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Cocktail Bars in NYC

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#1 eli7

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 08:20 AM

Next month I will be visiting the US, specifically NYC. Among other things, I
would like to make a pilgrimage to bars that are well known for thier

I was thinking of places like the "Rainbow Room" that I have heard so much

If anyone could recommend such places, and include the avarage price of a
cocktail, if there is a minimum, and if there is a dress code (I am a poor
student, but I am passionate about mixology and I am willing to go out and buy
some cloths if needed...)

#2 cinnamonshops

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 09:07 AM

i recently went to the Angel's Share bar for the first time, and really enjoyed it. it's in the east village, on stuyvesant street, right near the st marks bookstore. you can look it up on citysearch.com and get a more precise address and map, if you want.

it's small place, and they seem to really know what they're doing in terms of cocktails. i had a great Jack Rose when i was there. drink prices are mostly in the $8-10 range, and there's no dress code or ordering minimum. (i'm a poor student myself, so i know how that is.)

i'm from new york myself, but the cocktail thing is a relatively recent interest for me, so i'm looking forward to seeing what other bars people recommend...

#3 cdh

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 09:32 AM

I'll second the suggestion of Angel's Share. Japanese precision applied to the fine art of mixology. Their menu is all classics, so don't go there looking for a particular house specialty cocktail. Go there for the best examples you'll find of the old classics.

Don't go with more than three friends, as they won't allow groups larger than four. No dress code.

There is a particular eGullet cocktail concocted for us by master mixologist Dale DeGroff... I believe the Beacon is the venue that serves it... but do a search for the "Flaming Orange Gully" thread for the correct details.

There are nice, but very pricey, drinks to be had at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis, but then again, they're classicists... and expensive... the number 18 comes to mind for the last Manhattan I drank there, but I don't recall if that was before or after tip. No formal dress code.

On the general topic of making pilgrimmages to bars well known for their cocktails, I wonder if anywhere that has gotten itself famous enough to be "well known" still bothers to make good drinks... or if the drinks that made them famous are any good. I went out of my way to stop in at the Raffles in Singapore for a Singapore Sling, despite the warnings of a Singaporean epicure friend of mine... and he was right... not a great drink.

Let us know more of what you had in mind? Are you looking for modern creative mixology, or masters of the classics?
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#4 Pan

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 03:50 PM

Eli, I'd recommend the Temple Bar, west side of Lafayette just north of Houston (look for the lizard-like emblem, as the name isn't on the door). No dress code. It's an elegant but casual bar. Definitely recommended for cocktails, but you might want to get only one per visit, as they cost around $12-13 apiece.

#5 cshea

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 09:47 AM

If you're really into cocktails, don't miss Bemelmans at the Carlyle. It's got old-NY charm (it's covered in murals done in the late '40s by, yes, you guessed it, a guy named Bemelman) but the real reason to go are the drinks - the head bartender, Audrey Saunders, is great. (She got her start at The Rainbow Room with Dale DeGroff - see CDH's comment.) She's brought back a number of old world classics and the drink menu is a bit like taking a walk through mixology history. (There are drinks from the late 1800s for god's sake!) She also uses great ingredients - juices are fresh squeezed and she makes her own ginger beer in-house. The Gin Gin Mule is my favorite.

If you go during the week, it's more casual - you could get away with jeans but likely not sneakers. The drinks are NOT cheap - in the high teens if I remember correctly - and there's a cover for the music, which starts at 5:30. But, if you have a passion for cocktails (as I do - can you tell?), you should make a pilgrimage if you can - lunch or late afternoon would be a good time to go.

I also second the King Cole - another classic venue with great cocktails. I agree with CDH that many places made famous for their cocktails quickly lose their motivation. I find the other old-NY bars to be overrated - the Oak Room at the Algonquin and the Oak Room at the Plaza are charming but the drinks are, well, in my opinion, generally not very good.

Let us know where you end up . . .

#6 Busboy

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 09:51 AM

And, just in case you lose sight of it with all the other great suggestions, The Rainbow Room is a fantastic place for dress-up cocktails, some credit a bartender there with starting the new cocktail trend and, unless they've changed it since I was there, the window behind the bar looks over all of lower Manhatten.
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#7 LJC

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:41 PM

Are you looking for classic / classy?
If so I would second (or third) Bemelmans at the Carlyle and the King Cole. Others: Astor Room at St. Regis and The Royalton

#8 albie

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 11:01 AM

Other places may be tonier, but if atmospherics rank below quality/orginality of libations on your priority list, then the Broadway Lounge in the Marriott Marquis gets my vote as the city's best bar, thanks to the ministrations of master mixologist Dale Degroff. If it isn't the only bar in NYC committed to the exclusive use of fresh ingredients, it has to one of he very few that do.

