A borough of New York City. Wall street. Madison Avenue. 34th Street. Broadway. Manhattan is so well known that even the names of its streets have become iconic and understood the world over. This long, thin island is only one of New York City’s five boroughs, but it’s Manhattan that has the concrete canyons and the inimitable skyline; Manhattan that has the world’s brightest and most renowned theatre district; Manhattan that has Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the Guggenheim Museum, and the World Trade Center; and Manhattan that comprises iconic neighbourhoods like Harlem, the Upper East Side, Times Square, and Greenwich Village.
Manhattan has no shortage of options if you are looking for places to drink: taverns, cocktail lounges, saloons, rum shacks and all other manner of beer bars. Thus, choosing a small sliver of drinking establishments out of Manhattan’s thousands of bars is a very subjective enterprise. Nonetheless, here are some of the most popular places that both tourists and locals alike flock to when they want a drink. Manhattan’s signature drink — The Manhattan Cocktail is made from a combination of whiskey, bitters and sweet vermouth. The ingredients are mixed, strained over a cold glass full of cold ice and served with a little garnishing on top. Traditionally, the whiskey variety used is rye, but bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and another substitutes are sometimes used.
New York City’s inimitable speakeasy located in the heart of the West Village. Opened in 2004 by five industry friends, the restaurant and bar is driven by an innate inclination for hospitality and a core tenet that one can enjoy flawlessly executed cocktails and delicious, elevated food, served in a beautiful space without pretense. Twelve years later, this vision remains intact. In addition to a world class bar program whose acceptance is coveted by aspiring bartenders around the globe, Employees Only has gained a voracious and loyal following for their mysterious, convivial and hospitable ambiance and esteemed New American fare, distinguished by subtle Eastern European touches that pay homage to executive chef Julia Jaksic’s Croatian heritage. The bar has created industry classics out of its pioneering drink list, including their famed twist on the Manhattan, the seasonally adapted Ginger Smash, the Amelia, and countless others. Meanwhile, the kitchen continues to serve dedicated favorites like its Hand Cut Steak Tartare, Bone Marrow Poppers, Skate Paprikás and satisfying late night fare. Reflecting an old world vibe through its art deco accents like overhead luggage racks and backlit paintings, Employees Only is curiously tucked behind a fortune teller’s lair. Upon arrival past this mysterious foyer, guests revel around a sensual curving bar and throughout an alluring back dining room. Employees Only has been honoured with Spirited Awards for “Best American Bar Team,” “World’s Best Cocktail Bar” and “World’s Best Drinks Selection” by Tales of the Cocktail, as well as the #4 spot on Drinks International’s “World’s 50 Best Bars” list in 2015. For additional information, please follow Employees Only on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Bringing the Irish Pub into the 21st century. Voted Best Bar in the World 2016 & 2015. This informal ground-floor pub is based on the great Irish tradition – no-nonsense, no airs and graces, just your honest, everyday extraordinary. Craft Beer. Bottled Punches. Whiskeys and Whiskies Galore. Their world-famous Irish Coffee and the best Guinness in New York. Fantastic food every day and on Sundays, their Legendary Prime Rib Roast. Live Irish music and a DJ 3 nights a week. Started by Jack McGarry – cocktail virtuoso, walking drinks encyclopedia and soon to be international Bartender of the year and Sean Muldoon – ice-obsessive, detail obsessive and already the creative force behind a world’s best cocktail bar – The Merchant in their home of Belfast. Two top dogs in search of a rabbit and they found one.
From it’s humble origins as an Irish working man’s saloon — a gathering place, a watering hole, the subject of art and literature and even a supreme court controversy. Established in 1854 — McSorley’s can boast of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. Steeped in a cultural cacophony of Americana. Presidents, residents, authors and thieves — the lot of humanity have sat and shared, all abiding by McSorley’s golden rule “Be Good or Be Gone”. Everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon have passed thru McSorley’s swinging doors. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from a table in the front — guitar in hand, while civil rights attorney’s Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access. Women were finally allowed access to McSorley’s in 1970! Enter the sawdust strewn floors and history patched walls for a trip back through time. What follows is a chronological history — some oral, some visual — some fact, some fancy…
What is a Blind Tiger? According to historians, the term originated in the 1800’s, when blue laws restricted the sale of alcohol. Bar owners charged a cover to see a blind tiger, or some other imaginary attraction, while providing “complimentary” alcohol. While speakeasy’s often had food and entertainment, most blind tigers were dives, serving little more than beer, liquor, and imaginary creatures.
