Food & Drink

The 13 Most Beautiful Bars in NYC

Published On 10/23/2015 Published On 10/23/2015

Ever think about going bottoms up in an old opium den? Or clinking glasses in a room made of gold? What about pounding back a few in a garden paradise? What NYC lacks in space (raise your hand if your kitchen doubles as your closet!) it certainly makes up for in beauty -- and really cool places to drink. Here are 13 bars that look damn good without any beer goggles. Plus, like your parents always said, real beauty is on the inside.

Madam Geneva

Noho

A small and dimly lit spot just down from Saxon + Parole, Madam Geneva is decked out with lace-paneled walls, hanging lanterns, a gramophone, exposed brick, and couch-filled nooks. Named for an old-timey way of saying gin, this drinking den is known for... you guessed it... gin cocktails. Try the Hyde Park Swizzle (Beefeater, pressed lime, mint, Angostura).

Flickr/a.has

The Campbell Apartment

Midtown East

This swanky enclave is something straight out of an F. Scott novel. Hidden in Grand Central station, the 2,000sqft digs give 1920s financier John W. Campbell’s private office a second life with Renaissance-inspired paintings, rich wood accents, and 25ft ceilings. Expect to find weary commuters sipping Prohibition-style potions. Pro tip: do Don Draper one better and get the Kentucky ginger cocktail.

Apotheke

Apotheke

Chinatown

Formerly an opium den, this Chinatown hideaway is a way cooler version of your 10th-grade chem lab. A nod to old European apothecaries, the lounge is outfitted with red velvet ottomans, old vials, a custom-built marble bar, a gold leaf-painted ceiling, and light sconces filled with herbal liquids. The mad scientists behind the bar stir and shake dizzying drinks like the Deal Closer, made with local Chinatown aphrodisiacs. The absinthe is made from a secret 200-year-old recipe using fermented sugarcane juice that’s sure to get you feeling good, too.

Goldbar

Goldbar

Little Italy


Go for gold, stay for the celeb sightings. This uber-exclusive bar is blinged out in gold ceilings, gold curtains, gold skulls, and gold chains. In keeping with the over-the-top look, the crystal chandeliers add even more wow factor. You could say that decadent, Gatsby-esque theme is there to make you feel rich even while shelling out your life savings for drinks like the Gold Rush with bourbon, honey, and lemon. Did we mention it counts Justin Bieber and Queen Bee as guests?

Copper & Oak

Lower East Side

Just stepping foot inside this eight-seat LES bar will boost you to class-act status. The backlit bookcases give off a library feel -- only instead of books, the shelves are lined with hard-to-find bottles of booze. The oak barrels and brass countertops are also beautiful, and only look better after a couple of drinks. But don’t expect cocktails. It’s all about whiskey, rum, and tequila.

Daniel Krieger

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar

Theater District

Part art gallery, part living room, this vino-focused space is decked out with high ceilings, Keith Haring masterpieces, and cozy sofas meant for lounging. It’s helmed by Le Bernardin’s sommelier Aldo Sohm, so you know it’s not only about the good looks.

Alisha Prakash/Thrillist

Sisters

Clinton Hill

A chill café by day and hoppin’ bar by night, this Clinton Hill spot has plenty to oooh and ahhh over. Designed by hOmE, the 60-seater houses a pristine marble bar, custom woven chairs, and reclaimed beech ceilings. Beyond the main room is a back area with a vinyl DJ booth. But most importantly, don’t forget to look up. The main attraction is a 30ft glass skylight, which makes a top-notch setting for sipping local beers, cocktails, and biodynamic wines.

Press Lounge NYC

Press Lounge at Ink48 Hotel

Hell’s Kitchen

There are hotel bars (stuffy, uptight) and there are hotel bars (outdoor perfection). This Hell’s Kitchen looker falls into the latter. Located on the 16th floor, the glass-enclosed beauty has views for days. Look one way and you’ll see all of Midtown; look the other and you’ll find the Hudson River. Stake out a spot on one of the many comfy seats surrounding the 20ft-long pool and watch the sunset.

Bemelman's Bar

Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel

Upper East Side

If you feel like classing up your usual dive bar hangout, head to this dapper UES bar. Spiffy white-jacketed waiters, 24-karat gold leaf ceilings, and leather banquettes make you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of a Sinatra song, while the charming original murals by Ludwig Bemelmans -- the dude behind the Madeline children’s books -- keep things playful. Order a stiff drink and tap your foot to the jazzy tunes coming from the live pianist.

Gallow Green

Gallow Green

Chelsea

There’s no doubt Gallow Green, the rooftop bar perched above the McKittrick Hotel, is a real stunner. The downstairs is home to the interactive show Sleep No More, and on the roof there's weathered wooden tables that look like they've been swiped from a country home, a fire pit, lights wrapped around lush greenery, and an antique railcar with boxcar seating. Order punches by the bowl or a $15 cocktail inspired by the show while listening to live jazz music. In other words, it’s like your very own fairytale garden party.

Morgan Iona Yeager

The Upsider

Midtown East

With a large quartz bar, bright-blue accents, leather bar stools, and plenty of light, this ‘60s-inspired bar is Instagram gold. Bartenders serve up creative cocktails like the Hanky Panky (gin, Carpano Antica, and Fernet Branca) to an after-work crowd. There could be worse places to get a good buzz going.

The Bonnie

The Bonnie

Astoria

If you’re a fan of the watering holes Sweet Afton and Penrose, then you’re sure to dig this Astoria hideaway. Two bars (in the front and back) mean two times the fun. With hanging plants and exposed brick on the inside, the eye candy spills into a super-chill outdoor garden. If that's not enough to make you never want to leave, the cocktail menu with potions like the Blackberry Derby (bourbon, amaro, Combier, blackberry jam, lime) should do it.

