The Pool Lounge
The single most elegant spot in all of New York to enjoy a truly excellent cocktail is surely at The Pool Lounge, and for that reason it’s our favorite new bar of 2017. Overlooking the dining room of luxe seafood-centric spot The Pool (the sister restaurant to The Grill, one of our favorite new restaurants of the year), with its burbling water feature at the center of the room beneath a slowly twirling Calder mobile, the plush, ocean-toned room is an ideal spot to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink. The festive and whimsically garnished cocktails, conceived by bartender Thomas Waugh, lean tropical and each focus on a single ingredient (tomato, for example, or banana or cucumber). All are delicious.
Sweet Polly is, quite simply, the perfect date bar. This cozy spot in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn is unpretentious, like a great neighborhood bar, but just fancy enough that an evening here seems special. The cocktails range from familiar standards to unique creations that are among the city’s best. (Try the Golden Eye: Reyka vodka, Cynar, Averna, oloroso sherry, dry vermouth, Stumptown cold brew, and chocolate bitters—James Bond joke not included.) Date’s going well, and now you’re hungry? There’s food, too, and it’s several notches better than your average bar grub. Every neighborhood should be so lucky as to have a place like this.
Flashy new bar The Aviary, high in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, may be getting all the attention, but we’d suggest skipping the Instagram-bait drinks there in favor of its more subdued sister spot next door, The Office. The dimly lit, wood-paneled room with leather chesterfield chairs and cow-print barstools is a swank, sophisticated affair, with pricey craft cocktails, a mind-blowing selection of vintage spirits, and a small food menu overseen by Grant Achatz. It’s a little too high-priced to become our regular hang, to be honest, but it’s a top choice for a special night out.
Tokyo Record Bar / Air’s Champagne Parlor
These two Greenwich Village bars are separate concepts and spaces, sure, but we’re listing them together here as sister spots. Air’s Champagne Parlor is a serious heaven for Champagne nerds, offering high-end grower picks at gentler prices than typically found at a wine bar or restaurant, alongside accessible by-the-glass choices for those who simply want a festive flute. Owner Ariel Arce’s knowledge of sparkling wines is near-encyclopedic, and everyone who comes here is in for a learning experience, whether they’re a wine-industry expert or a Champagne novice.
Downstairs, accessed through Air’s, is Tokyo Record Bar, the most genuinely speakeasy-like bar in all of NYC at the moment. The tiny basement space is reservation-only for an omakase izakaya menu until late evening, when around 11.00 p.m.-ish it opens its doors for a la carte dining and drinks, turning into a fun late-night spot. You’ll find a superior yet accessible sake and nigori selection, as well as Japanese twists on familiar cocktails, served in amazing vintage glassware. The bar is inspired by Japanese record bars, so there’s vintage vinyl constantly spinning; tunes might range from Earth, Wind & Fire to ’90s Jay-Z.
Diamond Reef, in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, is from the same folks as Attaboy—a Lower East Side bar so fancy that you ring the doorbell of an unmarked door to get in and, should you make the cut, you order a $17 cocktail by describing your flavor preferences to a bartender; there are no menus. In extreme contrast, Diamond Reef is a down-to-earth, hipster-leaning party bar. You can get a fancy cocktail if you’d like—and you simply must try the Penichillin, a frozen version of the modern classic cocktail created at Attaboy—or you can just kick back with a frosty mug of Presidente beer. With a large, open main room filled with tropical tiki vibes, plus a great back patio, it’s a bar that lends itself well to large groups, and day drinking, and low-key chilling.