Chances are you’ve come to the sensible conclusion that – after dozens of beer-soaked post-graduate pub crawls – it’s time to move on to a better bar scene. Granted, leaving the comfort of one’s quaffing zone is no easy feat … especially in NYC, where cheap dives are a dime a dozen, and the drinks cost a hundred times more. Still, there’s no reason why you can’t trade your old tippling turf for something less sloppy. After all, it’s no longer amateur night. So here’s a shortlist of some more fresh suggestions. By Kevin Byrne
12 E. 36th St. (btw 5th & Madison)
New York, N.Y.
What was once the popular Midtown East faux-Latin cantina known as Under the Volcano has been newly-resurrected in more upscale fashion as The Archive, a development that came with high praise from the denizens of Murray Hill. Featuring a cozy, dark-wooded décor with Christmas lights strung for ambiance, the bar is staffed with accommodating keeps, all of whom manufacture a safe but decent array of cocktails (one of their best being The Archive Margarita) made with an assortment of high-end spirits. The overall mood is upbeat, and made considerably more so by an excellent and eclectic array of music, all piped in from a seemingly endless iPod playlist. Great place to visit after work or to test drive a first date.
133 Avenue C
New York, N.Y.
This is great place for any burgeoning booze novice aiming to expand a beer-drenched palette. Tucked away in the heart of Alphabet City behind dark wooden blinds and warm amber lighting, The Summit doesn’t exactly draw a lot of attention to itself. But when it comes to mixology, it’s a church of the highest order and the bartenders have been hailed as modern-day miracle workers. Its chief alchemist, Greg Seider, is the man behind an array of memorable and surprisingly fair-priced ($12 max) concoctions (the “Ground to Glass” and “Say Hello to My Little Friend” among them), all of which hold up well against such classics as Tom Collins and The Vesper (the near-deadly drink of choice for Daniel Craig’s James Bond).
618 St. John’s Pl.
Once a low-rent garage in the heart of Crown Heights, this low-key, high-walled courtyard is the brainchild of Southpaw co-founder Matthew Roff, who turned it into a tree-lined, picnic-tabled haven that has since become a surrogate backyard beer garden for hundreds of Brooklynites, hipsters and hardhats alike. Its helpful staff is well schooled in the handling of hops, too: there’s no less than 12 microbrews to choose from, and an array of excellent liquors. A typical drink runs about $6, which (for the average New Yorker) is pretty fair. But a friendly warning to all you people prone to pushing plastic: this is a CASH ONLY establishment, so bring plenty of greenbacks if you’re looking to get goosed.
149 W. 46th St.
New York, N.Y.
See Also: The 4 Best Bars Near Times Square
Most native New Yorkers cynically eschew midtown Manhattan due to its notorious tourism glut. Perhaps that’s why, in the midst of those crowded and crazy street scenes, a genuinely unpretentious “just us folks” gem like Rosie’s shines through. Set in the heart of what was once known as Longacre Square (and around the corner from the New York Times), Rosie O’s is a brass-tacks, unpretentious, back-to-basics watering hole with a roster of friendly, thoughtful and attentive bartenders capable of pouring everything from a cosmo to a creamy pint of Guinness to a stiff scotch with equal skill. Always crowded with urban professionals and media types, Rosie’s also makes for a decent place to dine after a couple quaffs, with a grill that serves everything from delicious pub grub to top round sirloin to succulent seafood dishes. Happy hour drink specials are posted between 4 and 7 pm, Mon. thru Fri., with $5 martinis, $4 draft beers. (Also located at 800 7th Ave. 212-397-1828).
732 Amsterdam Ave. (at 96th St.)
New York, N.Y.
Old habits die very hard in this town, so it’s only natural anything with the word “dive” in the title would come across like a comfort. But Dive Bar is no ordinary “dive.” Originally incarnated as a speakeasy, its name is cleverly derived from actual water sports (as in scuba, not sex). Now operating at three separate NYC locations (75th St and 101st St. being the others), it’s also an extremely clean, incredibly popular and often-packed hangout that draws people of all ages and both sexes, from Columbia students to Upper West Siders to the downtown after-work crowd. And don’t let the aquatic décor fool you: they’ve got over 100 bottled beers, 20 on draft, and an impressive, multiple-blackboard listing of single malt scotches, bourbons and tequilas. Pool tables, darts, board games and aquariums round out the decor, and there’s also a full menu of excellent food (vegetarian included) should you need to soak up any of the suds you slurped. Just don’t try feeding the aquarium fish any French fries. It’ll get you bounced.