DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN’S BEST WINTER BARS AND THE COCKTAILS TO MATCH
Although the weather outside is frightful (or at least a wee bit nippy), downtown New York is chock-a-block with cozy spots serving perfect libations for the season. We’re not just talking the cliché Hot Toddy or mulled Scandinavian glogg, either. Instead, New York City mixologists are mostly retaining the ice cubes this season and channeling warmth through their choice of spirits and evocative seasonal flavors. Here, we’ve rounded up five favorite venues – at least one with a working fireplace – and their most stellar, original winter cocktails.
Dead Rabbit – Billion Dollar Man
Rated number five on 2017’s World’s Best Bars list, this atmospheric multi-level Irish pub (avoid the chaotic, packed ground floor and get on the list for the more relaxed, sit-down second-floor space, The Parlor) features an inventive comic book format cocktail menu, plus toothsome Irish-British pub fare. Served in a six-ounce absinthe glass, the hot Billion Dollar Man is a buttery, delectable concoction: apple brandy, aged Cachaça, almond, buckwheat, black peppercorn, and pumpkin, topped with whipped cream. “Part of the joy is the change in temperature between the hot liquid and the cool cream,” says general manager Jessica Friedman. “I think the applejack comes through really nice. The beauty about our cocktails is everything binds together.” Also don’t miss their famed, addictive, and cream-topped Irish Coffee, served all year round.
30 Water St, New York, NY 10004; T. 646.422.7906
Tiny’s And The Bar Upstairs – Kissed By A Rose
Built in 1810, this former leather trading store turned multi-room restaurant and bar features a working fireplace on the ground floor to the rear. Winter is Tiny’s busiest season, no surprise given the upmarket comfort food and bar manager Zach Cramer’s seasonal cocktails. Garnished with a sprig of thyme, Kissed By A Rose is a holdover from fall’s menu. “It’s really inspired by Thanksgiving,” he says. “I make a cranberry sauce with thyme, vanilla extract, water, and some sugar. Then we add vodka, lemon juice, and top it off with sparkling rosé. It adds a real cool complexity to a vodka cranberry, and evokes family memories. We also have a hot toddy with Earl Grey infused honey that you can feel good about paying 15 dollars for.”
135 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013; T. 212.374.1135
Tucked amongst NYU student haunts, this basement-level hideaway is a speakeasy-ish favorite among those working in arts, and publishing, and the Greenwich Village locals alike. The Safecracker’s name pays homage to the Spaghetti Western For A Few Dollars More, and bears similarities to a Negroni: a blend of Campari, Tequila Tromba Reposada, Menjure de Ancho Reyes chile liquor, a grappa misting, and generous orange peel garnish. “I love Campari, and it’s one of the few things that says summer and winter equally,” says owner Matt Piacentini. “I like spicy, and instead of a hot drink I wanted a spicy drink. For some reason the tequila is really subtle and ethereal and strips the Campari of its bitter harshness. And the grappa spray gives it a musky, earthy nose and is even more surprising.”
116 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012; T. 212.260.3000
Sibling to Raines Law Room and Dear Irving, with a contemporary look and vibe – lamps resembling stretched-out brass instruments hang above the bar – Tribeca’s The Bennett serves up a tasty, maple-esque amalgamation of cloudy apple cider, George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee whiskey, Palo Cortado sherry, orgeat, and lemon. Although served cold, it can be ordered warm, too. “Yeah, we could put the apple cider in a tea kettle, why not,” says bar manager Meaghan Doorman. “But it’s warm and comforting no matter what temperature it’s at. I really wanted a crowd-pleasing, comforting winter cocktail, but with extra layers and not too sweet. That’s where the Palo Cortado came in – a sherry that gives it a nice dryness, but also a little bit of almond.”
134 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013; E. email@example.com
Reopened this November following an extensive 16-plus month renovation, Tribeca’s outstanding Ward III boasts a mind-boggling selection of whiskey, old-timey-meets-upscale-modern interiors, winter-read bar bites (grilled cheese! Deviled eggs!), and head bartender Sarah Akromas’ house cocktails. Vitamin C-rich beets are a key ingredient in Just Beet It, plus mezcal, Pimms, ginger beer, lemon juice, simple syrup, and mint. “It balances fresh squeezed beet and ginger juice with a mezcal chosen for its tropical and salty notes,” she says, “and is perfect for any season.”
111 Reade St, New York, NY 10013; T. 212.240.9194
Words by Lawrence Ferber