The Puffy Paloma at Etérea. // Photo Credit: Eric Medsker

GuidesNew York

What to Order at New York’s Top Cocktail Bars, According to the Bartenders

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Never again will we take for granted the simple pleasure of sitting and having a drink at a bar.

Bar seats are back, curfews have been lifted, and drinks can finally be ordered without a Cuomo snack (thank the lord). And, lo and behold, many of the city’s best bars are now taking reservations.

Simply put: Now’s the time to raise a glass and toast to the city’s reopening. So, we asked the bartenders, beverage directors, and mixologists behind some of the city’s most vaunted drinking dens to share their favorite cocktails on the menu. Pick your poison, right this way.

Jillian’s favorite drink on the menu:

Right now it would be the Lone Oak. It’s a whiskey sour variation with blended Irish whiskey, green Chartreuse, pistachio syrup, fresh lemon juice, curry leaf, Angostura bitters, and egg white. It’s a drink I created in 2014 and we brought it back for the first time since then.

 

Dead Rabbit’s most-ordered drink:

Our version of Irish coffee. We are currently serving about 500-600 of these a week, and pre-COVID, up to 1,200 a week. Other than that, we serve a lot of Guinness! We put an extra dishwasher just for the Guinness glasses only. It keeps the glasses pristine, as it’s the most important aspect of pouring the perfect pint.

 

Last call?
1:30 a.m. Book here.

Darnell’s favorite drink on the menu:

It Was All a Dream, an award-winning cocktail that invokes my Dominican culture and upbringing in New York City. It’s based on the traditional breakfast mocktail from the Dominican Republic called “Morir Soñando,” which, literally translated, means “to die dreaming.” It’s a combination of dark rum, passionfruit condensed milk, orange juice, and a blend of an amaro and allspice liqueur that creates the flavors of Mamajuana, another tradition drink of the DR.

 

Las’ Lap’s most-ordered drink:

The It Was All a Dreamthe Las’ Rum Punch, and our Love Thy Enemy. As a Caribbean bar with a West Indian influence, it took us six months to create our rum punch because we wanted to make sure we got it right.

 

Last call?
11:30 p.m. Book here.

Ektoras’ favorite drink on the menu:

My favorite for a while is the Absolut Kelly. I created this for the inauguration of an art gallery. It’s an art cocktail. I use Absolut vodka, Becherovka (a liqueur from the Czech Republic), Chios Mastiha (it’s from Greece and they use the resin of this tree — it’s very aromatic and special, almost like a taste of myrrh, and used a lot in Greek cuisine), Japanese shiso, yuzu, black sesame powder, and bergamot bitters. It’s very vibrant and it’ll surprise you because it looks so solid and so black. But then you taste it and it’s very sensual. I like that dichotomy between the appearance and the taste. The visual inspiration came from the Nike of Samothrace at the Louvre. It’s this Nike that’s headless, it’s one of the most important pieces of the museum. I put shiso leaves on top for that visual connection, like the wings.

 

Sugar Monk’s most-ordered drink:

The Queen of the Desert. We sell buckets of it. It’s a tequila-based cocktail. We infuse the tequila with habanero peppers — you get a little heat from that — and then we use an herbal liqueur made by Vicario called Herba Luisa. We use cucumber juice, fresh pineapple juice, elderflower syrup, and lime. It’s like a margarita but much more layered. You get freshness from the cucumber and the pineapple, sweetness from the elderflower. People love that cocktail.

 

Last call?
12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
11:30 p.m. the rest of the week.
Book here.

Natalka’s favorite drink on the menus:

At Elsa, the Two French Sisters — we’ve had it on our menu since the very beginning and it’s become a house classic for good reason. It’s bright, floral, citrusy, and sparkling, like sunshine in a glass.

At Ramona, I love the frozen orange creamsicle fizz. It’s tart and sweet, and hits you with that ice cream truck nostalgia every time.

 

The most-ordered drinks at the bar:

At Elsa, the Hotel Danger is a big favorite, as is the frozen Painkiller. At Ramona, our best seller is probably the Self Portrait.

 

Last call?
11:45 p.m at Ramona. Book here.
11 p.m. at Elsa. Book here.

