cocktail culture might reach for the old-school glass by coupe glass, but Clover Club is Julie Reiner’s brick-and-mortar Cobble Hill tribute. Named after a group of journalists who gathered at Philadelphia’s Bellevue Hotel for intermittent drinking and heckling at the turn of the 20th century, the modern day Clover Club has less to do with bon mots than seriously good cocktails (though the interior does transport you to more genteel times, down to the late 19th century mahogany bar, fireplace, and heavy velvet curtains). And with mixologists like Franky Marshall, Tom Macy, and 2010 New York Rising Star Mixologist Brad Farran behind the menu of originals and updated classics, patrons are certain to feel as politely, sophisticatedly intoxicated as their turn-of-the century forebears.

    Recommended:
  • Louisville Cathouse: Ancho Chile-infused Bourbon, White Crème de Cacao, and Fernet Branca
  • Constant Gardener: White Rum, Crème de Peche, Muddled Red Bell Pepper, Lime Juice, and Simple Syrup

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    Dutch Kills

    27-24 Jackson Avenue
    Long Island City
    Long Island City, NY 11101
    (718) 383-2724
    www.dutchkillsbar.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-2am; Sun 5pm-12am

    Dutch Kills might be the borough outlier of Sasha Petraske’s Big Apple cocktail empire, but it has a magnetism that not only keeps the certified locals coming back, but draws Manhattanites to the hinterlands of Long Island City. The dark, rough hewn, virtually 100 percent wood ambiance is pleasantly demure, and it’s likely that prices also play a small part in the appeal—cocktails here are a few dollars cheaper than usual, perhaps a concession to the cost of the subway ride. But the real draw is the drinks list. Seasoned Mixologist Karin Stanley crafts cocktails that combine Petraske’s emphatic purism with her own bold imagination—the kind that throws chocolate bitters and yeasty Sherry into a lime-spiked añejo tequila bath. Considering the journey, it’s no surprise Dutch Kills is a bar for and by heavy hitters; make the trip—you won’t be sorry.

    Recommended:
  • Quincenera: Tequila Anejo, Osborne Amontillado Sherry, Chocolate Bitters, Lime, and Simple Syrup
  • Cradle of Life: Aged Rum, Montecristo Spiced Rum, Almond Orgeat, Angostura Bitters, and Lime Wheel with Chartreuse

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    El Cobre

    95 Avenue A
    East Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 614-6818

    Hours: Weekdays 6pm-1:30am; Weekends 11am-1:30am

    In our fairly secular times, and especially in the context of cocktail hedonism, a fountain statue of the Virgin Mary might seem wholly out of place. But it makes perfect sense at Ravi deRossi’s El Cobre, house of rum worship beneath Cienfuegos. After all, this isn’t just any Virgin Mary, it’s a reproduction of the Virgin of El Cobre, the Virgin of Charity and El Cobre hero to whom Ernest Hemingway once gave his Nobel Prize. What better symbol for a bar where daiquiris are crafted religiously? And even if the interior might be—reasonably—mistaken for a Cuban country church, the extensive rum list and well-crafted cocktails (from Mixologist Mayur Subbarao, who does his main duties next door at Amor y Amargo) are proof that sin is alive and well in the house that deRossi built. Order delicious Cuban snacks from the small plates menu to keep your rum reverence going strong.

    Recommended:
  • Stirred Daiquiri: Banks ‘5 Island’ Blended Rum and House-made Citric Acid Solution
  • Noche Buena: Scarlet Ibis Rum, Cynar, Zirbenz (Pine Liqueur), Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters, Grapefruit, and Salt

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    Eleven Madison Park

    11 Madison Avenue
    Flatiron
    New York, NY 10010
    (212) 889-0905
    www.elevenmadisonpark.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm; Sat 5:30pm-10pm

    With a beautiful cookbook fresh off the presses, James Beard-ed chef and pastry chef, and a third Michelin star twinkling brightly in its atmosphere, Eleven Madison Park is in a position to (elegantly, quietly) take the lead as standard-bearer in modern cuisine. A wide, bright space with high ceilings and clean lines, the Danny Meyer crown jewel seems more aesthetically suited to the relaxed and refined than anything aggressively innovative. And yet it’s the setting for 2006 StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef Daniel Humm’s culture of seasonal, artistically ingredient-focused cuisine, complemented by 2010 StarChefs.com Rising Star Pastry Chef Angela Pinkerton’s conceptually playful desserts. And in a day and age when sophisticated cocktails are served in ironically déclassé “faux dives” and suspiciously dark, semi-subterranean drinks caverns, knocking back one of 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Star Mixologist’s Leo Robitschek’s delicious drinks at the Eleven Madison Park bar is a like a vacation in civility.


