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NYC answers to London's high-end cocktail bars?

In the wake of the NY Times article on London's most serious purveyors of proper cocktails, I was wondering who in New York is operating at this level: serious, creative, with an eye on really old school (pre-Prohibition) classics, chef-like use of interesting ingredients, and globetrotting for exotic liquors. Fabulous atmosphere and barware are a plus.

I've been to Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, and (though its cocktail craft doesn't live up to the atmosphere) Campbell Apartment. My to-try list includes Milk & Honey, Little Branch, East Side Company Bar. I've seen this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/335967 ; any other suggestions?

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  1. this is a pretty popular topic on chowhound. employees only is another option. in my opinion, this is already a very tired topic. just go to milk and honey these days and its filled with total wankers. any good bartender knows how to make a quality drink.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sam1

      Agreed: any good bartender knows how to make a quality drink. The problem, of course, is that the good bartenders of the world are vastly outnumbered by the halt and the lame: undertrained, unschooled, disinterested, thinking about their next audition, just following the owners' desire to serve candy-flavored rookie drinks, etc.

      As to the "wankers" comment, I'm perfectly willing to do what many Chowhounds do: endure unpleasant patrons, drive long distances, ignore ugly atmopshere, etc. if the place serves up something extraordinary.

      So, any Manhattan Chowhounds who aren't bored with this topic, please chime in.

    2. the thread has pretty good suggestions, other than that, gin lane is worth popping by-they also serve food -haven't eaten there but the menu looks good (specially if they actually use properly aged gruyere on the french onion soup) and the decor is great for winter.
      5 ninth is also has great old school cocktails (and sparkling red wine mimosa for brunch)

      1. death & co., which recently opened on e.3rd st (i think), has been mentioned in several articles as a new contender in the "serious cocktails" stakes. waits of up to 2 hours for a table at peak times, apparently, so you might want to find out the hours and try it at an odd time.

        i'm off to look up the ny times article now, although no matter what people are doing at the highest levels it doesn't change the fact that the state of mixed drinks in london is generally abysmal.

        1. MC Slim JB, what did you think of Pegu Club and Flatiron?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Blumie

            Enjoyed both of them enormously: incredible cocktail craft, tons of options to reward experimentation and repeat visits, superb (warm, friendly, professional) service, great atmosphere.

            Flatiron was close to uncomfortably packed on one visit, but for some reason we were given a table right away, and the crowd was gracious and relaxed despite the crush. I prefer the Flatiron's retro look; Pegu seems more generically sleek and modern to me, though it's a very handsome space, too. I haven't tried the food at either.

          2. there's also the new hype-y place 'gold bar'...i think its on delancey. death and co as someone mentioned, brandy library (which actually is a great bar), and angel's share.

            1. Ive had some great cocktails at the the Modern bar at MOMA. And i have heard that grammercy tavern makes great cocktails. Although not up to the standards of pegu or flatiron, the bartender at Familia Osteria made me a wonderful Clover Club and had egg whites on hand to use in the recipe (that alone impressed me).

              Blumie i donno why but i just love Flatiron, the servers there have always been so warm and welcoming, i love the room and atmosphere. i never get even the slightest hint of pretentiousness from the people who work there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Graphix

                I second the Modern. The bed of roses cocktail and lychee or blood orange mojitos are truly, truly delicious.

              2. The bartender at Public just won some huge international competition for his skill and a cocktail he created, the Occidental Blazer. Sounds intriguing.

                1. Not a bar per se, but the bartender at WD-50 (Sam?) is amazing, if he's still there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: a_and_w

                    I had cocktails at WD-50 prior to dinner a few months back, and concur that they're amazing, though each one seems to take five minutes to prepare. Mercifully, it was a fairly quiet night; I'd hate to see how things go when that bar is packed.

                  2. Went to Death & Co. last night...thought the cocktails and atmosphere were both great, although the service was definitely lacking...i had a jalapeno infused tequila with fresh stawberries, a Pink Lady (plymouth gin, laird's applejack, fresh lemon juice, homemade grenadine, egg white), and a Monongahela Mule (old overholt rye whiskey, fresh lemon juice, homemade ginger beer, mint, raspberries)...Pink Lady was my favorite

                    1. I highly recommend Employees Only, hey try to create not only good cocktails but a warm, festive ambience.

                      Little Branch is another one, same owners as Milk and Honey.

                      As for Gin Lane, the cocktail menu could be inventive, but they hired beautiful yet incompetent bartenders to mix them. I feel they are trying to just fit into the Meatpacking District models n' bottles mode and making that more of a priority than the drinks.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: vinogirl212

                        Oof. Gin Lane reminds me slightly of a first-and-last Whiskey Park (Boston) experience of a few years back, where I had to explain how to make a Manhattan (!) to a mouth-breathing but very cute bartendress. This was served lukewarm in an unchilled cocktail glass for $14. Comically awful, even by provincial standards.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          hold on there, i wouldnt be so all over yourself about so-called provincial standards. a creative and well made drink is a well made drink. for example, there is a place called velvet tango room in cleveland that is every bit as good as pegu and flatiron. sf has a great one too, the name escapes me at the moment, but there are people out there that are into finely and correctly crafted libations.

                          that said here i'd suggest little branch (anytime) and employees only around the block (early in the week or evening only). great folks mixing there.

                          also, remember if you like well made classics dont forget to give the classic establishments a try like king cole bar at the st. regis.

                          as for the drinks at gin lane? indeed they are horrible. i read dale degroff himself concocted their drink menu, but he sure is not behind the bar. its the meatpacking at its worst. whoever said 5 ninth is right, great drinks, best in the meatpacking nabe.

                          1. re: mrnyc

                            I'm not busting on all comparatively provincial burgs, just Boston. We have a small handful of places (outside of luxury hotel bars) that can really bring the serious vintage cocktails, fewer still with genuine creativity. It's much better than it was ten years ago, but the town still doesn't have enough sophisticated cocktail consumers to sustain a Pegu or a Flatiron. (If I thought it could, I might open one.) Mostly, we're still in dreaded Sex-and-the-City territory, with candy-flavored rookie concoctions as far as the eye can see.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Yeah, but the nice thing about those candy-flavored rookie concoctions is all of the candy-flavored rookies they attract. ; )