The Great Bars of New York City

Quote of the Day: “Apotheke, a one-time opium den, feels more like an upscale Victorian brothel. Inside the candlelit lounge, a gigantic marble bar--lined with mortars and pestles, herbs and elixirs, all marinating in century-old glass jars--serves up an extensive variety of specialty cocktails. You really can't go wrong, no matter what you choose.” –

This weekend, my wife and I had the pleasure of celebrating the birthday of one of our good friends at a very cool bar in Chinatown called Apotheke. Like the finest “speakeasies” of lore, this cocktail lounge is hidden at 9 Doyers Street in Lower Manhattan, between Bowery and Pell. Just walk through the wooden door beneath the red and gold sign that says “Gold Flower” and enter a world of marvelous elixirs to quench any physical (or noncorporeal) thirst.

The staff is friendly and ready to serve. Behind the bar you’ll find not your typical tenders but rather the best mixologists around, decked in lab coats as they carefully measure and blend the vast array of ingredients surrounding them.

Apotheke’s delicious menu of drinks includes broad categories such as Health and Beauty, Stress Relievers, Pain Killers, Aphrodisiacs, Stimulants, Pharmacuticals (sic), and Therapeutic Treatments. While I can’t verify that all the beverages they offer will alleviate your pains or spark your libido, I do attest that their so-called Euphoric Enhancers enhanced my euphoria.

There are two particular concoctions that I strongly recommend: the "Heatherette" (a thyme and rosemary infused vodka with fresh honeydew, agave honey, and green tea) and the "Deal Closer" (vodka with fresh mint, cucumber, lime, vanilla essence, and a secret selection of local Chinatown aphrodisiacs). Yum!

New York City has an abundance of great bars, from elaborate (often over-priced) tourist attractions to cozy neighborhood dives. If you’re going to pay New York prices for alcohol, you might as well enjoy the unique ambiance of your surroundings. So if you are ever in New York, check out some of my favorite places to imbibe with friends and strangers.

McSorley’s Old Ale House – A historic pub that used to serve men only until 1970! Light or dark beer in a pair of small mugs, that’s all the booze they have, that’s all you need. It’s a small but awesome bar at 15 East Seventh Street.

Fraunces Tavern – Great place where General George Washington himself and his mates shared some good food and spirits back in the day. More a museum and restaurant than an actual bar, it’s still a great site to visit for a good meal and drink.

The Russian Tea Room – Founded by the Russian Imperial Ballet, it’s a pricey but great restaurant with a very nice selection of wines, vodkas, and cocktails.

The View Restaurant and Lounge – If you feel slightly disoriented after having a few too many drinks at this great bar lounge on the 48th floor of the Marriot Marquis hotel in Times Square – have no fear, it’s just the revolving floor that gives you an incredible 360 degree aerial view of the greatest city on Earth.
Gone but not forgotten is Chumley’s – If you were ever looking for a real “speakeasy” from the days of the Prohibition, this was it. No sign outside and a secret back exit made patrons feel like they were reliving the days when a simple pint of beer was illegal in the States. Located at 86 Barrow Street, you had to walk through a curtain to get to it. It closed in 2007, but its memory and legend lives on.

There are so many other cool places to get your drink on in New York: White Horse Tavern, P.J. Clarke’s, the Ear Inn, the Bridge CafĂ©, the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden in Astoria, Rory Dolan’s in the Bronx, and far too many more to mention. And if you want history, there’s the Stonewall Inn where the riots of 1969 took place to begin the gay liberation movement, and the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel which allegedly invented the Bloody Mary.

All my friends are now going to harrass me for this selection and let me know all the great bars I've failed to list here, but my goal is only to whet your appetite. I'm sure you'll discover plenty of fine establishments as you roam the streets of the City that Never Sleeps.

If you’re looking to toss one back in a great place, you can’t go wrong with a bar in the Big Apple.


Playbill said…
love it, nick! so glad you enjoyed Apotheke. we'll have to all go back there again.