Food

The Ten Best New Bars in NYC, 2015

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Far from an arduous task, keeping up with the drinking scene in NYC is one of the ongoing pleasures of living in this exhilarating place. This year we saw mixologists experimenting with exotic spices, spirits and infusions, much to our heady delight. Here’s our top ten list of 2015’s best new drinking establishments. Cheers!

Mace (649 East 9th Street, 212-673-1190)

The real miracle on 9th Street wasn’t the Christmastime pop-up former Experimental Cocktail Club barman Nico de Soto brought to the East Village these past two holiday seasons, but what sprung up in-between. Last spring, he transformed the former Louis 649 space into Mace, a steely, muted Parisian boite colored only by the herbaceous ingredients that sharply season each drink on the menu. While the narrow space doesn’t offer much room to breathe, it offers plenty of flavor to inhale deeply, from the assertive Celery Seed, wrapping an infused mezcal with a chipotle tincture in a haze of sherry, to the creamy Chamomile, which swaddles floral notes with brown butter fat-washed cognac. (Adam Robb)

Holiday Cocktail Lounge (75 St. Marks Place, 212-777-9637)

Most beloved dives can’t afford to update their offerings while maintaining their charms, but the spring reopening of Holiday Cocktail Lounge was a happy surprise. The address hasn’t changed but the building has, thanks to a bountiful investment by its owner (and the inventor of Pirate’s Booty.) And the mural dedicated to Holiday’s predecessor has endured as well as the bar’s former patrons, as perennial an ornamentation as Holiday’s twinkling Christmas lights. And if they look a little lost sipping on a menu revamped by Michael and Danny Neff – most recently responsible for invigorating the enduring charm of the Hotel Edison with their Rum Bar – they can still feel at home with the prices, which include $5 cans of Rolling Rock and $7 Long Island iced tea on draft to wash down $6 grilled cheeses. (Robb)

Lumos (90 West Houston Street, 646-692-9866)

NYC is filled with specialty bars. There are thousands of whiskey joints, tons of tequila taverns, tiki bars, rum pubs, mezcal haunts. If it exists, it’s in the Big Apple. Baijiu, an ancient Chinese spirit made from sorghum and/or rice, has only recently been acknowledged by bartenders in the West. Baijiu cocktails have been popping up on beverage lists at speakeasies and Asian-inspired eateries over the past couple years, but Lumos is the first bar to deal solely in the celebratory liquor. Since last spring, lead bartender, Orson Salicetti (formerly of Apotheke), has been mixing up a seasonal list of cocktails that enhance the varied aromas of the booze. Look for interesting drinks like the Goji ($15), a rich and smoky riff on a paloma with goji berry-infused Baijiu shaken with mezcal, pink grapefruit, lime, agave and orange bitters. With rare grog and an underground cabaret vibe, a trip here is an experience. Stop by on a Saturday: they offer burlesque shows in  the back room. (Sara Ventiera)

Dullboy (364 Grove Street, Jersey City; 201-795-1628)

Liquor licenses in Jersey City don’t go unused for long, so last February,shortly after Park & Sixth owner Brian Dowling relocated his original restaurant to the south side of Grove Street, he teamed up with The Garret’s Adam Fulton to open Dullboy in its place. It was a quick turnaround, its low-lighted ambiance evoking the drafty chill of The Shining with billowing dime-store paperbacks and disused typewriters mounted to the walls. The menu was limited; fresh oysters shuffled through the pass of the former sandwich kitchen, and the drinks menu was a rough draft at best. Now at year’s end, the room is packed – extending to the benches outside – and you can’t see the decor past someone you know, even as competition’s proliferated over the past ten months. Now bartenders Gabriel Reiben and Grant Wheeler execute a menu of original libations like the mezcal Alejandra, packed with the earthiness of achiote syrup and chocolate bitters. Now clean slurps of oyster are still an option, but so are hot, buttered bar steaks and marrow-slathered burgers. Now’s the time to check it out. (Adam Robb)

Porchlight (271 Eleventh Avenue; 212-981-6188)

