In the land where the cocktail was born, mixed drinks are stirred with gravitas, craft breweries and bars take their artisan suds seriously, but you can also still find old-school dive bars.
BEST DIVE BARS
Way out in Red Hook, this super-inviting longshoreman bar – the sign says ‘bar’ – is straight out of On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando. Every Saturday at 10pm it hosts a foot-stomping bluegrass jam.
Giving new meaning to the word ‘dive,’ this Irish holdout has a long bar, walls covered in posters and black-and-white photographs, and a cheap food menu. There’s always a lineup of regulars who know each other by name and the bartender has a sense of humour. In other words, it’s the perfect place for a 1 pm pick-me-up in the Upper West Side.
This neon rebel in Nolita has never let anything get in the way of a good time. In Prohibition days it peddled buckets of beer. In the ’60s it was a gambling den. These days, it’s best known for its stuffed sharks and come-one-and-all late-night revelry. Fuelling the fun are cheap drinks and free grub – hot dogs on Wednesdays, bagels on Sundays.
BEST FOR COCKTAILS
This is the place barkeeps go for a well-crafted drink inTribeca. Try a Green Point – rye, sweet vermouth, yellow chartreuse, angostura bitters, orange bitters, or comfort yourself with some seriously fine snacks, including spectacular oysters slapped with gin-martini granita.
The Dead Rabbit
During the day, hit the sawdust-sprinkled Taproom inthe Financial District for historic punches and pop-inns (lightly hopped ale spiked with different flavours). Come evening, scurry upstairs to the cosy Parlor for a choice of more than 70 seasonal cocktails, which often include obscure ingredients, such as Bunny Boiler – Tanqueray No. Ten gin, cachaça, manuka flowers, falernum and lemon.
When it opened in 2012, the Penrose brought a much-needed dose of style to the Upper East Side, with exposed-brick walls, vintage mirrors, floral wallpaper and friendly bartenders setting the stage for a fine evening out. Line your stomach with good pub grub such as grilled portobello burger, before hitting artful concoctions such as the Dirty Pickle Martini – Tito’s vodka, McClure’s Spicy Pickle Brine and a pickle.
BEST FOR CRAFT BEER
This low-key Williamsburg bar looks like it was pieced together from a rummage sale. The ceilings are red, there are vintage maps on the walls and the furniture consists of tattered armchairs. But the beer selection is staggering, with unique, high-quality crafts on tap and cask.
Astoria Bier & Cheese
It’s a case of curds-and-brew at this bar-shop hybrid in Astoria. Take your pick from 10 seasonal drafts, or choose between canned and bottled options, yours to take home or swill on-site. Fromage fiend Mike Fisher keeps the cheese selection inspired and surprising.
The cognoscenti of NYC’s beer world pack this tiny, 10-stool bar just west of Tompkins Square Park in East Village. Promising ‘rare, new and unusual beers’, Proletariat delivers the goods with a changing line-up of brews you won’t find elsewhere. Recent hits have included drafts from artisanal brewer like Hitachino Nest of Japan, Swiss-based BFM and Mahr’s Bräu in Germany.
NEW YORK ESSENTIALS
BA, Virgin, Delta and United fly direct from London, while United also flies direct from Manchester (as does American Airlines), Belfast and Glasgow. Three major airports serve NYC: JFK, 15 miles from Midtown in Queens, La Guardia, which is mostly for domestic flights and Newark Liberty. Although situated in New Jersey, Newark airport is the same distance from Midtown as JFK. You can explore Manhattan on foot, but the subway is a cheap and reliable way to get around.
WHERE TO STAY
A short stroll to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Serenity at Home is a charming guesthouse in a lovely pre-war terraced house. The four bedrooms have wooden floors and attractive furnishing.
The Strand Hotel is a stone’s throw from Macy’s, the Empire State Building and other Midtown icons. The lobby features a piano bar and waterfall, and rooms have large sofas. Topping it all off is a rooftop bar.
Crowned by a copper turret and featuring interiors with a NYC-meets-Paris aesthetic,
The NoMad Hotel is a Beaux-Arts dream and one of the city’s hottest addresses, especially the in-house restaurant/bar.
Beer brewing once thrived in the city – by 1870, Brooklyn had 48 breweries in Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint – areas packed with German immigrants with brewing know-how.
With Prohibition in 1919, Brooklyn was one of the country’s leading beer peddlers, and was famous for kids carrying growlers (beer jugs). By the end of Prohibition in 1933, most breweries had shut shop. And while the industry rose again in WWII, local flavour gave in to big-gun Midwestern brands.
Today, Brooklyn is again a catchword for a decent brew, as craft breweries put integrity back on tap. Brooklyn Brewery has seasonal offerings has seasonal offerings, such as Black Chocolate Stout. Also check out Sixpoint and Kelso of Brooklyn.