The 7 Finest Cocktail Bars in New York: The Matchmaker’s Choice

08 Jul

The cutting-edge culture of cocktail mixology in New York City is second to none and, rightfully, world-renowned.

Vida Explores Seven of the Best Cocktail Bars in New York

The cutting-edge culture of cocktail mixology in New York City is second to none and, rightfully, world-renowned.

As a matchmaker at an elite international matchmaking consultancy in NYC, I am regularly called upon to recommend to clients the best date spots in the city. If a meal feels a little too formal but a walk in the park too casual, what better happy medium than cocktails served up by some of the world’s best bartenders?

1) The Dead Rabbit | Financial District

dead rabbit cocktail bar nyc
Image Courtesy of The Dead Rabbit

This Irish pub expertly pulls together the best aspects of a cocktail lounge and a neighborhood watering hole into one truly superlative rough-and-tumble 19th-century tavern.

The Dead Rabbit has been named among the world’s best too many times to count and boasts an impressive cocktail and whiskey menu. Resurrecting long-forgotten quaffs isn’t exactly new in Gotham, but the sheer breadth of throwback libations in this bar eclipses any competition. The Dead Rabbit is a must for anyone seeking a truly authentic Irish bar in lower Manhattan.

The cocktail menu is indeed impressive, expertly crafted by the two helmsmen Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry and includes a mix of whiskey-based classics as well as some eclectic rum and gin infusions. I’d recommend trying one of their whiskey-based cocktails, being an Irish bar, it’d be rude not to!

Cocktail of Choice – On Off Switch – a stunning blend of Japanese whisky and Jamaican overproof rum mixed with orange liqueur, guava, yuzu, lime, ginger and habanero shrub.

2) Death and Co. | East Village

death and co nyc cocktail bar
Image Courtesy of Death and Co.

Lying behind a discreet wooden door on E 6th St lies perhaps the East Village’s worst-kept secret. This moody Gothic saloon is manned by barkeeps attired in suspenders and the chandeliers, black walls and cushy booths set a luxuriously somber mood.

Consistently cited as one of the world’s best bars, Death and Co. turn out drinks both inventive and classic. Have you really lived until you’ve sipped on a Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff of St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth, floral pisco, and Cocchi Americano?

Their cocktail menu covers the classics and introduces some stunning mixes. Cashmere thoughts was a personal favorite, a royal blend of Gourry de Chadeville Overproof Cognac with an Absinthe spark certainly ignites the taste buds. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, the exceptional bar staff can craft you anything.

However, Dead and Co. is a place for exploring new tastes and mixes, so don’t be shy, dive into any of their phenomenal concoctions.

Cocktail of Choice – Water Moccasin – a lighter option with a fruity, coconut infused kick, perfect for gin lovers.

3) The NoMad Bar | Chelsea

nomad cocktail bar nycNoMad Bar expertly combines fine food with exceptional cocktails, making it one of the best cocktail bars in midtown NYC.

Sure, The NoMad’s neighborhood has seen a much-welcome rise in upstanding restaurants, but locating a gastropub that doesn’t reek of post-grad brewskies is harder to come by. This elegant saloon inside the NoMad hotel comes from those behind the similarly stunning Eleven Madison Park and it teems with lofty pub grub, digs worthy of 007… oh, and $198 cocktails.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a cocktail bar, because the food menu is certainly not left wanting. The blowfish fritter with coriander and pickled chilis is a light and absolutely stunning main dish. Onto the cocktails, NoMad has a fine collection, from classics such as the Diplomat, Blinker and their smokey and nutty espresso martini to more daring infusions, such as the Sazerac and the Bijou.

This is a cocktail bar for the elite and has firmly placed itself as one of the best cocktail bars in NYC.

Cocktail of Choice – Coq-Tail – the perfect cocktail for date night. Serving two, it combines Absolut Elyx Vodka with a mix of apple, yuzu, and apricot with Chambery Blanc Vermouth.

4) Maison Premiere | Williamsburg

maison premiere cocktail bar nyc
Image Courtesy of Maison Premiere

The trademark horseshoe bar nonchalantly anchors a dreamily appointed stage set with multi-tier oyster towers, tableside martini service and a bronzed Napoleon statue perched atop the green-marble absinthe drip. Maison Premiere has not only been a veritable breeding ground for talent but has also become the platonic ideal of what a Brooklyn drinks joint should be.

Maison Premiere has gained infamy for serving Absinthe in its purest form but also boasts an impressive collection of classics and some favorable rogue additions. Everything about Maison Premiere is stylish, including the bar staff. Certainly one of the top cocktail bars in NYC.