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    Flatiron Lounge

    37 West 19th Street
    Flatiron
    New York, NY 10011
    (212) 727-7741
    www.flatironlounge.com
    Hours: Mon-Wed,Sun 5pm-2am; Thu-Sat 5pm-4am

    Further proof that Julie Reiner essentially can’t go wrong (we’re excited to check out Hawaiian-themed Lani Kai), Flatiron Lounge has established itself as a serious drinks Mecca in a part of town with more Happy Hours than house-made bitters. Flatiron lures you in with the kind of romantically dark lighting you expect of Reiner’s old-school concepts, making the classiest and best use of a narrow space with a long bar and a hall for—you guessed it—lounging. Part of the select, elect bar team, Nick Jarrett is living up to the Reiner standards, doing interesting variations on classical methods with original ingredients, and more than a few far out ideas.

    Recommended:
  • Prize Figher No. 1: Fernet Branca, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Lemon-Mint Simple Syrup, and Salt
  • Nose Dive: Plymouth Gin, Amaro, Maple Syrup, Lemon Juice, and Orange Juice

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    Jo's

    264 Elizabeth Street
    Nolita
    New York, NY 10012
    (212) 966-9640
    www.josnyc.tumblr.com
    Hours: Mon-Thurs 5pm-1am; Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 11am-2am; Sun 11am-1am

    After Hurricane Sandy shut down Jo’s and wiped out its walk-in this fall, Owner Johnny Santiago gave Chef Andrew Pressler the go ahead to shed the restaurant’s New American menu and replace it with Southeast Asian dishes closest to Pressler’s heart. Pressler, who has traveled in Asia and worked with Rising Star Chefs Patricia Yeo and Zak Pellaccio, has a great command of spices, heat, and the Asian pantry—and he integrates those elements into traditional dishes and playful riffs (including some of the best fried chicken we’ve eaten this year). Jo’s still boasts a generous bar up front and a solid list of craft beers (that happen to pair impeccably with Pressler’s food). And the vibe, bolstered by Ragae music, a lively bar crowd, and a casual brick-walled space, embodies the best of neighborhood dining—with the added bonus of Pressler’s unexpected, exciting menu.

    Recommended:
  • Galangal Fried Chicken, Coconut Jasmine Rice, and Spice Roasted Butternut Squash
  • Curried Pork Shank, Herb-Bean Sprout Salad, and Fried Rice

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    Lani Kai

    525 Broome Street
    Soho
    New York, NY 10013
    (646) 596-8778
    www.lanikainy.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 4pm-2am; Fri 1pm-3am; Sat 11am-3am; Sun 11am-2am

    The very latest installation from indomitably cheerful and productive Julie Reiner, Lani Kai is as much a tribute to Reiner’s Hawaiian upbringing as a celebration of her adopted Big Apple hometown. With two spacious floors decked out in nude woods, clean lines, soft lighting, and a small (tidy) jungle of hanging plants, the place is like a dose of relaxation in the shameless retail parade just south of Houston. On Monday nights, grab a seat at the marble bar downstairs for Tiki Mondays with Miller, with a weekly changing menu, guest bartenders, and a schizophrenic soundtrack (anything from doo wop to the Humpty Dance pumps from Mixologist Brian Miller’s iPod). Miller’s laid back about everything but tiki, so expect delicious concoctions, whether they’re classics like the addictive Pearl Diver or updates like the balanced, bright, and boozy Tracy Jordan Swizzle (you’ll have to ask Miller about the name). Upstairs, Mixologist Natalie Jacob is mixing up Reiner’s menu of island-ready drinks—good for the Big Island or the Big Apple. The Isle of Islay Swizzle balances Black Grouse and falernum against pineapple and passion fruit. And Jacob’s own Hamilton Park Swizzle has equal parts Applejack (aka Jersey Lightning) and Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry. Keep the luau going—you’ll want to—with sliders, small plates, or go whole hog (literally) with a Suckling Pig Roast.

