Anyone who knows anything about New York is aware of its thriving bar scene, especially in the realm of cocktails. There are myriad fine establishments throughout New York that can make a truly great cocktail, presenting visitors to the city with a real bevy of choice. But if you’re planning a trip to New York sometime soon, you might like to know just which bars you should be stopping by at for some of the best cocktails you’ll ever experience. With that in mind, we hope that you will find the below guide a useful travel tool.
Leyenda is a pan-Latin cocktail bar in Brooklyn that brings the spirit of Latin America to New York and fuses these traditions with classic cocktails for an experience you won’t want to miss. We spoke to Jessie, the general manager of Leyenda, who revealed just why it is so many flock to their establishment, highlighting the bar’s friendly environment:
“Really, I think it’s the atmosphere. The vibe here is very dynamic, and can go from cosy and warm, to festive and vibrant on the weekends or late nights. It’s a great escape from the winter blues. Our staff is also very welcoming, and very serious about making sure our guests have a good time, whether it’s quiet conversation or lively celebrations.”
Of course, the cocktails at Leyenda are something to stand up and take notice of, and Jessie has helped describe the menu, along with highlighting some of their most popular drinks:
“Our cocktail menu focuses primarily on pan-Latin spirits, with a heavy selection of Mezcals, and Tequila. The cocktails go from simple classics, to very modern expressions for an upscale palate, with no pretension. Our bestselling cocktail is and will always be the Margarita, and we love that. Some of our other top contenders are the Tia Mia, which is a play on a classic tiki drink, and the Sonombula, a spicy cocktail served up with lemon, chamomile syrup and jalapeno.”
Lantern’s Keep, at the Iroquois Hotel, is truly one of the most attractive propositions for a drink while in the city, even more so after spending all day seeing numerous exciting attractions in New York. With a passionate devotion to the art of cocktails, Lantern’s Keep is one of New York’s best kept secrets that flourishes in serving up wonderfully creative drinks in an intimate setting. To provide those planning a visit a better sense of what to expect, we asked Lantern’s Keep what makes them such a must-visit spot at which to enjoy a cocktail or two:
“Lantern’s Keep is a prohibition-style cocktail bar in Midtown, a posh speakeasy tucked inside The Iroquois New York, that's a true hidden gem in Manhattan and offers an unforgettable experience that’s paired with a unique atmosphere. Guests enter through the glass doors, only when the lantern is lit, to an intimate 25-seat room with the feel of a French arts or poets’ salon — including pale blue velvet chairs, marble tables, dark wooden walls, and pastel-coloured period paintings of impressionist ballerinas. Lantern’s Keep is truly a destination cocktail salon devoted to the art and enjoyment of great cocktails and decadent bites for an all-around transporting experience.”
Regarding the marvellous cocktail menu itself, Lantern’s Keep told us: “The cocktail menu is devoted to preserving the creativity of bartenders during the early 20th century when the temperance movement took hold across the United States. By studying drinks that have survived the test of time, such as The Manhattan, Lantern’s Keep mixologists have incorporated unbeatable techniques into their standout cocktail menu from start to finish.”
And for those that are already sold on the prospect of an evening at Lantern’s Keep, the establishment recommends the following drink order: “The Keeper’s Choice — Request a spirit, style, or flavour. Let the experts do the rest!”
Pouring Ribbons on Avenue B is a craft cocktail bar brought to you by a team of critically acclaimed bartenders who love nothing more than crafting meticulous cocktails based around inventive themes. Joaquín Simó, an award-winning bartender and instrumental player at Pouring Ribbons, spoke to us about their eclectic menu, themes, and the history of their wonderful New York bar:
“Pouring Ribbons is all about deliciousness and conviviality. Our cocktails are complex and memorable, but the menu layout is incredibly approachable. After three years of seasonally-driven menus, we have switched our yearly inspiration to one theme split into a fall/winter menu and another for spring/summer.
“Our first year's theme was Roads & Travel, with the cold-weather menu featuring cocktails inspired by the iconic American highway Route 66. The warm-weather bookend to that was inspired by The Silk Road, which allowed us to mine thousands of years of the different cultures and ingredients that connected the Mediterranean with the Far East.
