New York City’s East Village is a dream for cocktail lovers. Sandwiched between Stuyvesant Town and the Lower East Side, it’s rife with bars slinging drinks of all colors, sizes and ABVs, from tiki cocktails to agave spirits to whisky galore. And there’s no better way to get to know the area than by devoting a day to exploring its boozy offerings. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, escape into New York’s impressive cocktail scene by following this route (traveling from west to east), during which you’ll drink like royalty. If going the full nine stops proves to be too much, feel free to skip a bar here or there. And don’t forget to eat whenever you get a chance (and drink water)—you’ll need your strength for the next round.
Start: Coup, 64 Cooper Square (optional)
New York bars weren’t shy about their politics before the election and this pop-up bar from star bar personalities Sother Teague (Amor y Amargo) and Ravi DeRossi (Amor y Amargo, Cienfuegos, Death & Co., Mayahuel and Mother of Pearl) shows that the fiery spirit of revolution is still alive and well behind the stick. Decorated with artists’ recreations of protest signs, Coup donates all of its proceeds to various nonprofits, like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Start your crawl off with a classic cocktail for a good cause before moving on to the next stop or, if you would rather not ponder the state of the union while you drink, skip right ahead to the next stop.
Stop 2: Angel’s Share, 8 Stuyvesant Street
It’s always a good idea to start a cocktail crawl with a hearty cushion of food. Once you locate the no-standing-room bar tucked away inside Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, go ahead and stuff yourself with an array of Japanese seafood dishes, like sashimi and fried oysters, while sipping an expertly made Japanese whisky Highball or Eastern Gibson (Japanese rice vodka, junmai daiginjo rakkyo, cucumber). It’s the perfect primer for every cocktail bar that follows.
This divey cocktail bar is a fixture on St. Marks Place. It’s been around for decades and was a favorite of Frank Sinatra and The Ramones. The bar closed for a couple of years for renovations, but its signature horse-shoe shaped bar and unpretentious cocktail menu are as good—and swanky—as ever. It may not be as fancy as the area’s “speakeasies,” but it has plenty of the same classic cocktails and will no doubt prove to be way more fun—especially with a fanciful Holiday Long Island Iced Tea (English breakfast-infused vodka, gin, tequila, rum, oleo saccharum, nostalgia) or a Gone Cho (mezcal, lime, peppered basil syrup, orange bitters, egg white) in hand.
Stop 4: Mayahuel, 304 E 6th Street
Agave lovers take note: You do not want to skip this stop. With dozens of agave spirits and 50 cocktails to choose from, you’ll find mezcal and tequila bliss here. Go for a 9.5 Weeks (mezcal, Giffard banana liqueur, honey, tamarind sangrita, orange) or Puebla Drink With No Name (chile de arbol mezcal, ancho-infused moscatel, aged rum, cacao, mole bitters) and, if it’s not too busy, ask the knowledgeable bartenders about some of the lesser known agave spirits stocking the bar. Pro tip: The kitchen turns out delicious guacamole and queso fundido if you’re feeling a bit peckish.
At this point in the cocktail tour, you might be feeling the effects of all those cocktails. Slow things down a bit with a low-proof cocktail from this bitters-focused bar. We recommend the Buck Wild (fernet, Maurin Quina, Carpano Bianco, cherry-saffron bitters), but you can’t go wrong no matter what you order. While you’re here, pick up a few bottles of hard-to-get bitters like Brooklyn Hemispherical’s black mission fig.
As we mentioned before, this area of NYC is packed with great cocktail bars—so packed that these two occupy the same corner. On the lower level is Mother of Pearl, a relatively new tropical den where you can order the Instagram-worthy Shark Eye (passionfruit, lemon, maraschino, dry curaçao, bourbon, rye and tiki bitters). The upstairs houses Cienfuegos, where you’ll find yourself in the midst of all things Cuban—including plenty of rum. We’re currently lusting after the Bike Rider (blackstrap rum, rye whiskey, Cognac, cinnamon syrup, allspice).
Stop 8: Mace, 649 E 9th Street
If you can only make it to one cocktail bar on this crawl—which would effectively make it more of a sit than a crawl—make it this fantastic cocktail bar from talented barman Nico de Soto. The cocktails are inspired by spices from around the world, from the Chipotle (peanut butter fat-washed Cognac, smoked pineapple chipotle syrup, lemon juice, strawberry jam, peanuts) to the Shiso (kombucha-infused shochu, pomegranate-beet-shiso shrub, verjus, Champagne), and play with texture and techniques like fat-washing. Not only are they insanely delicious, but the cozy bar is inviting and the walls are lined with the spices used to create the drinks, so there’s no shortage of interesting decor.
No East Village cocktail crawl would be complete without a visit to Pouring Ribbons, so cap off your boozy tour with one of the expertly made concoctions from owner Joaquín Simó and his team. There’s a little something for every taste (the cocktails are classified by level of adventurousness and booziness), but in cases of warm weather, we’re inclined to go for the refreshing Frida Kahlo (mezcal, amontillado sherry, Contratto Bianco vermouth, strawberry-infused Aperol, black pepper). There’s plenty of seating, so you won’t feel crammed, and ultra-nerdy cocktailians can take advantage of an impressive Chartreuse selection by tasting through new and old bottlings.