    Recommended:
  • Tracy Jordan Swizzle: Tea-infused White Rum, Sherry, Lime, Pineapple Demarara, and Velvet Falernum
  • Isle of Islay Swizzle: Black Grouse Scotch Whisky, Kalani Coconut Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Passion Fruit Puree, and House Falernum

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    Maison Premiere

    298 Bedford Avenue
    Williamsburg
    Brooklyn, NY 11211
    (347) 335-0446
    www.maisonpremiere.com
    Hours: Weekdays 4pm-4am; Weekends 12pm-4am

    Brooklyn’s archipelago of cocktail havens got a polished new addition this year, courtesy of 2009 New York Rising Star Mixologist Maxwell Britten. Self-described “Oyster House and Cocktail Den,” Maison Premiere is as much about the theater of classic absinthe culture as it is an altar for cocktail and bivalve worship. And worship is the right word here. From the working absinthe fountain to the obsessively fresh seafood menu, courtesy of Chef John Boissy, everything about the place follows through on the basic, sublime, premise. And the décor is no exception. Bartenders Natasha David and Maksym Pazuniak craft their creations in a setting that feels transported (probably by riverboat) from its rightful home in the 19th century French Quarter of New Orleans. The drinks, of course, aren’t facsimiles, and aren’t exclusively absinthe—though the bartenders are experts, and we’re guessing you can get a damn fine Sazerac. Pazuniak and David both serve near-addictive cocktails that fall along the Fernet-forward lines we so love.

    Recommended:
  • Torino Julep: Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Smith & Cross Rum, Fernet Branca, Maldon Salt, and Fresh Mint
  • Fernet Sling: Fernet Branca, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Demerera Sugar, Lemon, Orange Twist, and Soda

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    Mulberry Project

    149 Mulberry Street
    Little Italy
    New York, NY 10013
    (646) 448-4536
    www.mulberryproject.com
    Hours: Mon-Tue, Sun 6pm-2am; Wed-Sat 6pm-4am

    In the midst of Little Italy’s never-ending food circus of gelato peddlers, clustered al fresco tables, and street carts strewn with huge hunks of nougat, an unmarked stairway leads down to a hip cocktail lounge. This is the titular “project” of Mulberry Project, a dimly lit den of reds and glass and mildly disturbing artwork where imbibers can order bespoke cocktails courtesy of head bartender and “Project” partner Jeremy Strawn. Strawn is a fast-talker, especially when he’s excited, but give him—or your waiter—a spirit and a flavor profile (or pick from the daily chalkboard of ingredients) and you’re about 99.9 percent likely to love what you’re served. The same holds true for Chef Mike Camplin’s menu, which somehow fits a huge amount of seasonal sophistication onto small plates. Sit outside on the back deck for a calmer kind of Mulberry Street al fresco. (The clown-wary should avoid facing opposite a startling, but impressive, back patio mural.)

    Recommended:
  • Bespoke FDR: Tito’s Vodka, Plymouth Gin, Olive Juice, Cucumber, Chipotle, Brine, Lemon Juice, and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • The Summer Hemingway: White Rum, Luxardo, Fernet Branca, Lime Juice, and Grapefruit Juice

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    Northeast Kingdom

    18 Wyckoff Avenue
    Bushwick
    New York, NY 11237
    (718) 386-3864
    www.north-eastkingdom.com
    Hours: Mon-Wed 5pm-11pm; Thu-Fri 5pm-11:30pm; Sat 11am-3pm, 5pm-11:30pm; Sun 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm

    After inheriting Northeast Kingdom from its owner (who built the funky, chunky wood and vinyl interior with his own hands), Chef Kevin Adey has worked hard at transforming it into a culinary destination, and an anchor of the growing neighborhood (stop by Kings County Distillery for some after-dinner moonshine). Adey’s food does the kind of smart, rustic American turns you’d expect of a Brooklyn outlier, with more than enough polish to assuage lost Manhattanites. Mixologist Brooke Hoffine keeps diners fortified for the journey home with a cocktail list steeped in fresh fruit, spices, and a lighter, naturalistic take on the boozy-bartending trend.

