This weekend thousands of drinkers and bartenders will descend on New York for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Along with their schedule of seminars and party invites, many attendees will also have a bucket list of bars to visit. Not a surprise since the city is one of the most significant and influential bartending centers in the world.
Pioneering Big Apple establishments like Milk and Honey, the Flatiron Lounge, Employees Only and Pegu Club kick-started the cocktail revolution in America. Stalwarts like Death & Co. and PDT soon followed. But New York’s thirst for great drinks is seemingly bottomless, and a new generation of fine bars has recently opened. Here are a few you should check out in between tipples at the usual suspects.
One of the hardest reservations in New York City to get is for The Breslin in the hip Ace Hotel. The restaurant, which opened last fall, was created by Ken Friedman—the man behind The Spotted Pig, another of the city’s hotspots. He made the smart decision to hire drinks consultancy Contemporary Cocktails to run The Breslin’s bar. Look for a selection of tasty and creative cocktails made with fresh ingredients, and a fine list of craft beers.
What to Drink: London Calling (Absolut Vodka, Ribena Blackcurrant Syrup, lemon juice, prosecco)
Ravi DeRossi, co-owner of Death & Co. and Mayahuel, gives us another fine drinking den. Situated above a Cuban sandwich shop, Cienfuegos focuses on rum punch. The talented Charlotte Voisey designed the menu, which features both classic and original recipes.
What to Drink: Alabazam (Appleton Estate 12-Year-Old Rum, maraschino liqueur, Lillet Rouge, lemon juice, bitters, champagne)
Julie Reiner, owner of famed Manhattan bar the Flatiron Lounge, brought classic cocktails to hip Brooklyn neighborhood Cobble Hill in 2008. The Clover Club offers a great menu of drinks, big bowls of punch and tasty food.
What to Drink: Clover Club (Gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry syrup)
Daddy-O, 44 Bedford Street, Manhattan, 212 414 8884:
Daddy-O could easily be mistaken for a dive bar—albeit a very clean one. Don’t be fooled. While the bar is best known for serving burgers and tater tots, don’t underestimate the mixing skills of its talented bartenders.
What to Drink: Sloe Gin Fizz (Plymouth Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, club soda)
It’s fitting that the first major cocktail bar in Queens should be part of Sasha Petraske’s growing drinks empire. The saloon-like Dutch Kills, complete with sawdust covered floors, serves a well-edited list of classic cocktails.
What to Drink: The Queens Park Swizzle (Dark rum, simple syrup, mint, lime juice)
Empire Room, Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, 212 643 5400:
Up until recently, the Empire State Building didn’t have a great bar. The art deco Empire Room, which was opened by the team behind Grand Central’s iconic Campbell Apartment, is a perfect addition to the landmark. (Pictured above.) Jonathan Pogash, the New York chapter president of the Unites States Bartenders’ Guild, created the cocktail list that pays homage to both modern and classic drinks.
What to Drink: The Bramble (Berry tea-infused Plymouth gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, blackberries)
Aussie bartender Naren Young always seems to end up behind the stick at places with outstanding food—but this time he has outdone himself. Young runs the bar at Locanda Verde, one of New York’s finest new restaurants. His cocktail menu, which uses many Italian spirits, complements the food and venue perfectly. Don’t make a reservation. Eat at the bar instead as Young plies you with drinks.
What to Drink: Primavera (Beefeater Gin, limoncello, bianco vermouth, lemon juice, basil)
Phil Ward has one of the best bartending résumés in New York having worked at the Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club and Death & Co. His specialty is agave-based spirits, and last year he opened one of the world’s finest tequila and mezcal bars. Ward has applied all his experience and knowledge to create a fine cocktail list.
What to Drink: Whoopsy Daisy (Blanco tequila, joven mezcal, pomegranate molasses, lime)
This brand new tiki lounge was dreamed up by one of New York’s most-loved bartending duos, Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato. Before opening, the veteran bartenders visited the world’s best tiki establishments and have created a bar that delivers first-class cocktails without taking itself too seriously.
What to Drink: The Painkiller (Pusser’s Rum, orange, pineapple juice, coconut cream, nutmeg)
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.