Clover Club

Clover Club

Cobble Hill

After a long, hard day at the office, there’s nothing like unwinding at this Art Deco drinking joint. Speakeasy vibes come from the pressed tin ceilings, vintage sofas, fireplace, and 19th-century mahogany bar. It's from the same gal who did Flatiron Lounge, so you know it's got some street cred. Don’t miss the house chips tossed in duck fat.

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Alisha Prakash is a contributing writer at Thrillist. She believes if there was a Tinder for bars, these are all she would swipe right for. You can find more of her musings on her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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1. Madam Geneva 4 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012 (Noho)

This Southeast Asian-inspired cocktail bar is focused on all things gin (it's named for the 18th century English term for gin), and you can enjoy yours on the rocks or in a specialty cocktail (order a punch bowl if you're visiting with a large group). The food menu is also worth pursuing, with bites found locally in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Southeast Asia.

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2. The Campbell Apartment 15 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10017 (Midtown East)

The Campbell Apartment, which was formerly the office for finance mogul John W. Campbell, has since been turned into a luxurious bar and lounge space in Grand Central Terminal. It boasts extensive interior woodwork, a lounge and a warm hearth as its centerpiece. If there's anywhere in Midtown to go and get your Mad Men on, this swanky spot would be it.

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3. Apotheke 9 Doyers St, New York, NY 10038 (Chinatown)

A nod to old European apothecaries, Apotheke is outfitted with old vials, a custom-built marble bar, a gold leaf-painted ceiling, and light sconces filled with herbal liquids. The mad scientists behind the bar stir and shake dizzying drinks like the Deal Closer, made with local Chinatown aphrodisiacs, and the absinthe is made from a secret 200-year-old recipe using fermented sugarcane juice picked from Apotheke's own rooftop garden.

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4. Goldbar 389 Broome St, New York, NY 10013 (Nolita)

This cozy cocktail nook where SoHo meets the Lower East Side is literally gold-plated, giving its name some true validity. The magnificently bedecked interior, surrounded by chandeliers and flanked in gold leaf, is home to a curated, made-to-order craft cocktail and spirits menu -- selections of which include the aptly named "Goldrush" with bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon juice, or -- if celebrations are in order -- the "Gold Standard" package for $75, which includes variations on classic drinks, all made with top-shelf ingredients.

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5. Copper and Oak 157 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Known for its impressive whiskey collection (100+ varieties), Cooper & Oak also offers a unique, intimate vibe that can only be described as "Victorian library meets midwestern dude ranch." Backlit, liquor-lined shelves drench the wooden, eight-seat interior in golden light, creating the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the bar's refined libations.

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6. Aldo Sohm Wine Bar 151 West 51st St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

Located in Midtown West, this vino spot is highlighted by a treasure trove of wine and bites including a meat tower with fireplace-smoked pork loin, Austrian-style poached ham, and lardo "dip".

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7. Sisters 900 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Sisters is your Clinton Hill go-to for top-notch coffee by day and new American eats by night (get the seared scallop with bay shrimp, beurre blanc, and roasted fennel). This Brooklyn destination also has a back room with DJ sets and musical acts.

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8. The Press Lounge 653 11th Ave, New York, NY 10036

The Press Lounge is a swanky rooftop spot perched atop the Ink48 Hotel in Hell's Kitchen. Day or night, take in sweeping panoramic views of the Hudson and Midtown Manhattan while you sip on Champagne and craft cocktails, or head up there for a romantic, windswept date or a night on the town. Don't be surprised, though, that the drinks here cost a pretty penny, considering how postcard-perfect the vistas are.

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9. Gallow Green 542 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001 (Chelsea)

Gallow Green, the rooftop bar atop Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel, is a perpetual garden party, at least during the warmer months when its plush flora is in full bloom. During the winter, the campy space turns into a lodge with plushy chairs and a fireplace. No matter the season, the best time to go is for weekend brunch, where a $35 ticket will get you a three-course meal, a mimosa, and unlimited La Colombe coffee.

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10. The Upsider 1004 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10022 (Midtown East)

With a large quartz bar, bright-blue accents, leather bar stools, and plenty of light, this ‘60s-inspired bar is Instagram gold. On weekdays it caters to an after-work crowd and there's a 40-seat street patio for weekend brunch. With top-notch American fare and a selection of reasonably-priced bar snacks, it's a great place to take your cocktails to a table and settle in for a while.

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11. The Bonnie 29-12 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY 11105 (Astoria)

If you’re a fan of the watering holes Sweet Afton and Penrose, then you’re sure to dig this Astoria hideaway. Two bars (in the front and back) mean two times the fun. With hanging plants and exposed brick on the inside, the eye candy spills into a super-chill outdoor garden. Morning essentials -- like avocado toast with poached eggs & bacon or biscuits with spicy gravy & sausage -- solidify The Bonnie as a go-to brunch spot in the area. Endless French press coffee and an excellent cocktail list mean you better be ready for an all-day affair.

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12. Clover Club 210 Smith St, New York, NY 11201

From Julie Reiner (Flatiron Lounge) and her protege, cocktail legend Ivy Mix, this tearoom-style spot charms with pressed tin ceilings, velvet-upholstered settees, and a 19th-century mahogany bar. In keeping with the casual-sophisticated vibe, dinner fare includes everything from mac & cheese and steak frites to steak tartare and caviar service, while the cocktail selection, which includes numerous variations on Old Fashioneds, cobblers, punches, cocktails, and five other categories, will have the most experienced of drinkers excited with options. For a new take on a real classic, start with the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, which combines rye, maraschino, absinthe, and bitters.

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