    Recommended:
  • Penny Candy: Root Beer Liqueur, Tahitian Vanilla-infused Bourbon, Hawthorne Valley Creamery Cream, and Edible Birch Branch Garnish
  • Hemingway in Vermont: House-made Blueberry-Ginger Puree, Flor de Cana Rum, and Star Anise Simple Syrup

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    PKNY

    49 Essex Street
    Lower East Side
    New York, NY 10002
    (212) 777-8454
    www.painkillernyc.com
    Hours: Fri-Sat 6pm-4am; also open Sun

    Wicked brainchild of mixologists and Dutch Kills alums Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato, PKNYcombines its rum-soaked tiki culture with an unapologetic nostalgia for New York City in the 1970s—which is why the dark, subtly tropical bar feels so at home in the hip chaos of the Lower East Side. Combining the punkish anarchy of a sordid era with the potency of, say, a Zombie, seems like a risky idea, but the talent behind the bar keeps it classy. The drinks menu is the result of obsessive study by Gonzalez and Boccato, with historically accurate recreations, updates on classics, and original cocktails crafted with the spirit (and spirits) of tiki culture. Yael Vengroff’s NYPD Blue is like the cocktail incarnation of PKNY’s Big Apple-meets-Polynesia philosophy, and her Heaven Hill is like ice cream for the Trader Vic set—creamy, nutty, and just barely sweet, with a righteous dose of flamed 151.

    Recommended:
  • NYPD Blue: Santa Teresa Gran Reserva Aged Rum, Pineapple Juice, Coconut, Lime, Mango, Demerara Sugar, Orchid, Pineapple, and Pineapple Leaf and Coconut Garnish
  • Heaven Hill: Elijah Craig Bourbon, White Cacao, Banana, Orgeat, Cream, and Lime Garnish with Flamed 151 Rum, and Fresh Nutmeg

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    PDT

    113 Saint Marks Place
    East Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 614-0386
    www.pdtnyc.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-2am; Sat-Sun 6pm-4am

    Jim Meehan’s PDT has established itself as a benchmark of decidedly un-stuffy perfectionism. The waffle fries and tripped out hot dogs from neighboring Crif Dogs certainly help, as does the surprisingly relaxed space accessed by way of telephone booth. The bar is all old-school elegance, practically glowing in the dim brick room, while several taxidermy odes to wildlife embrace the wilder side of cocktail culture. PDT's extensive seasonal menu is built on some of the city’s top talent. Head Bartender and 2013 New York Rising Star Jeff Bell is among them, serving drinks that somehow combine complex creativity with elegance and reserve. In the funky, progressive Cabeza y Cerveza, the green, earthy flavors of Cabeza tequila are echoed and lifted by Victory Prima Pils, habañero shrub and Pok Pok tamarind drinking vinegar. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Cereal Milk Punch, which balances Momofuku Milk Bar’s Cereal Milk with Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey and a softening dose of honey for a subtly textural, quietly rich sip.

    Recommended:
  • Cereal Milk Punch: Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, Bernheim Wheat Whiskey, and Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
  • Cabeza y Cerveza: Cabeza Tequila, Victory Prima Pils, Worcestershire Sauce, Bittermens Hellfire Habañero Shrub, Pok Pok Som Tamarind Drinking Vinegar, and Sal de Gusano-dipped Grapefruit Wheel

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    Peels

    325 Bowery
    Noho
    New York, NY 10003
    (646) 602-7015
    www.peelsnyc.com
    Hours: Restaurant: Daily 7:30am-10am, 10am-5pm, 5pm-11:30pm; Bakery & To-Go: 7:30am-6pm; Bar Open until 2AM

    The southern-twanged follow-up to ultra trendy Freeman’s, Peels swaps its brother restaurant’s manly cabin feel for an airy two stories of high ceilings, light woods, and natural green accents. The culinary complement to this atmospheric hospitality comes courtesy of chefs (and life partners) Ginger Pierce Madson and Preston Madson (who do double duty at Freeman’s). They pay apt homage to the south without diving belly-first into comfort food. Charcuterie is house-made, along with the jalapeño jam you spread on it. Mixologist Yana Volfson works as comfortably in spirits-driven as farm-to-bar mixology, delivering the final touch to Peels easy-livin’ with cocktails like the deliciously bitter Perfect Old Pal.

