It’s been one of those days, hasn’t it? You’ve spent hours flitting in and out of every clothing store in SoHo, and you were close to a meltdown after waiting in the Supreme line all afternoon. Let’s face it: you need a drink, and not just any old drink, but a stiff cocktail, or maybe fruity is more your style. Fortunately, this New York neighborhood is home to a number of cocktail bars, from posh lounges to gritty dive bars – where you should obviously not wear those new white Nikes.
Hotel bars in NYC often seem catered to tourists and are accordingly upscale and flashy. That’s not true of the Crosby Street Hotel’s spacious, quietly elegant Crosby Bar. As an all-day spot, it seamlessly converts itself from a breakfast room to a brunch/lunch spot to a tea room and then to a cocktail lounge and dining room as the sun dips. The lengthy cocktail list offers drinks peppered with exotic ingredients. Choose from premium, classic and signature cocktails, like the Tiger’s Eye, which combines Crosby Street Hotel Stolichnaya vodka, cinnamon, lemon juice, pear nectar, champagne and star anise.
There’s a pretty good chance you’re unfamiliar with The Ship. Hidden behind a nondescript door down some steps, this cocktail bar occupies a large underground space. It’s relatively dark (but that’s the reason you’re here) and has an unsurprising nautical theme; the legend “US NAVY”graces armchairs in flashy letters. Drinks range from classic to craft cocktails. For example, the American Trilogy is swirled with rye whiskey, Applejack, brown sugar and orange bitters. Pair drinks with Asian-leaning light bites, such as the salmon tartare spring rolls, which come flecked with avocado wasabi.
It’s thanks to the mixology wizards at Pegu Club that New York’s craft cocktail revolution took off. Here, in a second-floor barroom hovering above Houston Street, everything about cocktails is taken seriously, from the grapefruit and orange juices squeezed by hand to the infusions and flavored syrups. There are even delicate droppers stationed along the bar for customers who wish to add a little more je ne sais quoi. Sample both the classic and glitzy, new-age cocktails, and make sure you’ve positioned yourself with a view of the wizardry.
A bright-red neon sign greets you with a scripted “Botanica” as you head down a flight of stairs to this no-frills dive. The busy cocktail menu features the classics: dark ’n stormy, moscow mule, Jägerbomb. The best move is to arrive prior to 8pm, when beers and well drinks are no more than $4.
If you’re feeling especially suave or enchanting, drop into JIMMY. There’s a refined lounge atmosphere about this cocktail bar on the 18th floor of the James Hotel – from which you can enjoy 360-degree views of Midtown, the Financial District, the Hudson and the East River while you drink and chat. The glazed tile walls, modular furniture and lingham wood floors are so 1970s that you half expect Roger Moore or Jill St John to walk through the door. It’s not just the decor that’s plush. The signature cocktails include Legal in Vermont (Hudson Baby Bourbon, cinnamon syrup orange, bitters, purple basil) and The Monk (Avuá Prata cachaça, Monk’s Secret Elixir, TintoNegro malbec wine, star anise). And if rooftop bars are your jam, be sure to check out our guide to the best rooftop bars in Manhattan.
One of the most laid-back joints in the nabe, The Randolph has an unpretentious, friendly vibe that sometimes escapes those precious cocktail lounges where the mixology is more for show than taste. With its low pressed-tin roof, casually arranged bric-a-brac and wooden booths, the atmosphere is pure speakeasy. Grab one of Randolph’s high-end coffees before the barista goes home at 5pm, and then settle in for an evening of ice-cold signature cocktails mixed by a former Milk & Honey bartender. (Or you can opt for one of Randolph’s coffee cocktails and get the best of both worlds.) As you sip away, a pianist plays blues and ragtime in the background.
A great place to bring a date or mingle with the small but attractive crowd, 142 Sullivan is an intimate neighborhood watering hole with a chill vibe. There’s nothing too fancy here. The brick walls have been slapped with white paint, and the TV screen at the end of the bar features cool, classic pop videos. The bartenders serve inexpensive cocktails – infused with selections from the classy wine list – and craft beers. Happy hour is from 5pm to 7pm on weekdays. Sit at a table outside during the summer, snack on flatbreads and charcuterie, and watch the world go by.
There’s a distinct living-room feel about The Gordon Bar in the Sixty SoHo Hotel – that’s if you’re accustomed to living rooms that are spacious, quiet and elegant. This is a place for after-work conversations and pre-dinner rendezvous, so leave it out if you’re on a rowdy bar crawl. Gordon’s well-stocked bar provides classic and signature cocktails that aren’t too outlandish. Try Rose Hips Sink Ships (Cutty Sark Scotch, rosehip puree, lemon, champagne) or Bittersweet Harmony (Aperol, gin, Petal & Thorn vermouth, prosecco).
Von is the kind of quiet, charmingly dark spot frequented primarily by local people. Though technically a bar for fine wines, it’s fully stocked with liquor, and the friendly staff makes delicious cocktails. If you prefer hushed conversation, settle in on the main floor. If not, head to the basement room where DJs pump hip-hop, disco and funk music to a crowd of gyrating dancers.
Our debut short film, The Soul of Soho, explores neighborhoods separated by oceans, history and culture but united by craft community and change. Neighborhoods bound by one name: Soho. Intimate portraits of city living in the Sohos of London, New York and Hong Kong reveal rich stories of the people who bring life to these iconic neighborhoods. Explore Soho here.