It’s easy to find a good bar in New York, but it’s hard to find a great bar. The best bars in the city — and the world, for that matter — have a balance of mouthwatering drinks, personable and endlessly knowledgable bartenders, and a comfortable atmosphere.
In the search for the best bars to go to in New York, we spoke with six of the top bartenders in the city about the places they like to go. The list is organized by beer bars (bars that primarily serve beer or have a beer focus), cocktail bars (bars that are mostly known for their cocktails, but may also have tapas or small plates), restaurant bars (restaurants that double as cocktail bars with an impressive cocktail program), and rooftop bars.
Below the map you’ll find the people who suggested the spot.
Death & Co.: One of the first serious cocktail bars in the city is still going strong. You’ll find an inspired cocktail menu with something for everyone, no matter your tastes. Try the Naked and Famous, a Mezcal and Aperol cocktail.
Pouring Ribbons: The cocktail menu has drinks ranked from refreshing to spiritous and from comforting to adventurous. Whiskey lovers should try the Andy Warhol, and Gin and Tonic fans will love the Salvador Dali.
Dear Irving: Take a trip back in time at Dear Irving. Sit at the glitzy bar, order an original cocktail or a classic, and ring the little bell for service when you need it.
d.b.a.: A nice selection of beer on tap and in bottle with a comfortable vibe. If you’re looking for something harder, d.b.a. also has an impressive bourbon list.
McSorley’s: There are two beers at McSorley’s: light or dark. It’s all that you need in this historical day drinking spot. Make some time and order a little cheese plate. The beers are two for $5.
The Richardson: An American cocktail bar with a list of well-made classic cocktails and speciality cocktails. Punch lovers need to make a trip for the rotating draft punch.
Basik: Grab a few bar snacks like mac and cheese or a hot dog with your craft cocktail and sit out in the sun in the backyard.
The Shanty: If you’re at The Shanty, you should be drinking a cocktail made from the spirits produced right next door. Start with a 700 Songs Gimlet, then move on to a Manhattan with Ragtime Rye.
Long Island Bar: A restaurant that’s also a stellar cocktail bar in a simple, refined setting. Try the bar’s twist on the Negroni with Prosecco with your meal.
Fort Defiance: Another restaurant cocktail bar in Brooklyn. Snag a Breakfast Martini for brunch, or if you’re there for dinner, a Sazerac made the right way with absinthe.
The Up & Up: A downstairs cocktail lounge that’s a haven among the cheap beer bustle of Greenwich Village. You can get just about anything you want here cocktail wise, but start with the French Air Conditioning, a Cognac and cinnamon drink served in a highball.
Analogue: A sleek and intimate cocktail lounge with a long but manageable cocktail list. Try the Gin and Juice for an upscale twist on a classic, or one of the bar’s rum drinks made with Havana Club.
Employees Only: A restaurant and cocktail bar with drinks separated into “Employee Only Classics” and “Fancy Cocktails.” You can’t go wrong with just about anything on the menu, but try the mezcal-fueled Ready Fire Aim or the cachaca and jalapeño Lazy Lover.
Slowly Shirley: A downstairs bar that is first come first serve, but can get a little crowded. When you get in, it’s a place where you can feel just as comfortable asking the bartender for something original as you can ordering off the extensive menu. Start with the Village Bicycle made with ginger, lychee, and lime.
International Bar: A small dive beer bar with no pretensions. Don’t get something fancy. Just get a beer.
The Roof at Park South: Some rooftop bars in New York sell themselves on the view alone. That’s not true for The Roof at Park South. Get an impeccably made Margarita or a Martini and enjoy the views.
Seamstress: A bar program led by the endlessly knowledgable United States Bartenders Guild president Pamela Witznitzer. Get the Wiz Fizz, a gin an Cynar drink that’s the most refreshing thing you’re taste this year.
Subject: The boilermaker, or beer and a shot, is a New York special. Get one at Subject then relax with a couple games of pinball.
Suffolk Arms: A bar with an intentionally overwhelming cocktail menu of more than 100 classic, new classic, and original drinks. You’re going to want to ask the bartender for some help on this one.