    Recommended:
  • The Bond Street Swizzle: Gin, Muddled Mint, Lime, Orgeat Syrup, and Herbsaint Absinthe Float
  • Don’t Call Me Ginger: 100% Blue Agave Espolón Tequila, Dry Vermouth, Ginger, Lemon Juice, House-made Lemon Marmalade, and a Flamed Lemon Twist

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    Pegu Club

    77 West Houston Street
    Soho
    New York, NY 10012
    (212) 473-7348
    www.peguclub.com
    Hours: Mon-Wed, Sun 5pm-2am; Thu-Sat 5pm-4am

    The house that Audrey built, Pegu Club is one among a few standard-bearers in the crowded mixology ranks of New York City. The space might be described as “imperialist chic,” with dark woods, spare palm fronds, kimono-clad servers, and an aesthetic that borrows gently from the Orient (apt for a bar named after a 19th century Burmese British officer’s club). But Pegu Club isn’t a bartender’s history lesson. Sure, anyone on Saunders’ team could easily craft a classic cocktail, but the real, exotic magic of Pegu Club happens on the bar’s changing seasonal menu. Mixologist Scott Teague, who introduced himself to Saunders with a letter, carries on the tradition of respect for classics coupled with freedom of innovation with drinks like the smoky, fruity, pleasantly parching Gentleman’s Agreement.

    Recommended:
  • Gentleman’s Agreement: Highland Park 12-Year Scotch Whisky, Maraschino, Fresh Blackberries, and Lemon Juice

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    Prime Meats

    465 Court Street
    Carroll Gardens
    Brooklyn, NY 11231
    (718) 254-0327
    www.frankspm.com/info.html
    Hours: Mon -Wed 11am-midnight; Thurs-Fri 11am -1am; Sat 8am-1am; Sun 8am-midnight

    There’s a reason it looks like the late 19th century is slowly, politely taking over Court Street. Prime Meats, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar that dominates the corner of Court and Luquer, is modeled after turn-of-the-century inns and dining rooms of old Manhattan-town. An airy space with big windows, raw woods, and a few key polished touches, Prime Meats is part of the Frankies family owned by Owners Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. The food is artisan American with a Germanic twist, with Falcinelli making arguably the best German-style sausages in New York City. Rising Star Mixologist Damon Boelte not only inspires the staff’s dress code (a mix of old fashioned propriety and hipster chic), but also leads the pre-Prohibition era-focused bar program with an incredibly well-informed palate.

    Recommended:
  • House-made Hot Dogs with Fermented Sauerkraut
  • Weisswurst with Signature Black Forest-style Pretzel Roll

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    Raines Law Room

    48 West 17th Street
    Flatiron
    New York, NY 10011
    No phone
    www.raineslawroom.com
    Hours: Mon-Thurs 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 8pm-1am

    Another safe haven for the cocktail crowd in the midst of lower Flatiron’s dreary bar scene, speakeasy Raines Law Room rewards those who can find it with a plush, romantic, Old World setting, complete with velvet curtains, dainty wall paper, and the kind of dim lighting that encourages mild misbehavior. Buzzers will summon waitresses to any of the small number of tables, but the theatrically open kitchen-style bar encourages spectatorship. Mixologist Meaghan Dorman is head barman here, leading the menu charge with seasonal, sophisticated cocktails that tend to feel as demure as the space. She likes a boozy drink as much as the next bartender (just try the double-dosed, surprisingly peachy Amber Old Fashioned), but Dorman also makes nimble use of fresh ingredients; her French Affair creates a smooth, unexpected marriage (or liaison?) between strawberry and Chartreuse.

    Recommended:
  • French Affair: Hennessy Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, Simple Syrup, Muddled Strawberry, and Lemon Juice
  • Amber Old Fashioned: Elijah Craig 18-year Bourbon, Zacapa XO Rum, Demerera Sugar, Angostura Bitters, and Fee Brothers Peach Bitters

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    Rye House

    11 West 17th Street
    Flatiron
    New York, NY 10011
    (212) 255-7260
    www.ryehousenyc.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5pm-2am

    Part of the small but proud collective of spirit-savvy bars in relieving the cocktail dearth of the Flatiron district, Rye House attracts both the after-work and the mixology crowd. So seating in the long, country-chic space tends to go early (if you want a good spot, arrive before 6pm). A spot at the granite bar lets you see the action firsthand, but if you’re looking to nosh while you drink (Rye House has a belly-lovin’ menu of sophisticated comfort foods) sit under the gem-like lights that hang just above packed seating in the back. You may have to push your way back there, but Rye House is worth crowd-maneuvering. Mixologists Robbie Gonzalez, Jessie White, and J. Rosser Lomax—who oversees a serious brunch drinks menu (not for the Bellini set)—are on hand to assuage jangled nerves with creative, deliciously potent seasonal cocktails.

