An editor's guide to drinking around town

New York

An editor's guide to drinking around town
An editor's guide to drinking around town

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When it comes to the drinking, New York has a little something for everyone... and a lot of something for that dude you just watched faceplant while stumbling out of Opal. So to be sure you're maximizing your precious tippling time (and not going anywhere near Opal), Thrillist Executive Editor Hayden Lynch is cutting through the noise with his top picks for boozing in the city.

Best Cocktail Bar: When The Wayland first opened in Alphabet C a few years back, it was a beacon of inventive cocktailing sans a stuffy attitude, an act followed by like-minded institutions Evelyn Drinkery and Pouring Ribbons soon after. Now that they've doubled the size of their space and their drink menu, there's even more to like. Even on a Friday night, you won't have to wait long for your mezcal oyster shooters and kale margarita.

Best Beer Bar: Sure, the copious barn wood and fireplace are necessary to spin the oft-cramped space as "cozy" rather than "crushing", but the beer list at Blind Tiger is one of the best in town, with 30 taps constantly rotating a selection of craft ales, and a fridge that's pregnant with large-format options. If owner Ian Campbell is around, ask him what he's hiding in the cellar and he just may dig up something special for you.

Best Wine Bar: While I appreciate the fact that Vintry Wine Whiskey offers affordable 2oz pours of decades-old grand crus, City Winery is the rare wine bar that doles out vino that's bottled on the premises. Gigs by nationally recognized touring acts don't hurt, either.

Best Club: With how much things have changed in the past 10 years, the era of hulking megaclubs lining 28th St might as well have been the Cretaceous. Now everyone seems to prefer blowing the GDP of a third world country in more intimate environs, and the cream of the crop remains The Top of the Standard (nee the Boom Boom Room). Of course, the guest list is tighter than Nicki Minaj's spandex, but if you head up in the afternoon when the space is still used as a hotel bar, you can crush cocktails from stud 'tender Aaron Polsky until the sun sets and let the party come to you.

Best New Cocktail: I'm not sure that the egg cream doesn't owe its place in New York's culinary pantheon due to an egregious misnomer (it lacks both eggs and cream), but Evelyn Drinkery makes one with rum, sarsaparilla milk and housemade root beer syrup that's hand-frothed before your eyes. Any drink that's handed to you with an ultimatum that it be finished in under three minutes is worth trying at least once.

Best Martini: Nick Bennett, Bar Captain at Booker and Dax, recently gave me a taste of hands down the best martini I've ever had in my life. He pre-dilutes a mixture of gin, dry vermouth, and orange bitters, bottles it up with an olive, then allows it to mature and macerate for about five days. It comes with a liquid-nitrogen-chilled coupe, but it's good enough that even Gil Scott-Heron wouldn't mind living in the bottle.

Best Happy Hour: Former Death & Co and Pegu Club 'tender Brian Miller is NYC's leading tiki evangelist, and while the closing of Lani Kai caused a temporary hiatus of his amazing Tiki Mondays guest bartending series, it didn't take long for him to find a new home at Goldbar*. Drop by on most Mondays from 6-8 for rum-sponsored specialty concoctions whipped up by visiting luminaries like OG 'tender Dale DeGroff. *(Ed note: Immediately upon publication, Tiki Mondays changed venue's to Mother's Ruin.)

Best for Work: For the sake of argument, let's just assume that "work" means "Midtown", where oversized Irish pubs cater to oversized Irish bankers who are definitely going to crush a few Foster's oil cans from the Penn Station platform beer carts on the way home. But in that parched desert of a neighborhood, Lantern's Keep is a veritable oasis of craft cocktails, marble two tops, and stately library decor.

Best Near Penn Station: Speaking of Penn Station, finding a proper place to get warmed up before a game or a show can be harder than a slap shot by, uh, some dude on the Rangers who has a wicked hard slap shot. Fortunately, Pennsylvania 6 has a top-notch craft beer program, a cocktail menu heavy on housemade syrups, and a raw bar where you can take down bi-valves before the Knicks give you a playoff coronary.

