If ever there was a year we needed a drink, it was this one. Here are some of our favorite bar newcomers for 2016.
SUFFOLK ARMS You're being watched by decades of NYC history when tippling at this Houston Street cocktail spot. Ed Koch, Keith Haring, Jam Master Jay and one of the New York Public Library lions gaze at you from dozens of hand-drawn portraits on the walls. Inside the cocktail menu, you'll find more friendly faces in the form of additional drawings and familiar drinks refreshed for the current cocktail climate. The spot's known for its vodka-centric cocktails—the Pussy Galore ($15) made with grapefruit vodka and gin is an excellent option—designed by industry luminaries on request by owner Giuseppe González.
269 East Houston Street, Lower East Side; suffolkarms.com
AUGUST LAURA I'm a sucker for a good story about family, and I'm most definitely enamored of things related to Italy, and this tiny Carroll Gardens spot hits on both notes. (The bar's name is a tip of the hat to co-owner Alyssa Sartor's grandfather, and most of the glassware came from her father's bar in New Jersey.) Italian spirits like amaro enjoyed a signal boost in NYC this year and August Laura's a big part of that effort, using the liqueur to fortify their house cocktails or for enjoyment on its own. It's a cozy, intimate space and the staff treats guests like family from visit one.
387 Court Street, Carroll Gardens
SUPER POWER: I wanted to hate this hip little tiki bar, which opened on quickly gentrifying Nostrand Avenue in June, but it's since wormed its way into my heart as one of the neighborhood's best drinking joints. Co-owned by the crew behind the Bearded Lady in Prospect Heights, Super Power serves up $10 beachy cocktails like very rum-heavy John the Beachcomber and a "Frozen Tiki White Russian" made with Jamaican rum, coffee, and coconut cream; or you can opt for a more classic drink like the Super Fashioned (a play on an Old Fashioned, obviously).
There's also beer, wine and sangria on tap here, along with eats (banh mi hot dogs!) and dollar oysters during happy hour. The vibe here is as dive-y as a place with $10 cocktails can be, and the potted palm trees will likely come in handy once the weather gets sadder. (Rebecca Fishbein)
722 Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights, 718-484-0020.
FRESH KILLS Sister bar to LIC's Dutch Kills, Fresh Kills nestled into Williamsburg's Grand Street's buzzing food corridor this spring. The warm, railroad-style bar's of the cocktail variety but without the super speakeasy vibe of its sibling—though it did begin life as a secret apartment bar before graduating to legitimacy. Cocktails come "built in the glass over a rock" or "shaken and served down," among other styles, and their low ABV cocktails are a go-to for many of the industry folks who are looking for a quick nip before a shift.
161 Grand Street, Williamsburg, 718-599-7888; freshkillsbar.com
THE BAD OLD DAYS With space at a premium in most NYC apartments, the local bar often serves as a second living room. That's literally true at The Bad Old Days, decorated with couches, chairs, tables and lamps—some picked up from local stoop sales—plus books, board games and other knick knacks. Regular trivia, game and movie nights make this a neighborhood staple and a destination bar for anyone seeking a touch of grandma's comfort. Plus $6 beer-and-shot deals, just like nanna used to make.
1684 Woodbine Street, Ridgewood, 347-696-0612
The phrase "almost too pretty to drink" applies at this Harlem cocktail and ramen spot co-owned by Shigefumi Kabashima, a longtime bartender at Angel's Share (the cocktail bar that has been one of the city's most popular "secret" bars since opening over 20 years ago). Kabashima's cocktails involve lots of drama, unique presentations and inventive barware. Together with Jeff Srole of Maison Premiere and Isao Yoneda of Totto Ramen/Hide-chan Ramen, the team at this tiny restaurant and cocktail bar turns out food and drink that's aesthetically pleasing and delicious.