Not that it's a bad room, but hardly romantic, burnished with age, or intimate.

#9 slkinsey

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 09:26 AM

In a recent thread over in the spirits forum, a fellow City-dweller asked a very reasonable question:

Can someone name a bar in Manhattan where I can try a proper Aviation before I go off searching for maraschino liqueur?

It struck me that many people won't know the answer to this question. For many people with an interest, serious cocktail drinking is done at home. This is a practice adopted because... well... most cocktails in most bars mostly suck -- especially if one would like anything that deviates too widely from the beaten path of "Martini, Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, Margarita."

So... what are the top cocktail bars in the City? Where can one order an Aviation or, heaven forbid, a Twentieth Century and not be greeted by a blank stare? Where are the places where you don't have to ask for bitters in your Manhattan? Or better yet, where they will ask you what kind of bitters you want? Any places that still have a long, elegant bar and a bartender who dresses up? Old school? New school?

Let's hear your favorites.
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#10 Bond Girl

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 09:33 AM

Julie Reiner of Flat Iron Lounge, I heard is famous for being an innovative mixologist and I know that the Rainbow room seemed to have some clout but then again, I don't really drink, so my opinion may not really count.
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#11 Blondie

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 09:40 AM

Can someone name a bar in Manhattan where I can try a proper Aviation before I go off searching for maraschino liqueur?

And I'm sure the Bemelmans Bar will make you an excellent Aviation, if Audrey has anything to say about it, as will Milk & Honey;

Do you still need the super-secret phone number to get in?

they used to make them at Angel's Share, too, but I haven't been in in a while.

I'll be around there tomorrow so I'll give it try. Thanks for the recommendations.
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#12 ned

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 10:12 AM

The aviation at wd-50 is just a little better than the one at Milk and Honey. No difficult reservationism required. Just drop in. Then eat the terrine of foie gras with sardines.

You can get maraschino at sherry-lehman and for a little less you can get it at that crazy discount food warehouse importer thingy in New jersey.

In re mixologists. I like the nat king cole bar at the st. regis. Don't know either of the fellow's names and frankly it's been a year or so. . . still worth it.

If you can get the number, a friend always takes me there, Milk and Honey is killer. Any drink you can think of, they have a pretty good chance of blowing your mind. Their martini is defining.

Edited by ned, 11 May 2004 - 11:32 AM.

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#13 Splificator

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:12 PM

If you can get the number...Milk and Honey is killer. Any drink you can think of, they have a pretty good chance of blowing your mind. Their martini is defining.

Agreed. Sasha, the mad genius behind M&H, is in the process of opening the East Side Company Bar, elsewhere down there on the LES, which will NOT require any arcane knowledge from its would-be customers.
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#14 Amuse Bouche

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 03:16 PM

I vaguely remember an article in Wine & Spirits magazine (or some such title -- I read it at a friends' house) that discussed good bars in the City (Dale De Groff disciples, usually). It included the Flatiron Lounge, Bemelmans Bar & Milk & Honey.

I have been to Flatiron, and it's very good. Interesting mixes but also classic cocktails. Another recommendation I would throw in is the Temple Bar on Lafayette. They make Manhattans with rye -- the best Manhattan I've had in Manhattan, and the popcorn is excellent.

#15 CSASphinx

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 06:39 AM

Ah! Now that's what I like to hear, a Manhattan made the traditional way with rye bourbon instead of Kentucky bourbon or whiskey. Once you've had one like this it's hard to go back.

I believe Gramercy Tavern serves a Manhattan made with Sazerac 18-year-old Rye and house-marinated bing cherries....
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#16 Nathan

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 12:59 PM

The Milk & Honey concept is a bit pretentious but when you get so jaded over "in-spots" and tourists and B&T'ers over-running your favorite bars it starts to seem like not such a bad idea.

as for the bar itself though, it's great. when you see them using a manual juicer to make fresh orange juice you have some idea of their commitment to perfection.

the bar doesn't open until 9 and you can't call until then either (to the best of my knowledge)....you would call at say 11 and say, my name is ____ and I'll be there in half an hour with 2 people...

drinks are $12 a piece and well worth it (never thought I'd say that).

#17 slkinsey

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 01:11 PM

This is not to say, of course, that a little bit of pretention can't be kind of fun. After all, without it there would be no fine dining. :wink:

Do they make any effort to keep out tourists and "scene types" by prescreening over the phone -- or is that all accomplished simply by the existence of a quasi-secret phone number as a kind of filter? I gather that they use their "reservation system" mosatly to keep the place from getting overcrowded.