    Recommended:
  • Rye Thai: Rittenhouse Bonded Rye, Santa Teresa Claro Rum, Velvet Falernum, House-made Orgeat, Marie Brizzard Triple Sec, Lime, and Goslings Rum Float
  • Aperol Highball: Aperol, Cointreau, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Lime Juice, Soda, and Orange
  • Warsaw Morning: Heart of the Hudson Whisky, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Moët & Chandon Champagne, and Grapefruit Juice
  • Dead Stock: Bols Genever, Yellow Chartreuse, St. George Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Batavia Arrack Indonesian Rum, and Burnt Lemon Oil

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    Rye Restaurant

    247 South 1st Street
    Williamsburg
    Brooklyn, NY 11211
    (718) 218-8047
    www.ryerestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thurs 6pm-11pm; Fri 6pm-12am; Sat 11am-4pm, 6pm-12am; Sun 11am-4pm, 6pm-11pm

    Not to be confused with Flatiron’s Rye House, Williamsburg’s Rye Restaurant is an ode to that intersection of Old and New worlds that Brooklyn does best. Literally assembled piece by piece—from its restored mahogany bar to its dumpster-rescued doors—Rye is an extremely personal project for seasoned New York veteran Chef-owner Cal Elliot, who blends his prestigious pedigree with a DIY Brooklyn approach to sophisticated American cuisine. And while Mixologist Sother Teague has left his place behind Rye’s mahogany bar since we tasted there, the culture of cocktails he helped cultivate persists. In Teague’s hands, the complexity of technique is entirely masked by flavor-forward, evocative cocktails that honor tradition as gamely as they play up to the Sixth Sense.

    Recommended:
  • Bitter Spring: Flor de Cana 4-Year Rum, Peychaud's Bitters, Fernet Branca, Ginger Syrup, Toasted Hazelnut Orgeat, and Lemon Juice
  • Blood & Smoke: Lapsang Souchong-infused Famous Grouse Whisky, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Heering, Blood Orange Juice, Lemon Juice, Orange Bitters, and Angostura Bitters
  • The Spotted Pig

    314 West 11th Street
    West Village
    New York, NY 10014
    (212) 620-0393
    www.thespottedpig.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri noon-2am; Sat-Sun 11am-2am

    April Bloomfield’s gifts to the city are distinctive, ambitious, and, yes, very often porcine. And with The Spotted Pig, Bloomfield (and Friedman, et. al) has given New Yorkers a taste of Europe’s seemingly effortless cool: a gastropub marriage of Brit and Italian culinary concepts with Bloomfield’s ballsy genius. The liquid bow on the Spotted Pig package is provided by Mixologist Ryan Gannon, who oversees the list at the downtown bar. Gannon accommodates the Brit side of the menu with some of Her Majesty’s best, including fruit infusions, ginger, gin, and, of course, hearty black tea. But Gannon’s flexible with his flavor profiles, which tend to be exquisitely smooth (but not homogenous), with particularly deft use of citrus and umami.

    Recommended:
  • The Aloha: Pineapple Shrub, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Cava
  • Partly Cloudy: Mt. Gay Rum, Lime, Grapefruit, House-made Falernum, Ginger Beer, and Angostura Bitters

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    Theater Bar

    114 Franklin Street
    Tribeca
    New York, NY 10013
    (212) 334-3633

    Hours: Mon-Thurs 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat 6pm-3am

    Theater Bar isn’t just a name. The space (which is ample) really is set up like a theater, with a wide lounge for the imbibing audience leading up to the bar, where cocktails and their creators are co-stars. And this unabashed tribute to showmanship is no surprise coming from Albert Trummer, former leader of the Apothéke drink pharmacists, who’s been known to indulge freely in the theater of the cocktail. Trummer isn’t just putting on a show for its own sake; as usual, he’s assembled a roster of top of the line barmen to keep the exquisite cocktails flowing. Miguel Aranda, formerly of Yerba Buena West, creates flavor-forward drinks that span the boozy-fresh-ingredients spectrum. Parsley, dill, and honeydew brighten a vodka cocktail, while bourbon infused with spicy, nutty South American tonka beans gets further depth from Antica Formula vermouth.

