Booze Cruise

Verlaine's El Chupacabra
photo: Shiho Fukada

110 Rivington Street, 212.614.2494

Verlaine's menu—handmade and handsomely designed on a quarter-inch-thick sheet of Plexiglas—boasts a sizable roster of exquisite, Vietnamese-themed concoctions that utilize flavors like lychee, mango, mint, ginger, and passion fruit. A particular must-have is their El Chupacabra ($8), created by Verlaine bartender Alejandro, and christened, oddly enough, after the folkloric goat-bloodsucker of Puerto Rico. But don't let the name dissuade you. A perfect pastiche of rum, amaretto, lychee, muddled lemons, and pineapple, the Chupacabra comes without the sort of bite one would expect. Rather, it's sweet without being overwhelming, and so dizzyingly refreshing and flavorful you'll crave seconds. Also try their Vietnamese Bloody Mary and Passion Tetla, both $8. IRENE YADAO

298 Lafayette Street, 212.431.1200

Is the image of the rough-and-tumble "fighting Irish" finally fading into myth? Judging from a recent visit to Puck Fair, it appears so. This upscale and polished Irish pub seems more a regular stop for overpaid office-types accustomed to manicures than for those who work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shifts. You're almost afraid to put your glass down on the well-crafted, deep-oak bar for fear of staining it. Descend into the candle-lit basement, where you can order a Guinness if you want, but why would you when the debonair Dabny can easily cater a cocktail to your craving? Something mildly tart, sweet (but not too sweet), and crisp? Tip back one of his Abbos ($8) (named after a friend in England, of all places), a delicate mix of rum, tangy pineapple juice, just enough Grenadine, and freshly squeezed lemon. It is incredibly delicious, but while drinking it, you feel way more like Michael Bloomberg than Michael Collins. KEN SWITZER

30 West 52nd Street, 212.265.6665

As you and your soon-to-be beloved cuddle on the floor cushions in this all-red, opium-like den of Vedic design—the pheromone-releasing Taj Mahal of romantic date bars—sample the very grape and very sweet house special, the K Koktail ($12): Absolut Curant, sugar, and cranberry, lemon, and lime juices with a splash of Chambord. Containing the perfect ratio of alcohol and juices, this punch-like drink is served up in a martini glass and is as smooth as the silk curtains that hang from the ceiling. Careful, you can barely taste the alcohol. Like the bar's sexy and tranquil ambience—gold-leaf covered chairs and tables, wall statues with Indian deities in coital embrace—this one goes down easy. DAVID SHAWN BOSLER

161 Ludlow Street, 212.473.3535

Some signature drinks are celebrated because of their simplicity, like Paladar's Bachata, a mix of Bacardi and horchata ($6), which arrives with coconut garnish and froth, much like a milk shake. Horchata, a Latin American concoction of milk and ground rice, complements the bold flavors of the restaurant's cuisine, while the rum gives it an extra kick. And much like the romantic dance that inspired its name, Bachata evokes the perfect ending to a sultry tropical day in the Dominican Republic—or Ludlow Street, if you will. It took Irish fellow Amon Fulong to come up with this creation—he's also in charge of the Latin tunes and managing the business—proving he's got plenty of sazón. Decorated with vintage album covers, kitschy trinkets, and tinsel, Paladar is all about drinking, eating, and being merry. GRACE BASTIDAS

348 West 52nd Street, 212.397.1700

The atmosphere at Therapy couldn't feel any less like a shrink's office, unless, of course, you're self-medicating. Loud music and uproarious conversation rock the bi-level Hell's Kitchen "It" spot (rendering obsolete its meditation pool). "No, you're not in Chelsea," reads the menu. But the cutoff shirts, techno Muzak, and task lighting coulda fooled anyone. The libations bear cutesy mental-health-themed monikers. The Freudian Sip ($9), a mixture of Absolut Citron, fresh ginger, and lemonade, served on the rocks, is light, sweet, restorative, with the delicious spicy bite of grated ginger root. But don't let the whimsical names fool you; some of these drinks are potent. The Tranquility ($9), a citrusy, also sweet cocktail of Absolut Mandarin, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and OJ, goes down smooth but packs the punch of an Orangina-flavored Long Island Iced Tea. Have one, you're tranquil; have two, you're drunk. DANIAL ADKISON

