New York has long been known for its history with cocktail culture. It all started in the late 1800s with the creation of the Manhattan, the first drink to combine spirits with vermouth. Then with Prohibition came the banning of alcohol, and New Yorkers got creative crafting beverages in underground lairs. The Mad Men era turned drinking spirits into a way to do business, with cocktails as a lunchtime necessity. Now cocktails have started a new generation of imbibers looking to get a taste of the past mixed with the fresh, local ingredients of the present. These five New York cocktail bars serve up the generational tradition in the most creative way.
Employees Only embodies the spirit of the 1920s when Prohibition reigned and citizens gathered in alleyway bar nooks and underground speakeasies to drink, socialize and be merry. Guests can take a seat at one of the bar’s black leather stools and order one of the specialty cocktails off the menu. A ginger smash, for instance, is muddled ginger root and fresh pineapple, shaken with Cana Brava rum, Maraschino liqueur, Berentzen apple liqueur and fresh lime juice served over ice. Guests can also order food off the dinner menu. The Porterhouse pork chop and seared rib-eye are customer favorites.
Death and Company celebrates the new era of cocktails with a nod to New York’s Prohibition days. Back then, it was thought that drinking alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death, and that those that did were called death and company. This cocktail bar revives those early cocktail days with a traditional marble bar top from which guests can order off the extensive spirits menu. The bar staff suggests gin and rye, which are "the most classic" spirits, or there are specialty cocktails crafted shaken or stirred.
Love and bitters are the Spanish words for which the Amor y Amargo bitters bar is named after. Almost every one of the bar’s specialty cocktails contains some flavor of bitters, ranging from Creole to celery to grapefruit. Try the wagon wheel, a combination of rye, del Capo, Salers, dry vermouth and Boston Bittahs. The drinks are so specialized that the mixologists who created them are credited on the menu. Plus, the bar offers classes for customers wanting to learn bartending basics.
Named after the British Colonial Officer’s club in Burma that was popular in the late 1800s, the Pegu Club features the same house cocktail that is now asked for internationally. The drink is a combination of London dry gin, bitters, lime juice and orange curacao. The Pegu Club takes craft cocktails seriously, using fresh ingredients and crafting its own infusions, flavored syrups and ginger beer. Cocktail condiments are also served tableside for the ultimate cocktail experience.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog combines the spirit of Old New York with the Irish-American tradition. The Taproom on the first floor sets the scene for customers to enjoy craft beer, bottled punch, a wide variety of whiskeys and lunch served daily, while upstairs, the Parlor offers small plates, communal punch and 72 of the world’s best cocktails. Both rooms feature long, wooden bars reminiscent of Old New York. The Taproom also has historic photos hanging on the walls, while the Parlor features a traditional piano — a perfect setup for the live music played each night.