When Danny Meyer is involved, you know a place will be worth its salt. This Chelsea pub offers serious drinks in a laid-back atmosphere, comforting mixology novices while challenging booze connoisseurs — a win for everyone. Head bartender Nick Bennet breaks down the selections into four categories: Guzzlers; Classics, Sippers, and Nerdy (“late-night experiments that worked”). You can’t go wrong with anything, but the latter section is worth paying special attention to. There’s a whiskey and cola ($15) that’s a high-end riff on a Jack and Coke with mellow corn whiskey, Fernet Vallet, and homemade cola syrup. The IPA-Mazing is as good as it sounds — a refreshing and slightly bitter mix of Tanqueray, grapefruit, passion fruit, and Other Half IPA. (Ventiera)

Mother of Pearl (95 Avenue A, 212-614-6818)

Even when it’s 70 degrees in December, New Yorkers will forever appreciate an escape to a tropical destination. However, while conga lines and frozen margaritas do have an upside, its the modern tiki bar Mother of Pearl, helmed by Jane Danger, that provides the best excuse to break out a floral-patterned shirt. By maintaining serious cocktails within the wacky world of tiki – think quality balanced ingredients being slurped out of shark’s mouth – the bar demonstrates Polynesian isn’t passé. Mix in a menu of crudos, fried rice, and Southeast Asian-style bites, and you’ll be able to postpone that long awaited vacation just a bit longer. (Billy Lyons)

Loosie Rouge (91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn; no phone)

2015 should be remembered for the resurgence of the piano bar as a reason to go out, mostly because of the efforts of Loosie Rouge. On any given night, you’ll find bartenders whipping up vieux carrés while patrons quietly tap their feet – or perhaps dab in plain sight. Simplistic, refined, and overall straight-up cool, the bar may be named after a loose woman, but its reputation is tight. The New Orleans-style subterranean bar embraces the idea of a cocktail as a global agent of change. Though your ideas may never leave the room – which might happen given the strength of the cocktails – you’ll nonetheless be reminded that when a bar has the lights on and music playing, something good is bound to happen. (Lyons)

Bar Goto (245 Eldridge Street, 212-475-4411)

Although the Lower East Side is flush with drinking destinations, few operate with as much finesse as this handsomely appointed, eponymous offering from Tokyo expat and respected barman Kenta Goto. Behind an L-shaped bar, he and Mat Resler stir and shake inspired cocktails ($15), from the Tom Collins-esque Yuzu-Calpico Fizz (which uses Japanese milk soda and receives a marshmallow topping) to the cherry blossom-garnished Sakura martini, and even a mushroom-inflected bloody mary. While the drinks and atmosphere drip with understated class, chef Kiyo Shinoki’s bar snacks get down and dirty. Tackle joyfully messy miso-glazed wings, burdock root fries, and rectangular slabs of okonomiyaki pancakes studded with meats, seafood, and atypically, sun-dried tomatoes and three cheeses. (Zachary Feldman)

Leyenda (221 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 347-987-3260)

Inspired by the South American travels of her youth, Ivy Mix opened this Latin-inspired Cobble Hill cocktail bar with her mentor, Clover Club’s Julie Reiner. Mix, who won Best Bartender in America this year at booze industry convention Tales of the Cocktail, fleshes out her drinks list with around twenty offerings, highlighting spirits like cachaça, pisco, and Bolivian brandy, plus plenty of rums, mezcals, and tequilas to boot. Consulting chef Sue Torres complements tipples like the Tia Mia — which melds mezcal, rum, orange curaçao, and almond-like orgeat syrup — with a pan-Latin menu of pupusas, flautas, ceviche, and mofongo. (Feldman)

Slowly Shirley (Downstairs, 121 West 10th Street, 212-243-2827)

With this buttoned-up subterranean watering hole, owners Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns perfectly complement the Happiest Hour, their raucously popular West Village saloon that sits right on top of it. Descend past palm tree wallpaper to a low-ceilinged chamber lined with plush maroon booths and a bar stocked to the brim. Down here, Kearns runs a fastidious program, mixing signature drinks with esoteric spirits and pointed presentations. Don’t miss his Tahitian Coffee (for two). Served in a Chemex coffeemaker, the $35 tipple shakes up Barbados rum with pisco, cold brew coffee concentrate, falernum, honey, and tropical fruits. Slowly Shirley also graciously offers the same In-n-Out-inspired cheeseburger that’s made the upstairs such a hit, should you wish to partake of your meat sandwich in windowless semi-privacy. (Feldman)