“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy” – Frank Sinatra
Humans have been getting drunk, falling over, fighting, having sex, and mostly waking up to regret it for many millenia now. If you want to get drunk, Manhattan south of Central Park is one of the best places on the planet to do it – if not the best. It’s the home of the cocktail and probably leads the world in terms of the sheer number of brew pubs and cocktail lounges per square foot. If not in alcoholics.
Manhattan is also extremely compact and flat, which means it’s easy to waltz from one liver skirmish to the next. This by-no-means comprehensive list of establishments is confined to those serving the most delicious cocktails on the face of the earth.
Top ten + 1 cocktail bars
Sasha Petraske helped to spawn the current ‘Speakeasy’ cocktail renaissance in NYC with his flagship lounge Milk & Honey. Such bars often have little or no street signage. To get in here you need to be a member or make a phone reservation (the number changes semi-regularly). 134 Eldridge St, Lower East Side (Between Delancey & Broome). No walk-ins.
Please Don’t Tell. Photo: Vidiot
Please Don’t Tell relies somewhat on a gimmick for its notoriety, but it’s a fucking great gimmick. Not only is there no signage – the entrance is actually via a hot dog diner called Crif Dogs, through a telephone booth on the back wall. It’s a cool space, and makes drinks that deserve a Nobel prize in awesomeness. 113 Saint Marks Place (Between 1st Ave & Ave A). 212 614 0386
Another outpost in the Petraske empire is the jazz and blues infused Little Branch. 22 7th Ave (Between Carmine St & Leroy St). 212 929 4360
If you’re busy being fabulous in Chelsea, you’ll want to taste the sumptuous 20’s vibe of Raines Law Room. 48 West 17th St (Between 5th & Avenue of the Americas), then float up the two blocks to the Art Deco splendor of Flatiron Lounge, 37 West 19th St (Between 5th & Avenue of the Americas). 212 727 7741
My favorite cocktail bar that feels like a regular neighborhood bar: real down-to-earth with no pretentions, is Louis 649. Very cool jazz from traditional to avant garde (and often live), very friendly service, and a phenomenal drinks list. 649 East 9th St (Between Ave B & C). 212 673 1190
The Prohibition referencing Death & Co. accepts no reservations, and is first come first served. Strangely, it closes at 12am so best to get there early. Say 6pm when it opens. 433 East 6th St (Between 1st Ave & Avenue A). 212 388 0882
When you’re in Tribeca and live jazz is your ideal cocktail accompaniment the title of B Flat should be a dead giveaway. Performances every Monday & Wednesday from 10pm-1am. 277 Church St, Basement (Between Avenue of the Americas & Franklin St). 212 219 2970
The entrance to Angel’s Share – a reference to the alcohol that evaporates over time while being aged in barrels – is via a Japanese restaurant called Village Yokocho. It only accepts groups of 4 or fewer. Once you’re in if you get a seat by the large window you can survey all in the street below. 8 Stuyvesant St (Between 2nd & 3rd). 212 777 5415
If you want to go somewhere with a little more energy than your standard relaxing cocktail lounge, Employees Only in the East Village fairly crackles with it while still maintaining excellent drink standards. 510 Hudson St (Between 10th & Christopher St). 212 242 3021
And if like most humans that, after leaving the schooling system have sworn off tequila for good, Mayahuel and its 100 different agave tequilas and mezcals is the place you’ll realize that good tequila is as subtle and sophisticated as the finest pinot noir or single malt. 304 East 6th St (Between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave) 212 253 5888
Next up: A guide to the finest craft beer bars in New York City.