From first dates to drowning out a stressful work day, from celebrating on a Friday night to the recovery brunch on Sunday, New Yorkers are not known for their sobriety. With a seemingly endless supply of bars to fill this demand, there are inevitably many worthwhile cocktail bars missing from this list, but it’s a decent place to start!
For visitors who want to explore some of the city’s most atmospheric spaces while enjoying creative or impeccable classic cocktails, here are 7 of the best cocktail bars in Manhattan.
1. Pegu Club
Address: 77 W Houston Street – Soho
Pegu’s subtle entranceway doesn’t grab many people walking past on Houston St, but it’s notoriety means that it doesn’t need to. Ascend the stairs and you will find a sophisticated lounge that somehow always has the ideal number of people – enough to ensure an atmosphere, but space to sit with your group and have an actual conversation. Low, sage green couches surround candlelit wooden tables, adding an intimacy to the space.
The Pegu Club is also the name of a gin cocktail, so-called in honor of Burma’s Pegu Club (a British social club from the early 1900s, named after the Burmese river, Pegu). Because of this association, many of the cocktails in the NYC space feature gin, including their delicious house drink. Servers are always incredibly knowledgable and attentive, and every drink arrives beautifully decorated with either edible orchids, or more traditional garnishes.
2. The Bar Room – The Beekman Hotel
Address: 5 Beekman Street (on Theatre Alley) – Financial District
Located in the Beekman Hotel, the Bar Room is stunning. The most notable feature is a bright, nine-story atrium, but other elements make this space stand out as well. Emerald green chairs line the bar, and large wooden cabinets are filled with books and curiosities. Patrons sit around low, round tables to socialize, play cards, or sip on Negroni’s and Martini’s.
A literary theme brings it all together, with a large Edgar Allan Poe portrait decorating one wall, and house cocktails named after famous writers. If you can’t decide on a drink based on ingredients, pick by author: the F Scott Fitzgerald (Rye, Campari, Chartreuse, and Fennel) or the Mary Shelley (St. George Absinthe, Crème de Violette, Sugar, and Cava).
A great spot for a classic cocktail, their aperitif, digestif, and liqueur menu is as extensive as their wine and beer lists.
2. The Ship
Address: 158 Lafayette St – Soho
The rough exterior of the Soho bar The Ship lends a kind of natural camouflage to a meticulously designed bar. Guests walk down a long hall to a glowing, moonlike orb in the distance, only realizing up close that this is simply a pipe. Part industrial, part theatrical, The Ship embraces their naval theme without going overboard (pun intended).
Touches such as a trough-like sink that used to be on a ship and booths covered in fabric made from sails make the theme clear, but the focus remains firmly placed on the drinks. A creative list, we were also encouraged to order off the menu, and ended up with delicious custom cocktails that were both beautiful and very tasty.
4. Flatiron Room
Address: 37 W. 26th St – Flatiron District
Live jazz music sets the scene at the Flatiron Room, a vibrant and vintage bar known for their whiskey selection. For those who are truly passionate about whiskey, their private upstairs tasting room offers a range of classes.
Some of my favorite drinks include the Forever Young (gin, orange liqueur, cucumber juice, mango puree and lime juice), the Lovely Kyoto (Japanese whisky, plum tea, Calpico, and lychee juice), and the simple but delicious blackberry gimlet.
5. Oscar Wilde
Address: 45 W 27th St (b/t 6th and 5th ave) – Midtown/ Flatiron
Oscar Wilde is over-the-top in every way, but somehow doesn’t cross the line into gimmicky. Victorian from floor to high ceiling, Oscar Wilde also features NYC’s longest bar top, which stretches the length of the vast space.
Portraits of well-known authors, ornate lamps, and an assortment of antiques like rotary phones are purchased at auctions around the world and put on display here. You can view their selection on their website: https://www.oscarwildenyc.com/gallery
Paraphernalia aside, they also have a large selection of cocktails with punny (50 Shades of Dorian Gray) and literary names. The Bee’s Knees is delicious (gin, honey, and lemon) and ordering the Absinthe Drip was such an experience that the boys standing next to me at the bar started Snapchatting as soon as they lit the sugar on fire.
While it’s often crowded, the space is so large that there’s usually room to stand comfortably with your group. If you plan to eat as well, definitely make a reservation as the wait for tables can be hours long otherwise.
6. Bathtub Gin
Address: 132 9th Ave – Chelsea
This bar is more of a gamble – it’s not in a very nice area of the city, so only stop by if you’re there already and looking for a place to pass the time. Lovely when it’s less crowded, this speakeasy can fill up on a weekend night, and becomes uncomfortably tight and loud.
Bathtub Gin does check off every box in the speakeasy list – an unmarked entrance, secret door, and their 1920s decor all reflect a time when homemade gin was steeped in bathtubs with other flavors to make it more palatable.
The drinks are delicious. I really enjoyed the Corset (white wine, vermouth, ginger, lime, pineapple, cucumber, thyme flavored with cardamom – and of course, gin) and the Ivory Key (Gin, Dry Curaçao, Juniper Syrup, Orgeat, Fresh Ginger, Lemon, Cream, Lavender Bitters, Mint, Shaken & Served Over Crushed Ice)
7. Dear Irving
Address: 55 Irving Place, Union Square
Dear Irving is another speakeasy, and one that embraces decadence. Four distinct rooms represent four eras in French history – visitors walk through the 1960s JFK room, through the 1920s Gatsby room, past the Abraham Lincoln bar, and into the gilded Marie Antoinette parlor.
Created by the owners of the renowned Raines Law Room, Dear Irving was apparently inspired by the film “Midnight in Paris”,
Cocktails such as the Lady Charmaine (elderflower, peach, cream, Perrier, rose and pisco) match the romance of the setting, and buzzers at every table make it easy to call servers when you’re ready to order more.