Bar Goto: Japanese bar food and refined Japanese highballs and Japanese-inspired cocktails.
Attaboy: An upscale cocktail bar that’s as accessible as any dive. The cocktails are flawless, the presentation gorgeous.
Pegu Club: A place for the true cocktail lover. Classics get a new feel in the upscale Pegu Club. try the Old Cuban, a Champagne Mojito, and the Gin Gin Mule, which is made with homemade ginger beer.
The Wayland: A relaxed barrom with easy cocktails that are anything but simple. First thing you should try: the Garden Variety Margarita made with ginger and kale juice. Just give it a shot.
Botanic Lab: An underground cocktail bar below Casa Mezcal. Expect a drink both floral and fresh, as the cocktail menu relies just as much on homemade botanicals as it does fine spirits.
Casa Mezcal: A three-level shrine to all that is mezcal. Whether you like your mezcal neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail — or you have no idea what mezcal is — then you need to go here.
Back Room: A speakeasy cocktail bar that stays true to the speakeasy name. You have to travel through an alley to get there, and when you do, your cocktails come in teacups and your beer in paper backs.
La Contenta: A true Mexican restaurant with a healthy list of tequila and mezcal cocktails. Try the Jalisco Express made with tequila and cucumber, then work your way through the rest of the cocktails. If agave spirits aren’t your style, there’s plenty of whiskey.
Frying Pan: A bustling summer hotspot that’s a barge right on the water. Get light refreshing beer by the pitcher or Bloody Mary’s in a plastic cup. You’ll be glad you did.
Rock & Reilly’s: An upscale Irish pub in the Garment District with a good beer list and a fine cocktail list. Try the Rock & Rye Smash made with New York Distilling Company’s rye whiskey, ginger, mint, and yuzu.
Refinery Rooftop: A rooftop bar on the Refinery Hotel with classic and original cocktails. Don’t miss the fresh watermelon based Baby Doll in the summer, or the Big Jake — a rum cocktail aged in the bar’s own barrel — any time of the year.
Lovage Rooftop: Somewhat new to the New York rooftop bar scene, Lovage is a place you want to get to early. The tiki tropical specialty cocktails will have you just as in awe as the views.
Monarch Rooftop: First things first when you get to Monarch, check out the cocktail menu. It’s ever changing, so you could consider a classic. If it’s summertime though, then get a Roman Holiday made with gin, Aperol, and Prosecco.
Mother of Pearl: Tiki in all the best ways. Whether it’s 90 degrees out or snowing, head to Mother of Pearl for tiki drinks in tiki glasses created by on theme bartenders. Play it safe and choose something with rum or tequila, or venture out and try a Scotch tiki drink like the Tiki Peat.
BlackTail: Recently named the best new cocktail bar in the United States, Blacktail is a Cuban-themed bar brought to you by the team at Dead Rabbit. You’ll feel like you’re stepping into Cuba’s past as you sip on your classic cocktail. A personal favorite is the rum-based Mary Pickford.
Maison Premiere: A cocktail bar and restaurant that specializes in absinthe. It’s hard to beat absinthe done right, and Maison Premiere serves it the traditional way through an absinthe drip.
Fresh Kills: Ice is one of the most underrated ingredients in a cocktail. Fresh Kills doesn’t treat it as such. The drinks are made like a choose your own adventure novel. Pick one style, then decide what you want in it. It’s personalization in the best way possible.
The Growler: Cocktails on draft that taste like they’re being freshly made right in front of you. Get a true Dark and Stormy made with Gosling’s rum or an Underdog Punch made with Irish Whiskey.
Ulysses: Food, drinks, and everything you’ve ever wanted. Sip a perfect Negroni at Ulysses with your meal and you’ll realize you’ve never been happier.
Dead Rabbit: Dead Rabbit’s cocktail menu can be intimidating. The drinks run from light to heavy, with most people choosing something in between. One of bar manager Jillian Vose’s favorites is the Holy Smoke, a Scotch tiki drink.
Image credit: Death & Co. and Slowly Shirley