City Guides: The best bars in New York

11 July, 2014

Death & Co, 433 E 6th St, Manhattan

Death & Co

The East Village is one of the most densely populated bar neighbourhoods with seriously stiff competition all around. Death & Co deserves a spot on this list because it changed the way New Yorkers look at cocktail menus and to this day continues to put out a world-class menu in a dizzying array of categories – 54 drinks in all.

The quarterly menu – changed according to the season, new products and trends – keeps both guests and bartenders on their toes. The process is collaborative, one where egos are checked at the door and no corners are cut. “We all present our ideas and specs of drinks to each other then critique it as a team until it’s perfect,” says current head bartender Jillian Vose.

Owners David Kaplan and Alex Day have taken their winning formula to Death & Co’s brand new sister bar, already an insider favourite. Vose says: “It does cheeky things such as Bamboos on tap, shorty beers and sherry, Fernet and cokes, and some bad-ass cocktails.”

Maison Premiere, 298 bedford Ave, brooklyn,

Maison Premiere, an oyster house and cocktail den in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, gets my vote for most charming bar. But in this town you can’t be all style and no substance. The tightly knit and passionate team has put together a top-notch concept. Its food is of the highest quality and its drinks – anchored by speciality absinthe cocktails – are among the best in the city.

Taking inspiration from the absinthe cafes of late 19th/early 20th century New Orleans, Maison Premiere has brought absinthe back to life as it was enjoyed back then, and has set about educating consumers on this category. 

For traditionalists, there’s a proper absinthe drip with some 20 varieties to sip on. For those seeking an introduction, Absinthe Colada, a twist on the classic Pina Colada, courts the trademark anise flavour alongside more familiar flavors.

Maison Premiere is a trendsetter on the food front too. After opening three years ago, it’s seen oysters become a part of almost every newly opened restaurant and bar in New York. According to bar director Maxwell Britten: “Oysters are becoming more associated with imbibing and a sense of atmosphere.”

Golden Cadillac, 13 First Ave, New YorkGolden Cadillac

One of the latest challengers on the scene is Golden Cadillac, a sexy 70s disco den in the East Village. When you think about how much influence 1970s New York had on the world – the grit of DGBG, the glitz of Studio 54 and the birth of hip hop – it was about time the decade was not only feted, but properly toasted. 

“The Golden Cadillac finds a marriage between serious cocktails and an environment that doesn’t take itself too seriously,” owner Greg Boehm says.

But how do you elevate retro drinks to serious cocktail status? If you’re beverage director Don Lee, you respect the fun-loving spirit of the era but ditch the cloying sweetness so many of those 70s classics fell victim to. I recommend getting your dance on during the monthly 70s Sundays with a Disco Daiquiri in hand. It’s made with overproof rum, fresh lime juice and sugar, and garnished with its own disco ball.

The beauty of Golden Cadillac is that it doesn’t matter if you grew up in the 70s or not – it’s a really fun bar with great drinks, and that’s something everyone can appreciate.

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