They say New York is the city that never sleeps. With bars, speakeasies and nightclubs open until the sun comes up, you’d have to say ‘they’ were correct whoever ‘they’ are.
While the chances are you’ll want to spend at least a few hours getting some much needed shut eye in your New York hostel after a busy day of site-seeing and shopping, you’ll also want to make the most out of the city’s notorious nightlife.
For drinkers, New York has something for everyone from dive bars serving cheap drinks to top quality cocktail joints and roof top terraces where you can sip cosmopolitans and rub shoulders with the city’s VIPs and bright young things.
Here’s a list of ten of the best bars to help you get the party started!
113 St. Marks Place
Only accessible through a phone box in a seemingly non-descript hot dog joint, PDT is one of New York’s best kept secrets- until now!
Please Don’t Tell, to give it its full name, is one of those hidden gems that you would never know existed unless you’d heard about it first and remains a mystery to as many New Yorkers as it does tourists.
There are no signs or clues as to its existence or whereabouts and the only way to enter is by picking up the telephone receiver in the side alcove and waiting for one of the waitresses to let you in through a hidden door.
Inside, the bar is a dimly lit, cellar-like haven that is a throwback to the days of speakeasies and prohibition.
The atmosphere is intimate and cozy rather than wild and raucous; however its drinks menu and cocktails, in particular, are to die for.
Drinks aren’t cheap but PDT is a great place for a quiet drink, secret rendezvous or relaxed evening. The hot dogs next door aren’t half bad either- the Wylie Dog and Chang Dog hot dogs are particularly good!
2. Brooklyn Inn
148 Hoyt St
On the outside, at least, the Brooklyn Inn looks like any other dive bar in New York thanks to its non-descript frontage and cheap decor. However, don’t let this put you off going inside!
Inside, you’ll soon discover that the Brooklyn Inn is about as close to a pub as you’ll get in the whole of NYC as New York doesn’t really do pubs- Irish bars aside.
The clientele is local in the main; a strange assortment of beer hungry locals and the odd tourist who’s gone off the beaten track. This makes for a warm, friendly and informal atmosphere which you’ll find welcoming and homely if you are used to drinking in pubs.
The bar itself offers an impressive selection of beers, wines and liquors and also serves pretty decent pub grub and very reasonable prices.
However, perhaps its most popular feature is its well-stocked juke box which is rarely silent. Make sure you put some money in though to get the songs you want played though or you’ll end up potentially listening to endless Dolly Parton or Cher!
The Brooklyn Bar is perfect if you want a laid back, care free night out where playing pool and swigging beers with your mates. It’s also a great place to go for ‘pre-drinks’ before hitting one of Manhattan’s super clubs.
3. King Cole Bar and Lounge
St. Regis Hotel
2 E. 55th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue
Situated in the mega-posh setting of the St. Regis Hotel on East 55th Street, the King Cole Bar is about as different to the Brooklyn Inn as you can get as the clientele are suits and boots rather than locals and the drinks of choice are cocktails not beers.
However, if you’ve enjoyed the jukebox and cheap beers a little too much at the Brooklyn Bar the night before it is the only place to come as it serves the best Bloody Mary in town!
Cheap it most certainly isn’t but its signature St. Regis cocktail is the perfect pick-me-up and will have you back on your feet and ready for another day checking out all the New York sights.
4. Roof Garden Café
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
The Roof Garden Café on top of the Metropolitan Museum Art is the perfect place to take some time out after checking out some of New York’s finest art galleries and museums on museum mile.
The setting is stunning with the views over Central Park are worth the trip up to the roof alone. Frozen daiquiris seem to be the most popular choice amongst the tourists and art aficionadas and are reasonably good value given the café’s location.
If you still haven’t had enough of an art fix, there’s even sculptures and art work on the roof for you to take a leisurely look at while sipping your cocktail.
182 Park Avenue
If wine’s your tipple of choice, then Artisanal is the place for you! Featuring more than 100 wines by the glass (or bottle!) it has the perfect wine to suit any occasion.
Artisanal’s other claim to fame its fabulous selection of cheeses. It has a total of 200 varieties to choose from, all of which have the perfect wine to accompany them with.
If, like me, you’re not much of a connoisseur, ask the bartender for a menu which suggests good pairings.
Wine and cheese aside, Artisanal is a busy yet chilled out midtown bistro popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
One not to be missed.
