Manhattan has no shortage of watering holes. And so, the task of selecting its best and brightest (more often than not, rather dim) was no easy one. Is the perfect bar just a place that makes a great drink? Or where the staff is particularly welcoming? Or that just feels like home? We like to think the perfect bar has all these things. Most importantly, it’s a place where you wouldn’t mind spending a spell sitting and drinking, even if the only company you have is the barkeep and the souls on bar stools next to you.
So, which Manhattan tavern, cocktail lounge, saloon, gin joint, rum shack, boîte, alehouse, taproom, speakeasy, or dive bar came out on top? Click through to find out.
Our 10 Best Manhattan Bars were selected based on the same criteria all men and women use to choose a favorite bar. (Because, really, isn’t the bar choosing you?) These are bars we like the look of, the feel of, the bartender of, the booze of, and the patrons of. If your local isn’t listed, let us know.
10. Rusty Knot, 425 West Street, 212-645-5668: It may be a hyper-stylized faux dive, but cheap Tecates, tasty tiki drinks, and pretzel dogs keep it real.
9. Mayahuel, 304 East 6th Street, 212-253-5888: It helped rescue tequila from the realm of frat boys and body shots. And for this, we pay tribute to it.
8. Milano’s Bar, 51 East Houston, 212-226-8844: At one of the last vestiges of the Old Bowery, the Pogues get played nightly and the regulars are like family.
7. King Cole Bar, 2 East 55th Street, 212-753-4500: Sure, it claims to have invented the Bloody Mary despite evidence to the contrary, but the bar serves it with macadamia nuts and a view of the Maxfield Parrish mural behind the bar.
6. Little Branch, 22 Seventh Avenue, 212-929-4360: The bartender will whittle you a perfectly spherical ice ball for your Old Fashioned right before your eyes. But it’s not just about meticulous bartending; a jazz trio keeps the place hopping.
5. Subway Inn, 143 East 60th Street, 212-223-8929: A dive that’s a dive just for the sake of being a dive is a bore. But the dirty floors, slanted seats, ancient bar staff, and old regulars reeking of booze and death are ambiance you want to bottle.
4. Death & Co., 433 East 6th Street, 212-388-0882: Expertly made cocktails somehow manage to remain in the realm of the relatively simple (i.e., no liquid nitrogen or 17-ingredient recipes). Delicious bar snacks help you prolong your stay.
3. Blind Tiger, 281 Bleecker Street, 212-462-4682: Beer buffs rejoice. Here is a place where everyone is as nerdy and psyched about suds as you are. Clasp your hand on your neighbor’s back and drink to your healthy obsession.
2. Painkiller, 49 Essex Street, 212-777-8454: Tiki revival notwithstanding, you’d have to be devoid of a pulse not to have fun here. Oh, and the drinks just happen to be freakin’ amazing, too.
1. Old Town Bar, 45 East 18th Street, 212-529-6732: A fixture since 1892, we’ll take this place over McSorley’s* most of the time. Good beer, great burger, no sawdust, and urinals that make you look forward to breaking the seal.
*Note: We love McSorley’s. It could be No. 11. If only for the sweet barmen and “cheese platter”: sharp cheddar, Premium Plus crackers, raw onion, and super-spicy mustard.
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