New York’s Top 5 Cocktail Bars
The Big Apple has more than appletinis to offer when it comes to cocktail bars. For years, Prohibition-themed speakeasy-lookalikes have cropped up all over New York and then luxury bars with swanky modern décor and brand name connections swaggered in. Others started out small but have built years of reputation, while yet others are known for the food that is paired so well with house creations. Nevertheless, as the years have rolled by, few cocktail bars have continued to be heaped praises by critics, locals and tourists alike like these five.
No mention of Please Don’t Tell (PDT) starts without some phone booth pop culture reference – after all, PDT is hidden behind one in East Village. Till now, PDT maintains its below-the-radar theme of exclusivity: you can only get in with a phone reservation. If you think the exclusivity means dining on fine cuisine while trying out cocktails, you’re mistaken. Bartender-mixologist Jim Meehan’s creations have been paired for years with the hot dogs of Crif Dogs, a burger joint that shares space with PDT. The classic wieners and deep-fried beef frankfurter that are served through slots in the door by Crif’s kitchen staff, are scarfed down with potent cocktails like the bacon-flavoured bourbon mixed with maple syrup, or the heady bourbon-absinthe union. PDT’s décor is cosy, from the low lights and ceilings to the animal skins adorning the walls and leather booths.
Booker and Dax
Momofuku chef David Chang and food science researcher Dave Arnold collaborated to launch this cocktail science lab. Walk in expecting gadgets galore, and a helpful staff to explain each and every piece of lab wizardry to you. Besides centrifuges and clarifiers, you can watch the bartender chill your glass with liquid nitrogen or heat up your cognac with a flaming poker. Why don’t your drinks need ice and how does the rotary evaporator infuse flavour in your liquid mad scientist creation? Booker and Dax maintains a seating only policy, so the place fills up quickly, as patrons watch as drinks are concocted while dining on delectable offerings by the adjoined Momoofuku Ssäm Michelin-approved restaurant.
Milk & Honey
Though it started in a nondescript lane in Chinatown with a reservations-only policy and a secret phone number in 2000, this bar has since then embraced its hot-ticket status, made the number public, and welcomed walk-ins. Nevertheless, Milk & Honey continues to take creativity to new levels by maintaining its no cocktail-menu rule. You tell the bartenders what you feel like having, what mood you’re in and what tastes you’re going for, and watch as they cook up something lip-smacking on the spot. Some house classics include the honey-bourbon Gold Rush or the ginger-and-Scotch Penicillin, created by legendary barman Sam Ross. Cocktails are called up using the freshest ingredients and top scotches like Famous Grouse and Islay-based dark whisky. Mil & Honey comfortably sits around 60, and the atmosphere makes it perfect for drinks with friends and allows for pleasant conversations. It 2014 they recently relocated to a bigger premises in the Flatiron district.
Al Capone would feel at home in the Depression-era themed Dead Rabbit, which is itself named after an Irish mob. Besides an extensive 70 cocktails in the menu, craft beer, whiskies and liqueurs abound at the taproom. It houses a grocery store too, Irish like the Belfast-born man behind the bar, Jack McGarry. McGarry has often been cited as the British import that has most revolutionised the taste buds of New York’s cocktail connoisseurs for his wide repertoire of creations. You can savour your punch in dainty teacups, or try the fruit-flavoured house Byrrh, which has hints of raspberry, orange, lemon, and rhubarb highlighted by Amaro CioCiaro.
Who better to give a thumb up that award-winning barman McGarry at Dead Rabbit, who has called Brooklyn’s Clover Club. Patrons are put at ease, as Clover Club is dressed simply like a modern cocktail bar when you can drink a beer or a whisky – out of nine categories of drinks available – and yet feel right at home. Mixologist and multiple cocktail bar owner Julie Reiner leads her team in creating cocktails that have understated excellence. There are no gadgetry or strange ingredients involved, but all taste superb and are cheaper than the competition. The culinary delights range from cheap pub classics like pulled pork and steak and toast to pricey American caviar and an extensive cheese plate.