NYC’s Clandestine Cocktail Bars

September 27, 2017

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Pouring Ribbons. Image courtesy of the venue, by Jakob Layman.

Here in New York, seasoned barkeeps present cocktail menus as long as novellas and readers pine for sequels. Camaraderie keeps the industry uninhibited and the so-called “bartender crush” means the pros enthusiastically swap recipes and concepts over mixed drinks (or a, ahem, beer), keeping each other creatively motivated. Good for them, and for us.

Dirty Precious. Image via

Leading the pack of specialty bars is Noorman’s Kil in Williamsburg, which carries over 400 whiskeys ranging in origin from Scotland to Japan to India, and pours up a potent tasting flight. The 19th-century bar accented with wooden cabinetry will surely take you back to old Americana.

Say what? A casual yet elegant watering hole in up-and-coming Gowanus? Only owners Katipai Richardson-Wilson, Shana Sandberg and Amy Cole could pull this off, as they’ve created Dirty Precious, an enchanting space with an industrial feel cushioned with beautiful textiles and most importantly, cocktails like Cheeky Finish (gin, dry vermouth, ba’sik tonic syrup) shaken up with finesse.

Amor y Amargo. Image by JoAnna Kang.

For another spot in Brooklyn to imbibe, few places beat the inviting back patio space at Maison Premiere in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a sanctuary of secluded seating is surrounded by foliage and the warm glow of lights.If you’re a Chartreuse connoisseur, then Pouring Ribbons on Avenue B in Manhattan is for you — it stocks vintage liquors dating back to the 1940s.Meanwhile, those with bittersweet palates can enjoy over 150 amari and digestifs at the handsome tile bar inside Amor y Amargo.

The 48-hour party people in the Lower East Side can keep their cans of Pabst, but for those two-hour party people who seek Zen, there’s Bar Goto. Owner Kenta Goto emphasizes omotenashi, the covert hospitality of anticipating guests’ needs. Meticulously thought-out libations are executed with sublime refinement, as seen in the sakura martini, made with sake, gin and maraschino liqueur, and garnished with a salted cherry blossom.

Attaboy. Image by JoAnna Kang.

Attaboy is located amidst dive bars, but the push of a discrete bell opens the door to rousing tipples and handwritten tabs at this saloon that harkens back to the Prohibition Era. Former Milk & Honey barkeeps Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy prescribe the tastiest bespoke drinks with a chemist’s precision.

Located inside Pier A Harbor House, BlackTail imagines what a bar in Cuba might have felt like in the 1920s. Its beautiful ceiling fans and framed black-and-white photos by Vern Evans make for perfect conversation pieces while sipping on sour daiquiris. It’s almost too easy to order all four flavors — lime, banana, pineapple and strawberry — and drink them all dry.

Looking for a showstopping spot in Queens? Two words: Dutch Kills.

About The HUNT New York City Writer: JoAnna Kang admits it took her years to make the cross country move from Portland, Oregon to New York City. She finally confronted NYC’s cramped, well-oiled machine, churning out long workdays in exchange for living in a 24-hour glutton’s paradise. Ignoring the fact that her armoire is four feet from the stove, she enjoys recreating delicious recipes from Elizabeth David cookbooks and being part of the team at Windfall Farms’s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket, which advocates pesticide-free, non-GMO, unconventionally grown produce.

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