Cocktail of Choice – Old King Martini – there’s something elegantly simple about the OKM, maybe its the Castelvetrano olives, or how its stirred tableside. Either way, this is certainly worthy of the royalty status.

5) The Aviary NYC | Upper West Side

the aviary nyc cocktail bar
Image Courtesy of The Aviary

This import from Chicago has obliterated bartenders’ tedious habits to create grandiose thrills, serving over-the-top, totally experiential craft cocktails in a sweeping 35th-story Olympus that looks like Don Draper art-directed The Jetsons. The impressive bar room does a lot of big things fantastically, a standout feature being the view; The Aviary is one of the finest New York cocktail bars with a view.

Onto the cocktails, The Aviary’s includes pyrotechnic displays that not only dazzle in presentation but allows customers to see their drink’s flavors birthed before their eyes. Their dining menu perfectly complements the cocktail experience. With a selection of smaller plates and inventive cocktails to choose from, Aviary firmly situates itself among the famous cocktail bars in New York.

The cocktail menu is excellent but where The Aviary truly excels is the presentation. Each cocktail feels as though it has been meticulously curated to provide a scintillating drinking experience. It’s tough to pick a favorite because each cocktail is immaculately presented.

Cocktail of Choice – Any!

6) Primo’s | Tribeca

primos cocktail bar nyc
Image Courtesy of Primo’s

At first glance, Primo’s is an oxymoron, an inexplicably sexy space modeled on… a 50s diner? On the one hand, there are glass-block partitions, chrome-edged tables and the sound of doo-wop. But swap the black-and-white checkerboard floor for soft-gray terrazzo triangles, a soda-fountain counter for a liquor-stocked bar and the squeaky plastic booths for jewel-tone velvet banquettes and you have the most downright sensual ‘diner’ we’ve ever seen.

Their cocktail menu features some of the classics you’d expect. All martinis are served as doubles and include the Dirty, Dirty Gibson and the classic Espresso Martini (infused with SKYY Vodka and Cold Brew).

You also have the Classics, including the Old Fashioned, Fancy Free and Sazerac and then more of the classics, such as the Negroni, Boulevardier, and Americanos. This 50s-inspired cocktail bar does well to separate itself from its contemporaries because there are none!

Definitely one of the cool cocktail bars in NYC, great for first dates and quirky romantic evenings.

Cocktail of Choice – Old Fashioned – a drink suited to the establishment, a blend of Wild Turkey Rhye demerara sugar and bitters.

7) Nitecap | Lower East Side

nitecap cocktail bar nyc
Image Courtesy of Nitecap

The entrance is difficult to locate and you’ll find yourself wrestling with an unwieldy velvet curtain the moment you step inside – but man is it worth the effort. Nitecap boasts a cavalcade of aforementioned cocktail killers at its helm: the honchos at Death and Co. own the joint and the bar has a drinks maven from Maison Premiere behind the stick. Together, the trio has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time.

All cocktails accompany a quirky name. The Skywalker (aperitif) features an Absentroux base, lined with Jamaican rum and fruity juices. Moving on to the spritz, the Cosmic Climb is an electric infusion of tequilas, honey jalapenos, and sparkling peach sake. Their menu is incredibly diverse and genuinely enjoyable to read (they even include join the line games and crosswords).

Nitecap also places a strong focus on limiting their impact on the environment by serving all drinks with metal straws.

Cocktail of Choice – Infinite Earths – a juicy blend of cognac, mango brandy, cacao cream, and togarashi – a smooth and earthy cocktail with a fruity kick.

Why Not Take a Date to One (or more) of these Fancy Cocktail Bars in NYC?

Whether you’re on a first date or you’re several dates in, these tried-and-tested great cocktail bars in NYC will raise the temperature of your date quicker than you can say Cocchi Americano.

New York boasts a plethora of exceptional cocktail bars for you to take a date to. Whether you prefer quirky, speak-easy cocktail bars or more traditional and classic drinking experiences, New York’s cocktail scene certainly doesn’t disappoint. Take a date to one of these fine cocktail bars, or why not go the extra mile and visit one of the famous cocktail bars in NYC?

Here at The Vida Consultancy, not only do we help people find love but also help them get the ball rolling with our unrivaled knowledge of the city’s finest date spots.

by Rachel Vida MacLynn

Founder & CEO

Rachel Vida MacLynn is reputed as being a world-leading matchmaking and dating expert. Registered as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, Rachel advocates a professional matchmaking approach based on psychological principles and professional consultation. Rachel also sits on the Board of Advisors for the Matchmaking Institute.More by this author

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