From Dive Bars to Speakeasies: Where to Imbibe in NYC

New York City is rife with juxtapositions: high-end high rises flanked by graffiti-laced subways. Impeccably dressed women in couture outfits heading to their neighborhood co-op with a reusable grocery bag. Locally-sourced foods prepared by a world-class chef served in a diner-style setting. New York City mixes high-class, expensive, and unique touches with rough, gritty elements for a perfectly imperfect mix that’s all its own. If you’re visiting the city, your choices for where to grab a drink can seem so limitless that it’s almost hard to narrow down a few good options. We’ll break down your options into a few different categories to fit your mood, your style, and where you want your night to take you. In New York, the possibilities are endless!

Classy Cocktails

Eleven Madison Park, located in the city’s Flatiron district, is often noted for its yearly inclusion on the world’s best restaurant lists, However, don’t sleep on their cocktail or wine menu either, located at the restaurant’s separate bar. The same care that is put into the restaurant’s menu is also reflected on the cocktail and wine lists. The seasonal cocktail list focuses on flavors as its central theme and then creates drinks that highlight that overall note. The fall 2017 cocktail menu included flavor notes such as chocolate, mushroom, apple, and cranberry. The extensive wine list was curated to include rare and expensive choices, but also has lots of options under $100. If you’re feeling peckish, you can even order a few nibbles at the bar that will perfectly compliment your beverage of choice. Starting your evening at the Eleven Madison Park bar is a peek into New York City’s elite dining and beverage scene.

Dark, cozy, and reeking of New York glamour, Bemelmans Bar is on the posh upper East side of the city. This intimate, Art Deco-styled space has massive murals adorning the walls and a 24 karat gold leaf-covered ceiling. If you’re looking for high-end drinks in a high-end setting, this is your place. Go a bit later to catch their jazz trio while sipping on a Bemelmans Bar original cocktail, the Midnight Express. This is the type of setting that could exist nowhere but in New York.

The city is known for its epic, sprawling skyline, so why not find a bar that gives you a nighttime vantage of twinkling lights? The Top of the Standard located, well, at the top of the Standard Hotel boasts swanky decor with panoramic views of the city. This is a place to see and be seen, so putting on your fanciest outfit will not be out of place. Don’t skip the rooftop portion in the summertime to get up close and personal with the Big Apple.

Secret Speakeasies

Nothing is cooler than sipping a drink in a secret location. This is part of what created the allure of original 1920’s Prohibition-era speakeasies. Today, you’ll find bars like Please Don’t Tell (PDT) that are so secret, that you’d never know you were right outside the bar. Walk into the neighboring hot dog joint, head to the phone booth and dial “1.” Just like a secret agent, you’ll have unlocked access to PDT’s surreptitious lounge. The house rules are posted and include speaking at a reasonable level, refraining from vulgar language, and no PDA at PDT. This is an old school-style gentlemen’s club vibe that accepts anyone brave enough to enter the phone booth.

If you want to see how NYC’s mixologists are reinventing old cocktail classics, attaboy! No really, check out Attaboy at 134 Eldridge Street on the lower East side. It exudes a dark and intimate setting and doesn’t have a regular menu. Tell the bartender your drink, or favorite spirit, and be prepared to have one of the most delicious drinks you’ve ever sipped.

If you really want to throw your friends for a loop, walk into Brooklyn’s Sunshine Laundromat and tell them this is where you wanted to go for the night. Looking around at the washers and dryers, your friends will think you’ve lost your marbles. But when you open a double-dryer door, you’re led into an arcade room and bar that serves beer and wine. Sure, you could bring a load of whites too, but this hidden gem will be one you’ll talk about for ages.

Dive Bars

Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, and something good on the stereo is the perfect way to describe Sophie’s on East 5th Street. Cheap mugs of cold beer, a pool table, and hunting games are a place for you to drown out the cacophony of the city’s pretentious cocktail trend. Shot and a beer? Sounds perfect.

The East Village’s Blue and Gold Bar hits all the right notes of a dive bar– dark, neon-lit, classic games and jukebox– while not feeling as intimidating as its “locals only” counterparts. While everyone here might not know your name, you’ll be able to grab some suds in peace without the bartender side-eyeing your every move.

No matter where you want the night to take you, New York City can carry you in style, in secret, or on its broad shoulders. Explore all that the city has to offer by visiting bars that you could only find in the city that never sleeps.

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