Best for a Group: The cavernous environs at Brooklyn Bowl are tailor-made for roving hordes. Grab a few lanes to secure some elbow room, then abandon it in favor of the dance floor once you tire of listening to your buddy's fiancee's friend Chad make excuses about how there was only candlepin bowling at Bates. Come on, Chad, everyone knows you're just compensating for not getting into Amherst.

Best Late-Night: Flashdancers? Yeah. Flashdancers.

Best Place to Day Drink: Radegast may not have a proper outdoor space, but it's still the best biergarten in the city, and the enormous skylights that sit atop its brick-walled interior lend an airy enough feeling to fuel a full day of boozing. Throw in daily live music, liters of Teutonic brews & a daytime sausage stand, and you have every reason to demolish your chances of going out that night.

Best Jukebox: The HiFi Bar on Ave A had a custom PC jukebox named El DJ built for their opening more than ten years ago. The playlist is heavy on indie, but each of the 4000 songs was handpicked to build the "ultimate record collection", so you'll find everything from '40s Sinatra to current pop hits. It's a rare personal touch in a city where most jukeboxes can be dominated by anybody with an iPhone app and an inability to reign in their digital spending.

Best Backyard: Restos beer-centric offshoot The Cannibal gets the nod here for a few reasons, most important among them being the massive beer selection, offal-heavy bar snacks, and the fact that even on a perfect summer day you're guaranteed a handful of the 30 or so seats in their heated backyard will be open.

Best Roof: So long as its nice out, people will put up with pretty much anything just to be on a roof, which explains why so many of them reach so low. I have to give props to XVI Lounge for at least coming up with an (admittedly ridiculous) concept and executing it, even if decor at this "Versailles in the Sky" is equal parts Marie Antoinette and Edward Scissorhands.

Hottest Girls: It's either an improbably well-kept secret or an unrecognized fact, but due to our rigorous work weeks and northerly latitude, New York lacks the writhing mass of hot bodies seemingly spawned by beachier locales. Looking good means you either don't need a job or you've put in hours of effort before walking out the door, so frankly Meatpacking is probably your best bet. If you aren't doing bottles, the Biergarten at The Standard is low-key enough to let you in, and outdoors enough to promote summertime attire, so it has that going for it.

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1. The Wayland 700 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

From a duo that's spent many years bartending, cooking, and consulting in the restaurant biz comes The Wayland, a live-music cocktail bar in the heart of Alphabet City. Connected to the bar is a kitchen that specializes in small plates, including cheese selections, oysters, and BLTs with pulled pork. The cocktails reflect a DIY approach, with hours of prep work just to produce homemade radish, spiced apple, and key lime-flavored bitters.

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2. Evelyn Drinkery 171 Avenue C, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

A dark Alphabet City cocktail parlor named after the concept of a dreamy woman with "many layers," Evelyn features libations like the Hoochie Coochie Mama w/ gin, rye, Cynar, sherry & Cajun bitters. Head here for a date or drinks with friends -- there's plenty of sitting and standing room and cozy booth seating.

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3. Pouring Ribbons 225 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

This cocktail lounge, tucked into a wood-paneled, second-floor space, brings an upscale-meets-gentlemen's club feel to Alphabet City. Expert bartenders mix drinks like you’ve never tasted before, like a coconut Tiki martini and an old-fashioned with bourbon, apple brandy, and rum. The bar bites menu, created by the folks at Beecher’s Cheese, is heavy on the cheese and charcuterie.

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4. The Blind Tiger 281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Arguably the epitome of a New York City craft beer bar and a true pioneer in the NYC craft scene, Blind Tiger’s been doling out a fine selection of the top tier libations since it opened in 1995. It’s the go-to spot to meet folks from your favorite breweries who happen to be swinging through town, and the tap takeovers are legendary to say the least. Sip from 28 taps, two casks and a staggering list of microbrew bottles.

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5. Vintry Wine and Whiskey 57 Stone St, New York, NY 10004 (Financial District)

From the team behind Adrienne's, Ulysses, and pretty much everything else on Stone St, VWW's a brown booze and vino temple that feels like the inside of a swanky tree thanks to a 23ft bar made of rare African "flaming bubinga" redwood.

