When suggesting top spots for delicious drinks, lists that dare to brand any particular bar as “the best” is always going to come into question, if not spawn serious debate. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t go on a quest to find quality places for both cocktails and conversation, especially since NYC does offer quite a few exceptions that are … well, exceptional. That in mind, we hereby distribute this shortlist to those of both discerning palette and a sense of discretion, in the hopes it will broaden Manhattan-based minds (and others) to move, occasionally, beyond their old familiar haunts.
-By Kevin Byrne
The Flatiron Lounge
If you like refined, art deco anterooms that serve as an ode to the days of sparklers, rakes and “ring-a-ding-ding,” where Prohibition-era infusions are crafted by what’s known as a “stylist,” then boy, Charlie, is this the place to wet your beak. Built in 1927, the bar was once known as The Ballroom, a high-end haunt frequented by Frank Sinatra and other top stars of the time. These days, the Flatiron still jumps with pricey concoctions crafted by top tippling-talent Julie Reiner, NYC’s reigning booze queen. If you do decide to sidle up, try the Juniper Breeze, the El Diablo or (for purists seeking a fresh spin on an old classic) a Flatiron Martini, the stem glass for which is bathed in Cointreau. Patrons who are typically put off by hustle and bustle (Saturday nights are ALWAYS crowded), remember: Patience is a virtue in New York City, despite all streetwise evidence to the contrary. So don’t snippily demand or expect service of your drinkslingers. Just wait for the inevitable eye contact, smile, politely ask, and ye shall receive. Open 5pm-2am, Mon-Fri, till 4 am on Fri & Sat. No cover.
There’s a reason why this dimly-lit Noho den has the word “temple” in its name, and chances are when you step inside, you’ll all but smell the live oak emanating from its broad bar sill. Quiet, replete and perfectly elegant, the Temple tends to draw a low-key, literate crowd looking for some plush nook to sink, sip and talk in hushed tones. Ladies who like it fizzy won’t go wrong with the Sparkling Raspberry Martini or an Adriatico (Svedka vodka, Prosecco, Cointreau and pineapple juice), while gents with a penchant for something smokier (and pricier) would do well to try either a pint of the Chimay Grand Reserve (a delicious Belgian) or peruse their impressive list of fine scotches. Open 5pm-1am Mon-Thu, till 2am on Sat. No cover.
156 W. 56th St.
New York, NY 10019
You certainly don’t have to be an heir to the Carnegie fortune to get served at this sexy, smoky sprawl. Still, given its name and old world atmosphere, just being there will make the average Gordon Gekko wannabe feel like a million bucks. Conceived by the folks behind The Campbell Apartment, the Carnegie is classy and clubby, only without the Ivy League pedigree and all that frantic Grand Central foot traffic. That makes it a perfect place for movers and shakers to unwind after a day at the office, or couples looking to kick back after an evening on the town. There’s live jazz from 9pm-12am on Fridays and Saturdays, and Sinatra is often celebrated. Bonus points go to its adept bartenders, and the cocktail service, which is refreshingly swift and friendly. Just don’t go inside looking like a longshoreman. Jacket and tie is always best, gents. As for you ladies … have we told you lately how much we love you in heels? But a word of warning to the anti-smoking sect: the place serves cigars ($10 minimum for those who want to light up), and exudes the aroma of such. So, don’t grouse about the smell.
2 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10010
Given that this haute hot spot is home-based at the Gramercy, you’re probably wondering why it didn’t make the cut for Best Hotel Bar. The answer can be summed up in one word: reservations. To wit, this is not a place for everyday folk or hipster wannabes to just drop in off the street. On the contrary, Rose is sleek, sexy and urbane; an expensive estab ($20 per drink) that exudes an air of privilege, but playing too exclusive. So if you do go, dress fashionably, and get in the doors before 9 pm, after which time they’re bolted. But once inside, be quiet, confident and soak in the surroundings. Art and design buffs will dig the gold leaf décor (memorable prints by both Warhol and artist Julian Schnabel, who co-owns the place, adorn the walls) while sampling either their finely aged scotches or unusual mixers (the Pineapple and Ginger Margarita is excellent). Online rumors of snob attitudes and arrogance by its staff have yet to be substantiated by this scribe. Let’s hope it stays that way. Again, reservations ARE required.
The World Bar
The only hitch behind this awe-inspiring adult hot spot is not that it neighbors the United Nations – though diplomacy does reign supreme – but the $20 cover. Still, one Jackson is totally worth a jaunt to Donald Trump’s luxury lounge, if only to glimpse its massive backlit marble bar and brassy fixtures. And if you’re fiscally endowed enough to go really decadent on the drink front, feel free to lay down one half C for the house special: The World Cocktail ($50), which is literally laced with liquid gold. However, those with chippy shoulders, BEWARE: this is NOT the place to cop a “Do you know who I am?” attitude, especially if you’re the sort who expects chop-chop service simply because you sling scads of cash.