6. The Ginger Man
11 East 36th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue
Beer more your thing? Then the Ginger Man should be your port of call but be prepared for a long session as it serves 66 beers on draught and more than 150 by the bottle
Perhaps in a bid to help you line your stomach, Ginger Man also has a decent food menu which includes buffalo shrimp and THE charcuterie Plate which features a massive selection of cured meats, olives and organic wheat crackers.
This champion of beer bars is best visited at night when the suited and business types have been replaced by a more fun loving crowd. Not that there is anything wrong with going during the day of course- you might have to if you want to make any serious headway through the huge array of beers on offer!
If you wan to get yourself in the mood for a beer session, head first to the Brooklyn Brewery and check out how they make all the beer you’re going to consume afterwards.
9 Doyers Street
Apotheke used to be an opium and drugs den. Rather than try and hide or distance itself from its previous existence, Albert Tanner, the owner of Apotheke uses it as its unique selling point.
The result is a quirky little bar serving over 250 different cocktails from a marble bar that is full to bursting with various glass jars, pestles and mortars.
Part of the appeal of Apotheke is watching the owner, a self-proclaimed ‘mixologist’, and his trusted bar men make the cocktails from scratch.
Cocktails are separated into nine distinct categories with the intention of trying to have a cocktail to try and suit your mood. Whether you’re after a ‘euphoric enhancer’ or an ‘aphrodisiac’ Apotheke claims to have the cocktail for you.
It even has absinthe made on the premises. You have been warned!
8. Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
19-29 24th Avenue Astoria
Serving Czech and Slovak beers and a large outdoor patio with benches and a grill serving sausages, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of Europe rather than New York.
New York used to house hundreds of Europeans style beer halls, however, over the years they have been phased out and replaced by non-descript coffee shops or pizza joints, leaving the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden as the last Czech beer hall standing!
And thank God it is as the atmosphere and general ambience is fantastic. Besides, what could be better than chilling out in a beer garden with a Czech Pilsner in one hand a German sausage in the other during an NY summer?
9. Beauty Bar
231 East 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
Decked out like an old school US hair salon, Beauty Bar is a throwback to the 1950s and is a drinking experience like no other. Here you’ll find trendy New Yorkers sitting under hair driers chewing the fat and drinking beers listening to a soundtrack of 50s and 60s rock and pop classics.
In terms of clientele, you won’t find a suit in site as alternative is the name of the game and the atmosphere is relaxed but edgy. Alternative might not be you thing but you shouldn’t let that put you off as the Beauty Bar regulars are super-friendly and love to chat with tourists!
Drinks aren’t the cheapest in town but they’re not the most expensive either and you can get a pint of Sam Adams or glass of wine for under $5.
If you visit the Beauty Bar on a Sunday you’ll also be treated to a dose of Beauty Bar Comedy which has built up a bit of an underground following and has a reputation for unearthing some of the local scene’s brightest rising stars.
10. 230 Fifth
230 Fifth Avenue
Cheap it most certainly isn’t but if you’re after a drinking experience which allows you to take in 360 degree views of NY’s amazing skyline day or night whilst sipping cocktails on luxury padded chairs and recliners, then 230 Fifth Avenue is the only place to go!
The whole experience is special- you enter the outdoor garden area through a luxurious and amazingly 1940’s style inner bar and chill out area- and then have to wait to be seated by one of the waiter staff in one of the ultra-comfortable seating areas.
The best time to go up is at night when the New York skyline takes on a completely different complexion. It can get cold up top- especially during the winter but the bar has outdoor heaters, dressing gowns and blankets and pillows to keep you warm!
The drinks themselves aren’t cheap and this isn’t a place you’d go if you’re hard pushed budget wise. However, you have to appreciate that you are on the roof of a high quality bar in one of the most famous streets in the world, sipping cocktails looking out at all of New York’s most famous sites around you with just the stars above you. It doesn’t really come much better than that!
230 Fifth completes our recommended list of bars to try when visiting the city that never sleeps. However, there are hundreds more out there and we haven’t even considered New York nightclubs or amazing clubbing scene.
Do you know a good bar/club in New York that we’ve missed? If you do, let us know as we’d love to hear about it! Become a friend on facebook and send us a message or wall post.
Check out our blog 10 things to do in New York for less than $10 to find out how to make the most out of the Big Apple on a budget. If you’re really strapped for cash we also have a blog on ten things you can do without spending so much as a penny! Also read free New York art galleries, New York in pictures, cheap eats in New York and The New York Street Food Guide