Atsushi’s favorite drink on the menu:

My favorite cocktail on the menu is the Buena Vista, because it is refreshing and perfect to drink at any time of the day. The cocktail is made with mezcal, burdock root, an in-house blend of spices and syrups, tonic, and soda. Garnished with dehydrated burdock root, a dehydrated orange slice, and thyme.

 

Angel’s Share’s most-ordered drink:

The Flirtibird, which consists of shochu, yuzu juice, and shiso leaves.

 

Last call?
12 to 12:30 a.m. Book here.

Sother’s favorite drink on the menu:

I’m a huge fan of stirred, spirit-forward cocktails, so my favorite is the Teatro. It’s a tequila version of the classic Bijou with herbal Chartreuse and sweet vermouth. It’s delicious.

 

Etérea’s most-ordered drink:

[Since opening in April], the Puffy Paloma is the most popular. We juice grapefruit to order in a high-speed extractor that gives the juice an aerated “puffy” texture. We add tequila and Topo Chico seltzer and garnish with black lava salt. It’s very refreshing.

 

Last call?
11:30 p.m. Book here.

Faye and GN’s favorite drink on the menu:

Faye’s: The #1 (Bacardi lime rum, Montenegro, cold brew coffee, apricot, tonic) as it is perfect for the warmer weather, the coffee in the drink is balanced and smooth. I can drink this cocktail at any time of day.

GN’s: The #6 (Ilegal Joven Mezcal, Corona, absinthe, tomato, yuzu, mango, jalapeño) because I enjoy savory cocktails and this one is light and refreshing — perfect for the summer as well. As the lowest ABV tap-tail, it’s easy to drink as well.

 

Double Chicken Please’s most-ordered drink:

The #5 — it’s similar to a whiskey highball. Smoky, fizzy and fragrant from the oolong, it’s like a tall glass of summer tea. This drink pairs very well with our food menu.

 

Last call?
12:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
11:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.
10:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Book here.

Ross’ favorite drink on the menu:

Absolutely the Petunia No. 2. I named it after a Georgia O’Keeffe painting who is a favorite of my fiancé’s. Fizzes are kind of a sleeper cocktail most forget about or avoid, but this one is especially special. Mezcal, current cassis, lemon, and egg white shaken up to an insanely beautiful pink fizz.

 

Achilles Heel’s most-ordered drink:

The Moon Ring is always a crowd favorite. A little spicy, a little sweet, tequila, and a salt rim. What more could you ask for year-round?

 

Last call?
10:30 p.m. Book here.

Nico’s favorite drink on the menu:

The Sumac with sake and coconut milk. We do a syrup with black rice and jackfruit, with a whole egg. It’s shaken, served in a teacup, and on the cup, we put sumac powder and black salt. It’s a drink that’s inspired from a Malaysian dessert I had in Bali. It was black rice with some pieces of jackfruit in it. It was warm with cold coconut milk on the side. I basically took those ingredients and put them into a drink. It’s velvety, smooth, lot of flavors and layers — a really good drink.

 

Mace’s most-ordered drink:

At the old Mace, the most-ordered ever was the Pandan. The Pandan is a clarified milk punch with a spiced coconut syrup, three different types of rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice, a lot of milk. We filter all that through a Superbag and it becomes clear. And then we infuse it with pandan leaves. That drink has a lot of layers; it’s just so easy to drink and so good. We put it back on the menu as we moved locations.

 

Last call?
2 a.m. on the weekend.
Midnight the rest of the week.
Book here.

Ian’s favorite drink on the menu:

I love the Mandarin Collar. The gin is the skeleton of the drink, and it’s fleshed out with an unpasteurized sake that has a great ripe honeydew flavor. Throw in some bianco vermouth and a bar spoon of mandarin liqueur for aromatics, and you’ve got a drink that nods to the classics while still making its own lane. It’s a lovely apéritif.

 

Chinese Tuxedo’s most-ordered drink:

Agave spirits reign supreme in our dining room, and our Baozhu is the top selling cocktail. It has blanco tequila, lime juice, a strawberry-jalapeño shrub, bitters, and is topped with club soda. It comes out a brilliant shade of red and is garnished with a beautiful red flower from the amaranth plant.

 

Last call?
12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
11 p.m. the rest of the week.
Book here.

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