Unless you live there, have a buddy who just moved there out of college, or are a Blair Waldorf super fan, you probably haven't found yourself on the Upper East Side recently. Well, that's about to change, right after you read this drinking guide to a totally underrated boozing 'hood.
The Official Upper East Side Drinking Guide
The Penrose (click here for address and deets)
This Uptown gastropub from the people behind The Wren and Wilfie & Nell is where you go if you're into happy houring with attractive people (like, REALLY attractive) who give a crap if the place they're at has good food and drinks.
Heidelberg (click here for address and deets)
If you've never been here, you're in for a real treat... if you consider giant boots filled with beer treats, like we do.
JBird Cocktails (click here for address and deets)
This elegant cocktail bar is definitely the spot to go if you're a cocktail enthusiast or having-an-awesome-time enthusiast, with two-person cocktails like the Tiki Oasis Punch: a mix of a whole bunch of rums, black tea, cinnamon, and vanilla. Or just get the cocktail that was maybe named by Rust Cohle -- the Blackheart Machine, filled with aged rum, Fernet Branca, and coffee.
JG Melon (click here for address and deets)
Everyone needs to come here at least once. About as classic-NY as it gets these days, the move is always some beers and a burger.
Jones Wood Foundry (click here for address and deets)
Forget the UES, Jones Wood is one of the best British pubs in the whole city with familiar pub trappings without feeling cliched, and a great craft-heavy beer list (mmm... Jones Woods Session IPA...), and bar-friendly eats like a lamb & rosemary pie.
Earl's Beer & Cheese (click here for address and deets)
Yes, there's a place outside of your kitchen that focuses on beer and cheese too, and they do it a good deal better (see: pork belly grilled cheese, some of the best mac & cheese in the city, and allllllll the craft brews).
Guthrie Inn (click here for address and deets)
The cocktail arm of the ABV/Earl's/Guthrie family of bars is just as worthy of a trip Uptown as any of the others (or maybe a mini-bar crawl is in order?). Get classics like Sazeracs and Sidecars buttressed by originals like the Sharpie Mustache with rye, gin, and Meletti & tiki bitters.
ABV Wine Bar (click here for address and deets)
From the same guys as Earl's ABV, this alcohol dispensery's focused on the vino and a high/low mix of refined eats like scallops with chili ginger, yellowfin tuna crudo, and "super fries" covered in onions and cheddar Béchamel.
The Gilroy (click here for address and deets)
Brand-new to the scene, this is gonna be a place to hit if you're not allergic to cocktails -- their menu features a whole bunch of different Negroni options (from barrel-aged to bottled), plus they'll ply you with eats like fresh oysters and mac & cheese with Irish cheddar and Asiago.
The Pony Bar (click here for address and deets)
Just like its Hell's Kitchen brother bar, this craft beer haven is perfect for people looking for a spot that's rocking a serious and deep list of suds, like Stillwater Nebuchadnezzar Remix or 21st Amendment's Lower DeBoom.
Bondurants (click here for address and deets)
Craft beer, Southern food, and bourbon -- if this place was in the Lower East Side, people would be climbing over each other for a seat. Get ready to get down on some Bell's Hopslam, pulled chicken and Boudin meatballs, and an extensive list of the brown spirits.
The Met Rooftop Bar (click here for address and deets)
In the Summer, it's really hard to beat this: crazy-good park views, art, a sense of escaping, and a sense of drinking while experience a sense of escaping. It's kinda the perfect bar.
1. Jones Wood Foundry401 E 76th St, New York
2. JBird339 E 75th, New York
3. The Penrose1590 2nd Ave, New York
4. The Gilroy1561 2nd Ave, New York
5. Heidelberg1648 2nd Ave, New York
6. Earl's Beer & Cheese1259 Park Ave, New York
7. ABV1504 Lexington Ave, New York
8. The Pony Bar1444 1st Ave, New York
9. Guthrie Inn1259 Park Ave, New York
10. Caledonia Bar1609 2nd Ave, New York
11. J.G. Melon1291 3rd Ave, New York
12. Dorrian's Red Hand1616 2nd Ave, New York
13. Bemelmans Bar35 E 76th St, New York
14. Bondurants303 E 85th St, New York
15. Subway Inn143 E 60th St, New York
16. The Met Rooftop Bar1000 5th Ave, New York
JWF, an UES staple, offers authentic British fare like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and tea-brined chicken -- all served with UK beers. The front bar of this homey pub boasts a wrought-iron and stained-glass window that overlooks a sky-lit banquet hall. The hall, with rustic communal tables, sits adjacent to an outdoor courtyard, and connects to a dining room with antler-framed mirrors. So even without the accents, boy bands, or Royal Guards, you'll feel like you're across the pond.
With a cocktail list developed by a duo with ties to Death & Co., Tailor, 1534, and other top spots, the nightlife vets behind JBird chose to open up this plush penthouse right below XVI, with refined tipples including the Manu Chao (bay leaf-infused cachaca, demerara, soda), and the served-in-a-pineapple-for-two bourbon/pear brandy/tiki bitters/falernum Sadie Hawkins Sling, though if it's anything like the dance, you'll probably have to get down on it solo.
