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Cocktails in Manhattan [Moved from Spirits board]

Howdy, I wiil be in town in a few weeks and was given some places to check out by my Bartender/Mixologist.
Pegu Club
Employees Only
Please Don't Tell
Death and Co.

Anyone spent time at any of these? I love a great and well made drink but don't want to feel like I'm in school or being lectured on the art of proper cocktails. Money is not the issue, feeling comfortable and welcome are. Thanx

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  1. all great palces - PDT is one of my faves. no one will lecture you, they will leave you alone, or talk to you about cocktails as you wish.

    i would add angel's share, little branch, and tailor to your list

    2 Replies
    1. re: thew

      Agree about PDT but please note you will probably need reservations. PDT is very small.

      1. re: KTinNYC

        and you can only get rez by calling at 3 pm

        but if you don't mind a little wait, they will take your name and cel number and call you when they have a table or space at the bar. if you show up at 6 during the week u can almost always get aseat at the bar

    2. I have been to a couple of places on my trips to NY and I always go back to Bar 89. They make the better drinks I have ever tasted. You should try it. However, it is not a trendy place where the beautiful people go to see and be seen. It is only a nice place to unwind with a great drink and the best nachos in town.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cricri7

        LA hound - don't waste your time at Bar 89, not even remotely in the same league as the wonderful places you've been told to visit, or those listed below by Kathryn. These places make rtheir own juices, bitters, esoteric ingredients and celebrate the art of cocktails. bar 89 is not in their class. I am sure they make a great bar drink that complements their nachos, but it is apples and oranges.

        1. re: chow_gal

          Taste is very personal and I have been to Pegu and will continue to stick to Bar 89. Personally, I don't like pretentious places and for me Pegu fell in that category. It is true that I like classic drinks like martinis and cosmos and don't care much for a lavender martini, I saw that once...brr..brr..., so Pegu was not up my alley. I had a dirty martini and it was less than ordinary.

          I heard great things though about Little Branch and Employees only by a bartender who said that they made great drinks there.

      2. IMO the best are PDT and Death & Co. Death & Co has a larger menu, though. PDT is very very small. Reservations highly recommended, but the bar is always first come, first served, and if you're into cocktails, the bar is the place to sit. D&C does not take reservations. Both D&C and PDT are "no standing allowed" bars.

        In Manhattan:
        Death & Co
        Milk & Honey (if you can get in)
        Tailor (drink downstairs in the lounge, not the main restaurant, and try one of the crazy "solid" cocktails for fun)
        Pegu Club (it gets crazy crowded on the weekends though, and quality depends greatly on the bartender, the drinks are better at the bar, not the tables)
        Flatiron Lounge
        Employees Only
        Little Branch
        Angel's Share
        B Flat
        Brandy Library

        Heard good things about the bar at Grayz and Bar Milano, too. Both of these are restaurants, not cocktail lounges, though.

        In Brooklyn:

        1. Employees Only is lovely. Pegu Club a little more corporate, but blessed by Dale DeGroff (and run by his chief protegee). Death & Co. is super-pretentious - - I'd skip it in favor of sidling up to the bar at Freeman's (a Lower East Side restaurant) or Edward's (Tribeca restaurant with fabulous friendly little bar).

          If you want the place to yourself and you're looking for old school, try the little side-bar at Cafe des Artistes (near Lincoln Center) or any of the upper east side grande dames - Bemelmans, etc.

          3 Replies
          1. re: eleeb

            Freeman's is very nice but it does not match the others on the OP's list.

            1. re: eleeb

              Pegu really has slipped and become very hit or miss (more the latter recently,) as mentioned above. Death and Co still have the bext cocktails in Manhattan . . . Clover Club in Brooklyn. Brandy Library is also a personal fav . . .

              1. re: eleeb

                Disagree about Death & Co. being pretentious. They have always been super professional, friendly and accomodating with me, and I'm not the clubby kind. Plus the place is beautiful. Great spot to impress out-of-town guests. And their juleps, in the little antique engraved silver julep glasses and bursting with mint leaves, are an experience in themselves. I highly recommend.

              2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/429648

                Above are some of our thoughts on Pegu Club from last year. Ask to sit at one of the tables at the windows and be sure to get Mallory for your service person.

                1. I think Death & Co., Employees Only and Pegu Club are musts. At Death, get the Cinder, it's a really interesting margarita--I really love their tequila drinks. At Pegu, gin is the star. Get the Pegu Club or the Gin-gin mule. PDT is an interesting place, but for some reason I've never had a great tasting drink there. Maybe it's what I've ordered? Employees Only makes awesome fruit drinks, like the one with raspberry puree and mint. Here's a top 10 roundup of mixology joints, in case you are interested:


                  1. Pegu actually lives up to the hype with a well made drink that goes down smooth. A lot of these places are making what amounts to a drink special almost anywhere, meaning tastes good, but nothing that suggests a special skill. Nobody will lecture you here, but the place does try a little hard.

                    PDT is nothing special. It's just a bar. Maybe it's improved since I went, but to me this place just represents everything that's wrong with the "secret bar" thing. Comfort wise it's a subteranian dive bar.

