5 Beautiful Bars for Quality Cocktailing in NYC

Hitting a bar can be a fine way to kick off a night out—or it can be more. It can be a way to treat yourself to a slice of splendor, a little piece of luxury. In New York, the finest cocktail bars are also at the avant-garde of interior design, serving inventive concoctions in a chic setting for a full sensory experience. Let yourself be spirited away (pun intended) in one of the city’s most beautiful bars.

Party Like It’s 1789 at Dear Irving

It’s not quite hidden, but Dear Irving is easy for the uninitiated to miss. Climb a short staircase on Irving Place to an unmarked door and you’ve arrived. Inside, you’ll embark on a time-traveling adventure beginning in the mid-century-modern front room, on through the Gilded Age-inspired middle rooms, and ending with twinkling chandeliers, antique mirrors, and Louis XVI canapés in what feels like Marie Antoinette’s grand salon. Fantastic drinks, including classics like The Gibson, and signature recipes like the spiced Whiskey Business, remind you you’re in one of the most progressive cocktailing cities in America. (55 Irving Place)

Say Sayonara to Boring Drinks at Bar Goto

Bar Goto, an understated gem on the Lower East Side, transports you to one of Tokyo’s sleek underground drinking dens. The décor is all clean lines, blond wood, and black linen banquettes. Thoughtful Asian-inspired drinks, such as the Sakura Martini and Improved Shochu Cocktail, are as charming as the long swath of an antique kimono framed on the wall: a gift from the owner’s grandmother. Bar bites are treated with the same light, playful touch as the cocktails. Japanese burdock roots make addictive salt-and-pepper fries; salted seaweed, sesame oil, and red shiso flakes turn raw celery into an umami-rich snack. You’ll want to “Kanpai!” all night long. (245 Eldridge Street)

Step Into the Big Easy at Maison Premiere

The New Orleans-themed Maison Premiere in Brooklyn has the most enchanting patio in the city, hands down. Step into what could be a sultry French Quarter garden, with lush greenery hanging and flourishing everywhere, as you sip creative drinks out of elegant glassware and slurp raw oysters. The bar specializes in absinthe cocktails, such as the house Colada variation. It also boasts an extensive collection of absinthes from around the world that you can taste the traditional way: louched with chilled water and a sugar cube using a vintage absinthe drip. And if the Green Fairy scares you, the rest of the cocktail menu opens up a world of possibilities. (298 Bedford Avenue)

Hang with Cool Cats at Bemelmans

Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel is a New York City landmark. A swanky jazz club dripping with panache from the chocolate brown leather banquettes to the 24-karat gold leaf ceiling, it’s also a perfectly preserved piece of history. The walls are adorned with original murals by Ludwig Bemelmans (for whom the bar is named), the popular 20th-century illustrator and creator of the beloved children’s book character Madeline. Legend has it that, rather than accept cash for his work, Bemelmans asked to be put up at the hotel for a year and a half. The cocktails here lean toward classics with a few modern twists. But the big draw is the atmosphere: a glamorous silver-screen version of New York, complete with live jazz. (35 East 76th Street)

Get a Taste of the Tropics at Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl confirms those rumors you might have heard: It’s true, tiki is back! This place comes about as close as possible to recreating the ethos of a Hawaiian beach resort in a Manhattan bar. Floral print banquettes and tiki totem-pole bar stools may sound kitschy, but the decor feels as fresh and inviting as a summer’s breeze. Polynesian-style bar bites are paired with umbrella drinks unlike any you’ve had. Forget the overly sweet and silly tiki cocktails of yore—these are well-crafted and balanced, yet in no way short on fun. Try the Shark Eye, a bourbon-spiked passionfruit concoction served in a shark’s head with a wink and a smile. (95 Avenue A)

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