$12 doesn't sound like all that much for an expertly-made cocktail when one considers that Per Se is charging $17 and even a mediocre cocktail at Carmine's, et al. will run you $10.
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#18 Libationgoddess

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 09:06 PM

Honestly, it's not pretentious at all. I estimate Sasha's maximum occupancy
to be at around 36 people----with a place that small, you simply must manage your
space for maximum efficency. There's no discrimination whatsoever; it's first come,
first serve.
Like a fine-dining restaurant, he takes reservations so that he can deliver the highest
quality of service, consistently....and completely fair to all who enter.


#19 slkinsey

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Posted 17 May 2004 - 06:41 AM

Like a fine-dining restaurant, he takes reservations so that he can deliver the highest quality of service, consistently....and completely fair to all who enter.


I do agree that this is a nice idea, and was kidding (mostly :smile:) about the pretentious part. It not only allows him to make sure that he can give everyone the full experience, but has the nice side-effect of making people feel like they're in on an exclusive thing even though really anyone can come in.
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#20 albie

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Posted 17 May 2004 - 10:35 AM

Dale DeGroff's gotten the Broadway Bar at the Marriott Marquis hitting on all cylinders with his typically imaginative creations, all-fresh mixer policy and a hety roster of the classics.

#21 Pan

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Posted 22 February 2005 - 09:38 PM

The resurgence of cocktail culture means the martini and the Manhattan are again bar standards—but their dowdy yet delicious cousin, the Old-Fashioned, still resides in obscurity.

Follow along as New York Magazine reporter Kristal Hawkins trawls the Lower East Side in search of a genuine Old-Fashioned:

Old-Fashioned Drinking: In search of a lost cocktail on the LES.

And where do you go when in search of an old-fashioned (or, indeed, Old-Fashioned) cocktail? (I imagine Libation Goddess would have something to say about that. :biggrin:)

#22 baw

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Posted 23 February 2005 - 09:54 AM

Its really hard to find a decent old-fashioned (esp at the type of bars I frequent)! I rarely even try anymore .. unless Im somewhere particularly known for cocktails or somewhere that advertises an old fashioned on their cocktail list.

I randomly had a really good old-fashioned at the restaurant Inside in the West Village (the food .. not so good) .. I thinkthe simple syrup was infused with ginger. Eleven Madison Park also makes a great old-fashioned. I ordered an OF once at Angel's Share, and IIRC it was missing some important ingredient (mebbe cherry?) but looked very attractive with the single large ice cube it was served over.

#23 slkinsey

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Posted 23 February 2005 - 11:41 AM

I don't like the "fruit salad" variety of Old Fashioned. For me, it's superfine sugar, bitters and a lemon peel in the bottom of the glass; muddle together so the sugar "abrades" the citrus peel and extracts its oils; add ice and whiskey; stir; enjoy. Turns out that's super old-school, but that's the way I like them.

Too bad that the author decided to confine her search to the Lower East Side. It's an interesting concept, but the likes of Barramundi, Epstein’s Bar, Motor City, Sin-e and Whiskey Ward don't excite me too much. Milk and Honey, where I am quite sure a definitive Whiskey Old Fashioned can be had, is only a mere half block South of Delancey. Too bad she didn't visit there.
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#24 rich

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Posted 23 February 2005 - 12:54 PM

Try the Algonquin - you won't be disappointed. And just think about the literary discussions that took place there. You don't even need someone else to have an interesting conversation.
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#25 gnkindrick

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 10:16 AM

I was just at Bemelman's at the Carlyle (76th and Madison) yesterday and had a fabulous Old-Fashioned. Great bar. Great drink.

Edited by gnkindrick, 23 June 2005 - 10:22 AM.

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#26 Megan Blocker

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 11:27 AM

The Monkey Bar (54th between Park and Madison) makes a pretty good Manhattan, not to mention an excellent Martini.

I'm also a big fan of the Manhattans at Auction House (89th and 2nd). Lexington Bar and Books (Lex between 72nd and 73rd) also does it well. :wacko:
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#27 Nathan

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 11:43 AM

as already noted: the Bemelman's Bar.

it seems safe to say that you'd get a good one at Flatiron lounge and Milk & Honey.

the Pegu Club opens at the end of the month and I guarantee you'll get a good one there.

#28 jennahan

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 11:58 AM

What about the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station. They do old fashioned sorts of cocktails in an environment that recalls the days of the Robber Barons.

#29 johnder

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 12:05 PM

Isn't there supposed to be a hard-core old school cocktail bar opening on on East Houston soon? I remember seeing in in another post, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of it. I thought it would have opened by now, or in the very near future.

edit: The Pegu Club -- that was it!

Edited by johnder, 23 June 2005 - 12:07 PM.

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#30 HungryChris

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 12:23 PM

I had one at the Warwick Hotel that I thought was pretty good. There was no hint of the splash of soda that ruins everything, but fills the glass to which I object more than what was or wasn't muddled in the preparation. The slice of orange, well just an extra snack.