The sister spot to The Wren, this Upper East Side gastropub brings a touch of cool hipness to the mid-eighties. Upscale but laid-back, The Penrose is the perfect place to let a drinks date slide into dinner. The sit-down dining room-slash-bar serves up comfort food small plates, burgers, and sandwiches. As for drinks, the bar's got a wide range of old-fashioned cocktails, and an impressive beer and whiskey selection. Oh, and the boozy brunch is a must -- there are four kinds of Bloody Marys.
This Prohibition-era themed speakeasy in the Upper East Side doles out refined bar bites, such as cheese platters, flatbreads, small plates, and sweets, alongside sophisticated libations. The Gilroy's drink menu is divided between "Negronis" -- creative interpretations of the gin-based favorite -- and handmade, carefully-crafted "Fancy Drinks."
Heidelberg is one of the oldest family-run German restaurants in the country, dating back to 1936, back when Yorkville in the UES was a bustling German neighborhood. The menu offers modern American bar fare as well as traditionally European dishes, including hearty potato pancakes and fried wiener schnitzel. Wash it down with Germ brews in boot-shaped two-liter helpings. Though the menu’s been updated, what hasn’t changed is the atmosphere: the interior is frozen in time with old-world Germantown decor.
Earl's Beer & Cheese is part of a small group of Upper East Side bars that's bringing cool and laid-back nightlife to the historically barren blocks of the mid-90s. Earl's great craft beer selection changes daily, and though it's definitely more of a bar than a restaurant, the food is hard to resist. The cheesy options include three kinds of grilled cheese, pork tacos, and goat cheese mac & cheese.
ABV is a small neighborhood wine bar on the Upper East Side offering niche selections of new and old-world vino in a quirky, communal setting. Beyond its offerings by the glass and the bottle, ABV also offers antipasto-style small plates like spicy nduja on crostini, salmon rillettes, and burrata Brussels sprouts.
Like its sister location on 10th Avenue, this Upper East Side beer bar is widely known for its eclectic menu of rotating, seasonal brews. Alongside an ever-changing blackboard denoting dozens of American beers, The Pony Bar also boasts impressive happy hour specials and the option to take home your favorite ale in a 64oz growler.
For all those Upper East Side denizens who feel like they belong below 14th street, or for downtowners spending a night uptown, there’s Guthrie Inn, a tiny and low-key bourbon-centric bar that serves up classic cocktails alongside more inventive ones, like the Jackson Ward made with bourbon, Italian vermouth, and wormwood bitters, or the amaro and rye Sharpie Moustache.
This low-key Upper East Side pub is unique for making old man Scotch a hit among the twenty-something generation. The Scottish owner makes his extensive spirit menu manageable by separating the bottles by their geographic origin (most are from the Highlands, Islay, and Speyside) and adding tasting notes. For those looking for something with a lower alcohol content, a few Scottish beers finish out the menu. The dark and glossy bar is the centerpiece of the tiny space, and there’s a small food menu with shareable appetizers like Scotch eggs and pork sausage rolls.
One of New York's most classic burgers can be found at this prepster pub that's been serving the Upper East Side since 1972. The hallmark of J.G. Melon is the hamburger, comprised of a griddled beef patty and American cheese on a toasted potato bun. If you aren't a regular who lives within a five-block radius, the bar burger really is the only reason to go to J.G. Melon, whose melon decor and green-checkered tablecloths haven't changed much since it first opened.
Open since 1960, Dorrian’s is kind of like the Upper East Side’s very own Cheers. Its draft beers and well-priced cocktails are what neighborhood bars are made of, and the kitchen serves classic American comfort food like bacon cheeseburgers, club sandwiches, and mozzarella sticks until midnight.
If it weren’t for all the alcohol, you could mistake Bemelmans for the world’s most lavish nursery. That’s because the walls and lampshades are covered with whimsical illustrations from Ludwig Bemelmans, the man behind Madeline. But don’t come here with your kids on a Sunday afternoon; instead, come on Friday, and grab a table on the floor or, if you can, a spot in one of the rich chocolate-brown banquets around the perimeter of the room and listen to live jazz and piano in the evenings. There’s a cover charge past 9pm on Sunday and Monday and 9:30pm Tuesday-Saturday, so be sure to get there early for a first-come-first-serve spot. The menu is all class, from fine wines to cocktails like the pisco sour and top-notch martinis. While you sip, tilt your head back to catch a glimpse of the 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling.
Craft beer and bourbon are the focus of this casual Upper East Side bar with a rustic vibe that's enhanced by brick walls and mismatched wooden tables and stools. Aside from the drinks, which include a selection of small-batch and single barrel bourbons, there are Southern-accented bites, like fried green tomatoes, a pimento cheese burger, and deviled eggs. There’s also weekend brunch, where fries brined in Lagunitas IPA and breakfast tacos pair well with morning cocktails like Irish iced coffee.
This friendly Upper East Side haunt is basically the definition of a dive bar, with cheap drinks, a relaxed atmosphere and a decent selection of brews on draft.
Situated on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum, the aptly named Met Rooftop Bar offers sweeping views of Central Park and beyond that can be enjoyed with wine, cocktails, and light bites. It's only open when the museum is and it is oftentimes overflowing with tourists, but the scenery and the special atmosphere make it well-worth the limited hours and lines for drinks. Try to come on a weekday when the crowds have thinned. If you can make it on a weekday.