37 West 19th Street, 212.727.7741

At this dark lounge in need only of a password and jazz, one can imagine she is Edith Wharton, Zelda Fitzgerald, or Dorothy Parker draped on a chair exchanging sardonic words with Prohibition-era socialites. On the art-deco-lettered menu, bona fide mixologist Julie Reiner vamps up originals that any dapper flapper will quaff, including retro potions that resurrect the '20s to '40s. The Hawaiian Iced Tea ($10), a patron favorite, is a godsend, infusing Absolut Mandarin with black teas, mint, and fresh juices. A swig and a sniff quench a dandygal's cigarette-parched throat and conjuresummers spent on the Riviera. Reiner elevates bartending to an art as every cocktail findsthat fine line between spirits and juices. A swank spot attracts its wannabe crowd, so arrive unfashionably early to avoid the Sexand the City squad. JANET KIM

140 Seventh Avenue, 212.989.2100

As the temperature rapidly declines, why not escape to the sun-scorched deserts of the Southwest? Within the white stucco walls of Agave, every day feels like mid July in New Mexico, and the cold doesn't stand a chance against their spicy Tex-Mex fare and wide selection of tequilas (over 35 different kinds). Order a Prickly Pear Margarita ($9)—created by co-owner Susan O'Hanlon—an exhilarating, ruby-red drink that contains a generous dose of Montezuma tequila, just a splash of triple sec, fresh lime, and, of course, juice from the sweet, exotic fruit for which it's named. After a few of these, as the clusters of flickering candles begin to resemble campfires and cast calm shadows upon the light-brown woodwork, you just might consider trading in your laptop for a six-gun and some silver spurs. KEN SWITZER

428 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, 718.638.0645 Cash only

Not knowing what you will encounter at a "bubble tea" bar, you might expect a room filled with old Englishwomen and scones. There are none here. Café Ma, a small, cozy Park Slope bar decorated with oversized sofas and playing salsa, world, and reggae music, serves New York City's latest craze, bubble tea—green or black, often served with pearl tapioca (hence the "bubbles"), with the inspired addition of rum or vodka. Regulars partake in the usual beer and spirits, but the "thing" here is the tea. Try a special like the Cheech & Chong, made with green tea, kumquat, green apple, lychee liqueurs, and vodka. It arrives in a tall milk-shake glass with a thick-cut straw and bears a scary greenish-purple hue. The first sip tasted like candied lemonade with Gummi Bear-like bits floating at the bottom. It's both very sweet while managing to be sour too. The drinks are served frozen or milk-shake-style in the $3.50-$4.50 range with an extra two bucks for booze. Heck, maybe it really is always "tea time." ANDREW ABER

344 West 11th Street, 212.352.2300

Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's restaurant/bar, named after his Austrian hometown of Wallsé, is admittedly more restaurant than bar. Quaintly elegant and chic, the cozy space is filled with tables and banquettes that engulf the centralized bar—perhaps a deliberate design to entice bar-goers to sample Gutenbrunner's oeuvre of personalized Austrian delicacies. Still, those strictly eyeing the drinks will feel pleasantly at home. Apart from a lengthy list of wines, Wallsé features a handful of cocktails that shifts emphasis each season (fall, for example, will play with Cuvee Klimt, an Austrian sparkling wine, and with apples, pears, and other seasonal fruits like elderberry). The most distinct of the bunch is the Lemon Grass ($9), a refreshing take on the mojito that, in lieu of mint, places its focus on the flavor of citrus (Absolut Citron, lemongrass, kaffir lime, and lemon juice), thereby granting it the smooth, lightweight taste of a lemonade-vodka, minus the tart. Zum Wohl! IRENE YADAO

24 East 12th Street, 212.924.4283

Since tariffs limited vodka imports into Japan, its inebriated citizens traditionally quaffed sake and Korean soju. The Sino-spirits assimilated Western libations and spawned the saketini. Minimalist Japanese restaurant Yujin immigrates the saketini and its translations to New York City. Sake and Japanese vodka commingle into a faithful rendition of the Western classic, but the best twist is the Plumtini (Japanese vodka, sake, and plum soju; $10); it's smooth like a martini for jingoistic baka gaijin and subtly sweet for sophisticated Asian palates. Recommended for both Bond and Kissy Suzuki. White devils will also enjoy Yujin's eponymous drink ($10), concocted from neither sake nor soju but Stoli Oranj and passion fruit. Since the bar scene doesn't really comprise a scene, food will probably be in order. Yujin's eats are good but decidedly whitewashed as chopsticks do not a Japanese make. JANET KIM

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