                    I haven't tried Employees Only but I think they're the one that run a bartending mixology school in Brooklyn, so it's worth checking out.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: sugartoof

                      i have to disagree about PDT

                      the secret bar thing is cute, but no one would go back twice for that. they have some knowledgeble and skilled bartenders there who can mix a great cocktail

                      and the design is nothing like a grungy ol dive bar

                      1. re: thew

                        What design? Have they renovated the place since I saw it? Bricks painted a dark color. That's not design. I swear I remember some kind of kitchy framed somethings or other too.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I agree the PDT doesn't look like much but I think they make some very good drinks with extremely high quality ingredients.

                      2. re: sugartoof

                        Is there a process for geting into Death and Co.? I'm going to be in NYC in a few weeks and would like to go there on a Friday at 7pm or so.

                        1. re: ems

                          no. they dont take reservations
                          they open at 6 pm

                          1. re: ems

                            They keep a very tight door to keep it from getting packed (which is appreciated), so you might want to hedge your bets and go on the early side.

                        2. Heading to either Pegu or EO for the first time later this week with friends -- what kind of dress code can we expect?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: megg333

                            No shirts no shoes no service. Seriously, there is no dress code but I wouldn't feel comfortable in a tee shirt, shorts and a ball cap but jeans are fine.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              Thanks, KT. Jeans was my big question. We're planning a fairly casual dinner out and wanted to go for drinks afterward, but don't want (a) to have to schlep home and change into fancier duds first, or (b) to be turned away a la Campbell Apartment.

                            2. re: megg333

                              There is no formal dress code at Pegu, but the atmosphere is trying to be swanky faux Asian. I'd say jeans and a nice shirt with close-toed shoes would be fine, as KT mentioned.

                            3. When I think of extraordinary cocktails, I think of:
                              LITTLE BRANCH on 7th Ave in the Village, and
                              TAILOR on Broome Street

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: BTaylor

                                What's the door policy? Do you need reservations, do all accept walk ins, velvet rope etc,,,,, What is the best times to go - earlier or late? Are most open very late past 1 or 2. If so , is it crowded at that time?

                                1. re: skypilot

                                  If you're going on a weekend, then bars are most crowded around midnight. They serve until 4am in NYC. Somewhere like Little Branch would hit it's peak a bit earlier then midnight though. It depend if you want to go when it's crowded and hopping or if you prefer to sit in a mellow relaxed atmosphere. Go earlier if you just want to have a good drink without worrying about the scene.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    door policy in little branch is if there is room to sit at a table or stand just by the bar you can get in. if not, you cannot. they have live jazz that starts at 10 pm so its tough to get a seat from before that on.....

                                    tailor is a great bar also, and i like the restaurant on top of it too
                                    also no door or rope as far as ive seen

                                    also death & co mixes a damned fine cocktail

                              2. Well I'm on the last day of my Manhattan vaction and have been to Employee's only, Pegu,Little branch, and Bar Milano. As far as cocktails go all of them do a great job but the big difference is atmosphere. Little branch is dive, crowded, loud and hot. A scene for locals but for all the effort put into the drinks, I just wanted to drink up and get out! Pegu Club was welcome relief, even walking the dicey few blocks. Quiet, classy and comfortable. Employee's only was very much like my home bar In San Francisco, Nopa, so i loved it, but the best of all was Bar Milano! I'll write later about the stunning food but my strawberry,balsamic, gin concoction was heavenly. As a Californian I was probably underdressed for such a toney joint but was made very welcome. It's funny how different the experience of a $15 drink can be!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  not to mention calling LB a dive is too funny. I've been to dives, and that place does not meet the definition. maybe crowded and i could imagine hot, though i never found it so, and i assume maybe loud on some nights, sure. but dive? i don't think a place with some of the most highly trained bartenders on the planet serving 15 dollar cocktails qualifies.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Well... it's not a loungy swanky bar. The decor isn't worthy of much mention. They didn't spend much money slapping on some tin ceiling, and there's chipped paint. It's basically a dive with expensive drinks, and a fancy drink menu. You can tell they bought stuff used at auction, and even the glasses they serve their upscale drinks in are crappy thick lipped junk. Actually, there's probably less atmosphere then you're normal dive bar. The way people talk about these places (especially PDT) is really deceiving to a tourist.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      I don't mean to disparage little branch, I like dive bars, I just was expecting something different. But when you are in a below street level joint and its crowded and hot, it is pretty hard to appreciate the drink. I could not judge these places by the drinks since they are all great. but at $15 a cocktail I'd prefer to be comfortable. As for the high priced neighborhood, the first couple of blocks between Little Branch and Pegu were kinda dicey with a hooker's ball going on near the McDonalds but hey we all have to make a buck.

                                      1. re: budnball

                                        wow... they took down my post that said the "dicey few blocks" between LB and Pegu was some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. what could possibly been offensive in that statement?

                                        been to LB again a few times in the last few weeks, and i'm totally in love with the bartender , betsy. not only is she cute, with an amazing tattoo, she makes great cocktails, including the gershwin, which is apparently her own invention.