3 NYC Cocktail Bars That Mix Craft and Culture

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New York City is anything but boring, especially when it comes to its nightlife. As NYC cocktail bars look to outdo one another, it’s not enough to simply offer cool artisanal cocktails anymore. The bars that stand out offer a true experience unlike anything else in NYC. These three bars provide, not only great cocktails, but also quality cultural encounters you won’t soon forget.

The NoMad Bar

At The NoMad Bar, seasonal cocktails are separated on the menu by “light,” “dark,” or “rare” spirts. Each drink is somehow classic and creative, and can be truly classified as art. Your journey has never been more important, so pay attention as you make your way to the bar. Enter through the adjoining multiroom restaurant and peer up at the skyscrapers through the pyramidal glass roof. Head left past the open kitchen for a glimpse of their famous black truffle and foie gras-infused chicken for two. Travel to the Victorian age in the Parlour Room, where you’ll find dark oak and burgundy furnishings accented by gold and the pressed framed flowers. To the right is an intimate lounge accented by a grand fireplace, imported from the South of France, at center stage. Admire the two-dimensional floral wall border before strolling toward the Elephant Bar, where two dark wood elephants welcome you to a well-stocked bar with communal tables. Continue into the two-floor library, drink in hand, a hush falling as you peruse a curated collection of backlit books about New York and cocktails—a spiral staircase adds grandeur. Head down the back hallway and part the speakeasy-style drapes to finally make your entrance at The NoMad Bar. This upscale pub features a long mirrored bar in front, plush leather booths, mahogany tables in back, and balcony seating above. Sit by the window for a prime people-watching view of 28th Street, or near the balcony ledge for an aerial vista of NYC’s top mixologists at work.

Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel

When it comes to NYC cocktail bars, Manderley Bar is killer. The McKittrick Hotel is actually a warehouse-turned-five-story-pseudo-hotel with the bar, a restaurant, and performance spaces. Check your coat and retrieve a playing card—your entry ticket—before walking up a set of stairs and wandering through a dark hallway maze. Pull back the velvet curtains to enter a smokey 1920s jazz lounge, serving up craft cocktails that will take you back in time, like a McKittrick Gimlet, made with Tanqueray, pomegranate liqueur, lime juice, and a fresh cucumber garnish. You may even work up the courage to enter the dark, often eerie, performance space where you can see Sleep No More, an interactive modern take on Macbeth, with silent actors shedding clothes, blood, and tears in a dizzying array of scenes. After the performance, have a seat at a red-clothed little table and order a round from your tuxedo- or flapper-dress-clad bartender, and enjoy some live crooning.

Pegu Club

Inspired by a gentleman’s club for British officers in 19th century Burma, NYC’s Pegu Club features low candlelit tables, and a beautiful black bar lined with backless saddle seats. Walk up the stairs and through a palm-lined doorway, and take up one of the brown velvet couches or the plush green chairs which, paired with the dangling orange lanterns, give an upscale-tropical feel. In the evening, the darkness adds a moody and mysterious vibe you won’t find in most bars. The cocktail menu boasts libations blending quality spirits, natural juices, and homemade infusions created by the famous Audrey Saunders, “The Libation Goddess.” Pegu Club has a simple a goal: “to bring back the true art of cocktail culture.” The most popular drink on the menu is the Gin-Gin Mule combining Tanqueray, homemade ginger beer, mint, and lime—giving a botanical twist to the typically vodka-spiked Moscow Mule. The Earl Grey MarTEAni blends tea-infused gin, lemon juice, and egg white for a curative buzz. Enhance your drink with Asian-inspired bites—each listed with a drink suggestion—like smoked trout deviled eggs and coconut shrimp for a truly transporting adventure.

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