You’ll find all species of thirst-quenching venues here, from terminally hip cocktail lounges and historic dive bars to specialty taprooms and Third Wave coffee shops. Then there’s the legendary club scene, spanning everything from celebrity staples to gritty, indie hangouts. Head downtown or to Brooklyn for the parts of the city that, as they say, truly never sleep.
Here in the land where the term ‘cocktail’ was born, mixed drinks are still stirred with the utmost gravitas. From Jillian Vose at Dead Rabbit to Eben Freeman at Genuine Liquorette, the city’s top barkeeps are virtual celebrities, their deft precision creating some of the world’s most sophisticated and innovative libations. Often it’s a case of history in a glass: New York’s obsession with rediscovered recipes and Prohibition-era style continues to drive many a cocktail list.
The city’s craft beer culture is equally dynamic, with an ever-expanding bounty of breweries, bars and shops showcasing local artisanal brews. While Brooklyn may no longer be the major beer exporter of yesteryear, craft breweries like Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint (www.sixpoint.com) have put it back on the map. Other boroughs are also making amber waves, with start-ups including SingleCut Beersmiths (www.singlecutbeer.com) and Big Alice Brewery (bigalicebrewing.com) in Queens, as well as Bronx Brewery and Gun Hill Brewing Co (www.gunhillbrewing.com) in the Bronx.
New Yorkers are always looking for the next big thing, so the city’s club scene changes faster than a New York minute. Promoters drag revelers around the city for weekly events held at all of the finest addresses, and when there’s nothing on, it’s time to hit the dancefloor stalwarts.
When clubbing it never hurts to plan ahead; having your name on a guest list can relieve unnecessary frustration and disappointment. If you’re an uninitiated partier, dress the part. If you’re fed the ‘private party’ line, try to bluff – chances are high that you’ve been bounced. Also, don’t forget a wad of cash as many nightspots (even the swankiest ones) often refuse credit cards, and in-house ATMs scam a fortune in fees.
A boom in specialty coffee roasters has transformed New York's once-dismal caffeine culture. More locals are cluing-in on single-origin beans and different brewing techniques, with numerous roasters now offering cupping classes for curious drinkers. Many are transplants from A-list coffee cities, among them Portland’s Stumptown and the Bay Area’s Blue Bottle. The Australian influence is especially notable, with antipodean mavericks including Little Collins and Bluestone Lane.
Brewpubs. Dives. Cocktail lounges. Unassuming neighborhood joints. When it comes to booze, Brooklyn's got a bit of everything – including oodles of retro 1920s and '30s style. Williamsburg has the most vibrant nightlife scene concentrated in one spot, but other neighborhoods have the advantage of less crowded and more relaxed options.
Need to Know
Happy hour beers typically start from $4; expect to pay about $7 or $8 for a regular draft, and more for imported bottles. Glasses of wine start at around $9. Specialty cocktails run from $14 to well over $20. Expect to pay between $5 and $30 to get into clubs.
Opening times vary. While some dive bars open as early as 8am, most drinking establishments get rolling around 5pm. Numerous bars stay open until 4am, while others close around 1am early in the week and 2am from Thursday to Saturday. Clubs generally operate from 10pm to 4am or 5pm.
If you grab a beer at the bar, bartenders will expect at least a $1 tip per drink; tip $2 to $3 for fancier cocktails. Sit-down bars with waitstaff may expect more of a standard restaurant-style 18% to 20% tip, particularly if you snacked along with your boozing.
- New York Magazine (www.nymag.com/nightlife) Brilliantly curated nightlife options by the people who know best.
- Thrillist (www.thrillist.com) A roundup of what’s hot or coming soon on the NYC bar scene, including interviews with industry peeps.
- Urbandaddy (www.urbandaddy.com) More up-to-the-minute info and a handy ‘hot right now’ list.
- Time Out (www.timeout.com/newyork/nightlife) Reviews and on-the-ball listings of where to drink and dance.
- partyearth (www.partyearth.com/new-york) Detailed club reviews from some of the city’s savviest party kids.