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7. The Standard Hotel 848 Washington St, New York, NY 10014 (Meatpacking)

A biergarten, a pizza garden, the High Line, Meatpacking, the Standard Grill, Le Bain... this hotel has so much to do, you'll probably never want to leave.

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8. Booker and Dax 207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Hailing from the same culinary genius that begot New York City's most renowned bowl of ramen, Booker and Dax serves classed-up cocktails with innovative twists. Look for this creative spirit in the simplest of cocktails, like the Banana Justino, which is prepared via a centrifugal spinning process that separates the flavors from the solids that deliver them. The just-large-enough space keeps party groups at bay, so you can properly focus on your milk-washed tea vodka and all its complex, lemon-ey goodness.

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9. Death & Company 433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

Death & Co. is a high-end, dimly lit sanctuary for both the casual AND professional mixologist/cocktail enthusiast. Responsible for launching the careers of many of New York's most prominent bartenders, this speakeasy has produced a 500-recipe cocktail book and enough top-notch drinks to keep both locals and newcomers ready for the wait, and insatiably eager for another visit. Martinis are served in 5oz glasses with the remainder in an iced carafe, and Old Fashioneds are reinvented with reposado tequila, mezcal, and a flaming orange. While the decor is certainly reminiscent of Prohibition-era times, the drinks remain cutting-edge.

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10. Lantern's Keep 49 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036 (Midtown West)

This is one of New York's most spectacular and authentic speakeasies, featuring an extensive cocktail list that is a favorite of Midtown locals. Their cozy, secluded, and romantic atmosphere makes Lantern's Keep a great place to bring a date.

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11. Pennsylvania 6 132 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001 (Midtown West)

Pennsylvania 6's a two-floored, deco-tinged beer bar/bistro right near MSG that has distinguished itself from the menagerie of Irish pubs in the area by serving bivalves, lobster, and bistro standards like beer-braised short ribs. There are also craft drafts you won't be finding in tallboy form at Penn Station, and you can catch the game on several projection screens while you slurp down some oysters.

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12. Brooklyn Bowl 61 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Brooklyn Bowl's a 16-lane strikers' paradise that combines the sleek amenities of Lucky Strike with the anti-sleek Williamsburgery of The Gutter. Blue Ribbon's famous fried chicken is on the menu and live bands replace the top 40 hits you're used to jamming out to under the disco ball of your hometown lanes.

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13. Flashdancers 1674 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

A versatile standby, Flashdancers is a strip club in NYC that fits the bill no matter what you're looking for.

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14. Radegast Biergarten 113 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Radegast is a massive Polish/Slovakian drinking hall in Williamsburg, complete with retractable roof panels, a grill station that kicks out an endless stream of brats, venison sausages, kielbasa & weisswursts, and, of course, a bar where they're pouring massive steins full of brews.

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15. The HiFi Bar 169 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

Cheap and easy. No, it's not someone you dated in high school, it's the HiFi Bar. This East Village spot is a solid after-work option (happy hour until 8 p.m.) and a fun weekend hangout. If their pool table and pinball machine doesn't entertain you, the jukebox definitely will. The digital "El DJ" has more than 4,000 albums spanning seven decades and just about every genre.

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16. The Cannibal 113 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

This cozy, low-key spot is tiny on the inside, with only wooden stools and metal counters for seating, but opens up to a heated patio with an additional 40 seats. The meat-heavy menu focuses on tapas-style plates and charcuterie with remarkable exceptions like an entire pig's head. The beer and wine menu is extensive and includes a broad range of both domestic and European options. Refrigerators full of beer bottles line one wall, and patrons are invited to pluck their choices right out. This is a great date spot as long as neither of you are into the whole veggie-only thing.

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17. XVI 251 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036 (Midtown West)

The team behind this whimsical "Versailles in the sky" (henceforth XVI, as in "Louis the") leaned on their experiences at Pink Elephant and Juliet Supperclub -- and a Miami design heavyweight -- to assemble phantasmagorical elements including a giant gilded projection screen, tentacle-like "trees" that writhe towards the sky, and a 50ft wall covered in faux grass (don't worry, you'll still be totally high).

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