“Our second year theme was Creators, which we kicked off with our Moody Authors menu. We looked to the influence of the Gothic writers from Penny Dreadful serials to pulp fiction detective novels to dystopian sci-fi and sad Britpop bands to base our drinks upon. The spring and summer saw us move on to Revolutionary Artists, a 22-cocktail menu featuring drinks inspired by artists from Andy Warhol to Zaha Hadid.
“We are currently in the first half of our yearly menu theme of A Time & A Place, where we have looked to the relatively recent past in our own East Village for inspiration for our 16-drink selection based on NYC in 1983. As a period of nearly unrivalled creativity in downtown New York, we found ourselves digging deep into the history of drag culture, hip hop moving into Manhattan from the outer boroughs, and pioneering nightclubs like CGBG, Danceteria and the Mudd Club.”
The Dead Rabbit
Located in New York’s Financial District, The Dead Rabbit is an award-winning bar, noted for its truly magnificent cocktails. The team at The Dead Rabbit are real pros and this is a truly accessible spot to nip into for a cocktail of your choice in the evening.
The Dead Rabbit has a great range of seasonal cocktails waiting for your enjoyment. Just take a look at their drinks menu for a taste of what could be in store – it’s truly an impressive sight. While The Dead Rabbit also serves up top food, we believe it’s the cocktails that will draw you back for repeat visits during your time in the city.
Opened to the public by Kenta Goto in 2015, Bar Goto has quickly become one of the hottest locations in New York for a line-up of truly impressive cocktails. Situated on the Lower East Side, Bar Goto highlights Japanese flavours to create a menu appealing to all tastes and desires.
This intimate establishment specialises in craft cocktails to pair with comfort Japanese bar food and it doesn’t disappoint. Fancy a plate of miso wings and a Sakura martini while in NYC? Then head to Bar Goto on 245 Eldridge St. It’s a unique cocktail experience you won’t want to miss out on.
Found at 151 Rivington, seating guests on a first come, first served basis (groups of 8-13 can reserve a table), Nitecap is a vibrant yet intimate bar which breaks down its exquisite drinks menu into a number of helpful sections.
In ‘Go-to Goodness’, drinks that are meant for eager consumption to quench your thirst, there are delights such as the ‘Mind Bender’ (Vida Mezcal, Campari, peach, strawberry, and more) and there’s also the ‘Nitecaps’ portion of the menu, for those who want to go all out and treat themselves to a comforting delight before the night is over. The cocktails at Nitecap demand attention and are certainly worth the time and effort that goes into concocting them.
The Up & Up
For those in search of sophisticated environs in which to indulge in a top-tier cocktail or two during their time in New York, The Up & Up in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village will prove to be a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. This cosy underground space balances its high-end cocktail making with a comfortable and friendly atmosphere.
The Up & Up told us: “For us, the Up & Up is special, because it’s surprisingly comfortable for a fancy cocktail bar. We wanted to make a place that was top quality, but felt like home. Our motto is high-End, Low-key. We’re hidden away on one of the biggest party streets in town, and entering feels like finding an oasis of calm, smiling faces.”
Regarding their cocktails, The Up & Up talked about their style with us: “Our drinks are as good as they come, and easy to understand. We’re playful here, and while we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all, we take what we do, and the guest experience, very seriously. We use high quality spirits produced by people we know and trust. Our menu skews mostly toward spirit-forward drinks that are on the dryer end of the spectrum.”
With cocktails that come in all shapes, colours, and sizes to enjoy, including a selection of ‘bottled cocktails’ which are served in a flask, The Up & Up will prove to be one of your favourite cocktail dens in the city for a social and relaxing drink.
Cocktails in New York
There are many magnificent bars at which to enjoy a superb cocktail or two in New York, but we believe the above are some of the true highlights available and we hope that you’ll try and visit a few during your next trip to the city. There is so much choice and the above are some wonderful examples of what this great cocktail city has to offer.