    Recommended:
  • #1 Honeydew, Parsley, Vodka, Dill (long floral tulip glass)
  • #2 Pisco Incanto, Lemon, Pineapple, Basil Reduction, Pineapple Foam

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    Vandaag

    103 2nd Avenue
    East Village
    New York, NY 10003
    (212) 253-0470
    www.vandaagnyc.com
    Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-2am; Sun 11am-12pm

    There are lots of reasons to go to Vandaag. One of them is the space, where a funky, sleek modernism feels like what “futuristic” meant to 1960s Holland. Another is the bacon-apple-potato heaven that is “Hete Bliksem (Hot Lightning).” And still another, and extremely compelling reason, is the drinks menu. Compiled by seasoned Mixologist Katie Stipe, who’s done turns at Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge, among others, the menu complements the restaurant’s Northern European theme, like the Beef Short Ribs with Savory Poppy Granola from (now departed) Chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark. Stipe’s list of genevers and akvavits might frighten the caraway and juniper-wary, but she uses the spice and structure of her base spirits nimbly, variously calming and playing up the heat, licorice, and pine to convert non-believers to the camp of Skol. If you don’t feel like going full force with a horseradish and dill-infused aquavit, try something like the Spice Tree, which plays up the earth and heat of aquavit with ras el hanout, and softens the whole thing with lemon, apple syrup, and egg white.

    Recommended:
  • Beef Short Rib: Creamed Leeks, Macerated Shallots braised in House-made Kombucha, and Savory Poppy Granola
  • Spice Tree: Apple and Ras el Hanout Infused Akvavit, Applejack, Lemon, Honey Crisp Syrup, and Egg White

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    PERENNIAL FAVORITES

    Angel's Share

    8 Stuyvesant Street, 2nd Floor
    East Village
    New York, NY 10003
    (212) 777-5415

    Hours: Sun-Wed 6pm-1:30am; Thu 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat 6pm-2:30am

    The original speakeasy, a quiet zen-den of expertly crafted classic cocktails, and the inspiration for Sasha Petraske’s Milk & Honey, Angel’s Share sets the city standard for the value of a well-kept secret. Not that it’s a secret anymore—and with good reason. Venture into Village Yokocho, the East Village yakitori restaurant that hides this little gem, and head upstairs, where talents like Shin Ikeda put meticulous care into every drink from behind its hallowed bar (and beneath its heavenly overhanging azure mural). Just don’t bring more than your three closest cocktailian friends (space is limited, but comfortable), and tell them to leave their cell phones on silent. Or better yet, at home. You’ve got the miracle of conversation-friendly volume in a cocktail setting with Angel's Share-worthy friends. Who needs a cell phone?

    B Flat

    277 Church Street
    Tribeca
    New York, NY 10013
    (212) 219-2970
    www.bflat.info
    Hours: Mon-Wed 5pm-2am; Thurs-Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 5pm-1am

    This basement jazz lounge in low-key Tribeca is the place to experience the meticulous detail and accuracy of Japanese-style mixology at its finest. New York bar veteran Shin Ikeda (of Angel’s Share) and Takaaki Hashimoto serve classic cocktails by the book but delve into cocktails using ethereal infusions of vodka with shiso leaf and wasabi root.


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    Death & Company

    433 East 6th Street
    East Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 388-0882
    www.deathandcompany.com
    Hours: Sat-Wed 6pm-1am; Thurs-Fri 6pm-2am

    The unassuming exterior says nothing of what’s inside this dim, chandelier-laden, Prohibition-style speakeasy, outpost of some of New York City’s most talented mixologists. (Pro barkeeps Brian Miller, Alex Day, Jason Littrell, and Joaquín Simó have all launched serious careers from this industry mainstay.) The premise is fairly standard: a team of crack bartenders, each talented in their own right, execute a long cocktail list filled with reinterpretations of classics. But the outcome tends to transcend expectations, as exemplified by a drink from 2013 Rising Star Mixologist Jillian Vose. Like her Death & Company predecessors, Vose has her classic cocktail repertoire down—but it’s where she goes off book, sometimes wildly so, that she really shines.  Take the Morning Buzz, a combination that could’ve only come in a dream: Cognac, Ron Zacapa 23 year rum, orgeat, Amontillado Sherry, Honey Nut Cheerios-infused cream, and egg yolk—an unexpected symphony of creamy nuttiness balanced out by the complexity of its powerhouse ingredients.

