The Best Places to Grab a Drink in New York City

East River views from Ophelia | Credit: Ophelia

Every night in New York City is bar night. With thousands of excellent drinking establishments to choose from, bar hopping never gets boring, whether you’re in the mood to taste trending cocktails, sip through a well-curated wine menu, or even sulk with a paperback in the corner of a dark dive. The NYC bar scene is unparalleled for its diversity, high-quality drinks, and bartenders who truly know their booze. Skip the hour-long sidewalk waits and awkward conversations by reaching for a reservation instead—here are some of New York’s best bars to sip a drink.

Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge (Theater District/Times Square)

Seasonal floral decor at The Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge | Credit: Tao Group Hospitality

Every hour can feel magical atop this lofty bar and lounge. With unobstructed views of the Empire State Building and plenty of space to spread out, the Magic Hour is a rarity this close to Times Square. Pink furniture and seasonal decor— colorful flowers, fairy lights—make this indoor and outdoor space an influencer hotspot, but anyone can have a good time here. Drinks and bites are extra playful, such as curly fries and an 18-ounce party punch made with grapefruit vodka, yuzu and pomegranate.

Grand Central Oyster Bar (Midtown East)

Credit: Grand Central Oyster Bar

Nestled in the depths of Grand Central Terminal, this basement level oyster bar is known for its rotund ceilings and spacious interiors, welcoming both tourists and New York commuters. Sit at a dining table or sidle up to a stool at the bar for top-notch martinis, ice cold oysters and an ambiance unlike anywhere else. 

The Ainsworth (East Village, Midtown)

With locations in the East Village and Murray Hill The Ainsworth is a neighborhood bar that’s becoming ubiquitous across the city. Here, patrons can watch sports on multiple TV screens or gather with friends outdoors to drink through the extensive beer menu. Also a full restaurant, The Ainsworth is a spot you can linger at all night, tasting decadent plates such as gold-flake topped chicken wings, a mac-and-cheese topped burger, or a banana split served with a warm waffle.

The Ainsworth – East Village

The Ainsworth – Midtown

Julius’ Bar (West Village)

As New York’s oldest gay bar, Julius sits prominently on a corner of the West Village, where the no-frills dive beckons anyone eager to drink in a safe space. Regulars are fans of the burgers, and there’s always a vibrant ambiance in the colorfully decorated bar, welcoming solo visitors and groups alike. 

Holiday Cocktail Lounge (East Village)

An East Village haunt revitalized in the 2010s, Holiday is equal parts kitschy and classy. An extensive and excellent cocktail list includes daiquiris, topped with paper umbrellas, to serve a group, a cold brew and maple-infused syrup in the ever-popular espresso martini, a bright blue electric lemonade, and dozens more options. The U-shaped bar at the center of the century-old space is perfect for making new friends. 

Orient Express Cocktail Bar (West Village)

Like its namesake train service, this dimly lit, velvet-accented Chelsea cocktail bar harkens back to the height of luxurious rail travel. Cozy up in the narrow space with travel-themed cocktails such as the No Vacancy (rye, cognac, amaro, apricot liqueur, cardamom bitters, and orange bitters) or the West Side Old Fashioned (mezcal, rum, maraschino cherry juice, and Angostura bitters). To nibble, small bites like tuna tartare and assorted French chocolates keep the cosmopolitan vibe going. 

ART Soho (SoHo)

Arlo SoHo’s rooftop bar is a bonafide scene, decked with stylish couches, a frosé machine, plus extravagant raw bar plates to enjoy while soaking in the downtown views. Drinks such as the rhubarb cosmo and strawberry negroni are whimsical and easy-to-drink. Groups can also settle in for bottle service, which include a high-end spirit, plus house-made cocktail mixers.  

Ophelia (Midtown East)

A cocktail at Ophelia | Credit: Ophelia

An Art Deco-inspired cocktail lounge on the 26th floor of the historic Beekman Tower, Ophelia is a delight overlooking the East River. The bar feels nostalgic yet contemporary, serving creative riffs on classic cocktails such as a martini smoked with palo santo wood and a negroni mixed with strawberries and black tea. A chic menu features bites like truffle fries, foie gras toast, and burrata caprese.  

Fifty Henry (Brooklyn Heights)

An iconic haunt just blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge, Fifty Henry is a quintessential Brooklyn wine bar. At the marble bar top you can browse an extensive wine list, served by the glass, half carafe, and bottle, curated by lightest to fullest for easy selection. A seasonal menu offers dishes that pair well with wine, such as several types of pasta and roast chicken. 

Brooklyn Winery (Williamsburg)

As one of few full-on wineries operating in New York City, Brooklyn Winery is a Williamsburg institution. Sourcing grapes from the Finger Lakes and North Fork, the winery makes its own bottles and blends, all available to taste on site. Taste indoors or alfresco with a flight of your choice, plus small bites such as cheese and hummus. 

As You Are (Boerum Hill)

Credit: Kent Johnson

Located in the Ace Hotel Brooklyn, As You Are is part-bar, part-cafe, part-restaurant, and an all-around good time. Cocktails are elevated but nearly deceiving in their simplicity, such as the Keep Walkin’ Honey, made with mezcal, chartreuse, pineapple, and mint. To eat, try small dishes like celery root latkes or baked brie with strawberries— or skip right to dessert for sticky toffee pudding with oat ice cream. 

Queens Beer Factory (Jackson Heights)

Over a dozen taps line the subway tiles behind the bar at Queen Beer Factory, where visitors can taste a wide variety of local craft beers on draft, and even more in cans. Sours, lagers, IPAs, Pilsners, and more are all available to pair with a fun menu of bites such as animal fries—topped with cheese sausage, hot dog sausage, pico de gallo, and aioli—coconut shrimp, and a soft pretzel with cheese.

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk

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