Long before craft beer entered the lexicon, there was the Blind Tiger, one of the OG’s of the New York beer scene. Since its arrival in 1994, Blind Tiger has achieved legendary status thanks to a meticulously curated program and some of the city’s best bar food. Located on Bleecker Street, they feature an ever-changing array of craft beers, working with brewers and preferring to focus on their rarest offerings. The truly unique styles they make only occasionally, or in very limited quantities, specialising in those singular beers that brewers hate to part with but they get them because of special relationships built up over the past thirteen years. The end result is a beer list that’s different, intriguing, and constantly evolving, like the world of craft beer itself. A menu that features styles from all over the world, but is predominantly American in focus.
Dive into New York’s most famous dive bar, right through the original wood door, carved down the centre with the name of the first owners, the Rudy family. Don’t mind the six-foot pig parked outside unless you’re looking for a touristy photo opp. Rudy’s porcine mascot, the so-called Baron has stood vigil at the door for about twenty years, and was only stolen twice before they bolted his big butt down. Sidle up to the original mahogany bar, custom-made in this historic dive bar, a legendary microcosm of New York, as friendly, unpretentious, and wildly diverse as the best of the city itself. Rudy’s offers great drinks promos, free hotdogs with each drink all in an easy location not far from Times Square!
A new take on an old classic, The Rum House breathes life into the heartbeat of the city. Whether it’s the sound of the nightly live piano and jazz music, the taste of the expertly created cocktails, the old world copper and wood decor or the din of light and noise from the bustling Times Square streets, this neighbourhood staple is an experience for the senses. The Rum House is widely recognised as one of the best cocktail bars in New York City. The bar has a distinct downtown sensibility set against a classic New York backdrop. Located between Broadway & 8th Avenue, The Rum House is the perfect place for a nightcap, pre-theatre drink or an evening of revelry in the heart of Times Square.
A New York City Institution. Located in Grand Central Terminal at 15 Vanderbilt Avenue, just off 43rd Street. Since its days as Jazz Age financier John William Campbell’s private office and reception hall, the space has been thoughtfully and meticulously restored maintaining the integrity of the property’s historic architecture. The Campbell showcases many of the thirteenth century Florentine-inspired design intricacies that upheld its legendary allure, including soaring, 25-foot hand painted ceilings, a grand stone fireplace, Campbell’s personal steel safe, a century-old leaded glass window and original millwork. The Campbell provides three unique experiences: The Campbell Bar, the timeless office thoughtfully curated with bold brass finishes and custom wood, mohair; The Campbell Palm Court, an indoor oasis and lounge surrounded by towering palm trees; and The Campbell Terrace, a sweeping outdoor covered veranda complete with a full bar. Gerber Group’s selection of classic and modern cocktails, that highlight fresh ingredients, wines and locally brewed craft beers are all available.
The every-man’s cocktail bar hidden in plain sight on an obscure bit of Eldridge Street. From Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross, the pair that helmed Milk & Honey throughout the late aughts, this understated beauty is the younger, less self-conscious sister that took over the space when M&H moved uptown. There are no reservations, 7 days a week, 6pm to 4am, operated on a first come, first served policy for parties of six or less only. There are no rules and also no menu. Once you’re in and seated, a bartender will ask you about your cocktail preferences and come back with a perfect bespoke drink or the classic that best suits your mood. You might challenge the bartenders with an obscure order, but there’s no getting one over on this well-versed team – their repertoire is extensive. Attaboy is no longer the bar that replaced the iconic Milk & Honey, rated number 15 in the Worlds 50 Best Bars for 2018. Therefore making it a perfect candidate to be one bar closer to completing our World’s Best Bars Challenge.