    Recommended:
  • Morning Buzz: Cognac H, Ron Zacapa 23-year Rum, Acacia Honey Syrup, Orgeat, Lustau Amontillado Sherry, Honey Nut Cheerio-infused Cream, Egg Yolk, and Agostura Bitters
  • Sure Shot: Hayman's Old Tom Gin, Ancho Chili-infused Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Bols Genever, Galliano Ristretto, Demerara Syrup, and Orange Bitters

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    Employees Only

    510 Hudson St.
    West Village
    New York, NY 10014
    (212) 242-3021
    www.employeesonlynyc.com
    Hours: Daily 6pm-4am

    The name Employees Only might seem to emphasize an industry-centric ethos, but the fact is this West Village cocktail den is among New York’s most sought after civilian drinking experiences. The narrow, sleek space combines elements of Art Deco and a modern aesthetic, resulting in a relaxed speakeasy atmosphere complete with a fortune teller at the door.  Whimsical touches continue behind the bar, but they’re grafted onto a cocktail program that’s as serious as they come. If Mixologist Stephen Schneider’s sleek chef-style jacket doesn’t convince you, cocktails like his Doctor! Doctor! will, pairing the genteel herbaceous frenzy of Beefeater and Chartreuse with Lillet Blanc and quinine bitters. 

    Recommended:
  • Doctor! Doctor!: Beefeater 24 Gin, Chartreuse, Lillet Blanc, and Quinine Bitters
  • Ready Fire Aim: Illegal Mezcal Joven, Lime Juice, Honey-Pineapple Syrup, Bittermens Hellfire Habañero Shrub, and Crushed Red Peppercorns

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    Freemans

    8 Rivington Street
    Lower East Side
    New York, NY 10002
    (212) 420-0012
    www.freemansrestaurant.com
    Hours: Weekdays 11am-4pm, 6pm-11:30pm; Weekends 10am-4pm

    Striking an unlikely balance between hipster and colonial, the taxidermy-heavy Freemans is cozily tucked into the end of a small street off Bowery. Matching the rustic, Old World décor and hearty menu is a selection of house-made cocktails. Mixologist Maxwell Britten, now running Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, not only cut his teeth behind the Freemans bar, but his drinks earned him a spot among the 2009 New York Rising Stars.

    Little Branch

    22 7th Avenue South
    West Village
    New York, NY 10014
    (212) 929-4360
    www.littlebranch.net
    Hours: Daily 7pm-3am

    The mixologists of Little Branch (previously including 2008 Rising Star Sam Ross, also of Milk & Honey) make standing at the bar at this hidden but precious cocktail destination worth any and all leg cramping. Not only are the cocktails expertly mixed and the ingredients fresh every day, but the staff are generously instructive in the art and science of their craft.

    Macondo

    157 East Houston Street
    Lower East Side
    New York, NY 10002
    (212) 473-9900
    www.macondonyc.com
    Hours: Weekdays 5pm-3am; Weekends 11am-4pm

    If you’re in the mood for some Latin-style ambiance and cocktails made with South American liquors, Macondo is a sure bet. Chef Máximo Tejada prepares Latin Street food meant to share, drawing on the cuisines of Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, and Brazil. With Junior Merino’s guidance, bartender Amaury Robayo puts together unexpected cocktails with flavor combinations like corn, sage, pineapple, and aguardiente.


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    Mayahuel

    304 East 6th Street
    East Village
    New York, NY 10003
    (212) 253-5888
    www.mayahuel.com
    Hours: Daily 6pm-midnight

    Phil Ward opened this Mexican style speakeasy down the street from Death & Company, where he previously tended bar. The Latin-inspired bar food at Mayahuel is the perfect accompaniment to Ward’s potent, flavorful concoctions. And now, with the help of Mixologist Dan Nicolaescu, Mayahuel continues to prove why it deserves a visit. Nicolaescu balances sweet and heat in his El Sucio, a tequila based drink with fino Sherry and habañero tincture. And if heat in a cocktail isn’t your thing, Mayahuel has an extensive menu, offering more than 40 flights, stirs, punches, and more.

    Recommended:
  • After Dark

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    Hours:

    Yerba Buena

    23 Avenue A, #A
    Lower East Side, West Village
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 529-2919
    www.ybnyc.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-12am; Weekends 5pm-1am

    When we last visited, Audrey Saunders-mentored mixologist Artemio Vasquez was crafting some of the finest-made cocktails in the city that strike with their depth of flavor and simplicity using ingredients like pisco, guava and prickly pear matched to classic spirits. Paired with Chef Julian Medina’s bold flavors (try the arepas or the suckling pig) and you’ve got a sure bet for a luxe Latin night of dinner and drinks.


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