3452 Broadway, Harlem
IDA'S NEARABOUT Sunnyside denizens know this as a locals' pub with reasonably-priced cocktails and bar snacks to facilitate drinking many of said cocktails. Others might recognize it as "the bar with the wolf," a reference to Ida, the taxidermy wolf that appears to pace restlessly over the bar. Ida's took over for Molly Bloom's, an Irish pub, earlier this year, updating the space with some fresh touches that gave it a bit more pep. But the backyard's still a simple but cheerful hang spot, when it's open, and the place still offers a convivial, welcoming vibe to both neighborhood folk and visitors alike.
43-13 Queens Boulevard, Sunnyside, 718-433-1916
THE BENNETT The Bennet may look overly posh at first glance—a marble bar, plush banquettes, lots of gold—but this chill Tribeca date spot never starts tipping towards pretentious. A selection of cocktails (divided into "House Creations" and "Audience Awards") is available along with composed food selections, including a surprisingly strong brunch game. We grew partial to the Bergdorf Lunch (pisco, green apple, elderflower, and orange blossom served long over pebble ice) as well as the namesake Bennett cocktail (a twist on a gin gimlet). (Dan Dickinson)
134 West Broadway, Tribeca; thebennettbar.com
(Scott Heins / Gothamist)
INTERBORO SPIRITS & ALES I biked past this new distillery and brewery multiple times before finally finding the front door the first time I visited (look for the awning with the arrows), but I'll forgive it for its nondescript entrance because the beers (and gin!) inside were worth the mental turmoil. Tucked into a more industrial block of Grand Street—only a five minute walk to Pumps!—the taproom pours many of the brewery's proprietary beers in addition to showcasing other local breweries including Transmitter, Threes, and Other Half. Their gin, Goodwin Hill, is complex enough to drink neat (or as shots, as the afternoon wears on) and they have tasty pasties (the edible kind) to boost your longevity. Best of all, they have a brewery cat named Bingo.
942 Grand Street, East Williamsburg; interboro.nyc
BLACKTAIL Since opening over three years ago, The Dead Rabbit has won just about every prestigious award revolving around cocktails, including being named the World's Best Bar by Tales of the Cocktail in 2015. But "international barman" Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry aren't ones to rest on their laurels, opening up their new cocktail haven BlackTail this year in Battery Park. Their transportive Battery Park bar takes us to Cuba during prohibition with a tome filled with era-appropriate cocktails like a frozen daiquiri, a complimentary sample of which you'll be provided on entry.
2nd floor, Pier A Harbor House, 22 Battery Place, Battery Park, 212-785-0153; blacktailnyc.com
SWELL DIVE Though small in size, there's lots to love at this, well, swell little bar on Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy. There's a cozy little backyard for more charitable temperatures, tasty Filipino/Tex-Mex eats, and yes: fishbowls. Mainly though this is a chill neighborhood spot for a quick taco—their queso is BOSS—and maybe a shot/beer if you're feeling frisky. If every neighborhood had a sweet joint selling "grilled slab cheese tacos," the world would be a happier and more satisfied place.
1013 Bedford Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Antlers, hooves, and yes, talons, make up the decor here, along with other "oddities" and "Cabinet Curiosities" to start conversations over pints of Captain Lawrence or a bowl of olives. Opened in time to utilize the leafy back garden, this Bushwick spot's an ideal day drinking destination when it's warm out and an intriguing setting for hiding away from the wind and snow in their downstairs basement, which just opened a few months back.
220 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick, 718-366-3192; talonbar.com
Best View:: Westlight at the William Vale hotel.For tiki drinks and karaoke: Insa in Gowanus.Gimmicky but cool bar: Secret subterranean spot Le Boudoir.Best fancy-ass reboot: Chumley's 2.0. Best cocktail bar masquerading as a hardware store: The Last Word in Astoria.Best movie theater bar for ogling death masks: House of Wax at the Alamo Drafthouse.Best place to drink out of a shark's head: Dromedary Bar.