The best East Village cocktail bars might be something I’m uniquely qualified to talk about. Not only am I a New York City local, but the East Village was also the very first neighborhood I lived in when I moved to the city as a wide-eyed 18-year-old.
Although I couldn’t enjoy the top cocktail bars in the East Village then, I certainly can now. Even though my friends and I don’t live in the East Village anymore, we still find ourselves there frequently for the energetic nightlife, down-to-earth restaurants, and unique boutiques.
The East Village doesn’t have the high-profile mixology scene that West Village cocktail bars do, but it still boasts some noteworthy watering holes—you just need to push past the grungy dive bars and look a little harder.
Over the last several years, I’ve spoken with East Village bartenders and other locals to uncover the best East Village cocktail bars.
From vibrant lounges with Latin flair to hidden speakeasies with international acclaim, these are the East Village bars you should know about:
Disclaimer: I’ve visited many of the bars on this list personally (some several times), but have yet to make it to Madeline’s Martini, The Cabinet Mezcal Bar, Sake Bar Decibel, Down and Out, Please Don’t Tell, The Garret East, and The Wayland. These bars are recommended with high praise from customer reviews, mixologists, and my local friends.
Address: 171 Loisaida Ave, New York, NY 10009
A true newcomer to the East Village bar scene, there isn’t a bar that I want to try more in the neighborhood right now than Madeline’s Martini. The stylish martini bar is quickly becoming popular with NYC’s gaggle of it-girls.
As the name suggests, Madeline’s Martini specializes in, well, martinis.
Set in a snug space that can only be described as the Bemelmans below 14th Street, the current martini lineup boasts 14 variations of the classic cocktail, ranging from fruity and upbeat to salty and briney. Also on offer is a small smattering of cocktails on the rocks, tall drinks, large format martinis, wine, beer, and snacks.
The bar hasn’t left out those not-so-keen on alcohol or sober. Madeline Martini’s cocktail menu includes low-ABV drinks and non-alcoholic mocktails.
Address: 700 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009
The Wayland might be spot-on by self-labeling as “the ultimate East Village cocktail bar.” There’s something about the bar’s no-frills space, worn wood floors, solid happy hour, and simple but interesting cocktail menu that reminds me of all the neighborhood’s best buzzy, casual bars mildly elevated and rolled into one.
Years after opening, The Wayland still seems to be Alphabet City’s bar of choice. Visit before the sun goes down to catch the light streaming through the bar’s giant windows while sipping on a Garden Variety Margarita (Blanco Tequila, ginger juice, kale juice, lime, agave nectar, and smoked chili salt), described by The New Yorker as “improbably terrific.”
A crowd favorite is the bar’s I Hear Banjos! Created with Rye whiskey, apple pie moonshine, and house apple bitters, finished with the bartender trapping a cloud of applewood smoke. Those who don’t enjoy cocktails can glance through The Wayland’s tap list of craft beer or small wine list.
The food menu is brief but also receives high marks for its well-considered sandwiches.
Happy hour at The Wayland is Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 7 pm.
Address: 105 1st Ave., New York, NY 10009
Mister Paradise might just be the best bar in the East Village. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never really had the lively cocktail bar on my radar. It wasn’t until I started speaking with East Village bartenders and alcohol sales reps that it became clear that Mister Paradise is bartenders’ choice for the best cocktails in the East Village.
So, determined to see what the fuss was about, I stopped into Mister Paradise on a night of East Village bar-hopping in the name of article research.
It lived up to the hype.
Mister Paradise’s bartending team is knowledgeable and friendly. Unlike some East Village cocktail bars I’ve visited, they make an effort to engage with guests even when the night rush comes in.
The cocktail program is whimsical and innovative, pulling together tropical flair with New York style. Fredo’s 666 Hell Sauce may sound daunting, but the mix of tequila, tomatillo, serrano, cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and sparkling water has just the right amount of kick to get the night going. Alternatively, the Face/Off, a milk punch, is my favorite at the bar, a sweet but not too sweet concoction with slight savory undertones.
Mister Paradise’s cocktail menu rotates frequently. Settle into the green-tiled bar once, twice, or several times for a night in the East Village that won’t disappoint.
Please Don’t Tell
Address: 113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
Behind a phone booth in Crif Dogs is Please Don’t Tell (PDT). Credited as the first modern speakeasy-style cocktail bar and originator of the trend, Please Don’t Tell is integral to the New York City cocktail landscape.
Perhaps more importantly, PDT is a hotspot from my college days (end sarcasm). How I managed to graduate without making it to the East Village institution, I really don’t know.
Winner of World’s Best Bar 2011, PDT doesn’t take itself too seriously. Drinks are unique enough to entice, but your friend who won’t order anything they can’t pronounce will still be able to find something. Gourmet interpretations of grubby fare make up the food menu, like hot dogs, tater tots, and burgers.
On every page of the menu, guests will find locally sourced ingredients, some coming from the Union Square Greenmarket nearby. Also on display are Northeast American craft beers and non-alcoholic beverages.
This isn’t a bar for trashy behavior. Among my PDT’s posted etiquette guide are rules such as “No PDA at PDT: hands on the table, tongue inside your mouth,” and “Do not interrupt other guests: if you came here to hit on strangers, you’re in the wrong bar.”
Despite its ratings falling over the years, PDT is still heavily in demand. Reservations can be made on Resy and are strongly recommended, as is arriving when the line opens if you don’t have one, before 5 pm.
I’ll let you figure out exactly what to dial to get in.
Death & Co
Address: 433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009
This moody speakeasy is an anchor in the East Village cocktail scene. Described as “a mainstay on the early days of The World’s 50 Best Bars” by the prestigious dining and drinking awards, Death & Co is one of the rare cocktail bars whose outposts receive nearly as much acclaim as the original—Death & Co Los Angeles is currently at 30 on North America’s 50 Best Bars, while the Denver outpost at The Ramble Hotel previously ranked at 36.
Marked by a windowless, wood-paneled exterior, Death & Co opened on New Year’s Eve 2006-2007 and hasn’t stopped creating interesting, modern cocktails with a classic feel since. Bold, grounded flavors rule the cocktail menu, which rotates twice annually, spanning a variety of liquor options, including bourbon, infused vodkas, tequila, and gin.
I’ve been to Death & Co several times over the years and can say definitively that it’s not a great bar for a first date or to catch up with a friend—the bar is loud. It’s perfect for those on a night out who want to channel the spirit of Prohibition-era parties with a lounge feel.
Sake Bar Decibel
Address: 240 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003
Credited as “New York City’s first and coolest sake bar” by the Sake Brewers Association of North America, Sake Bar Decibel is a punk, underground hangout disguising itself with an “On Air” radio sign outside.
In some ways, Decibel is to the sake community what Angel’s Share is to the cocktail. After opening in 1993, Decibel became the launchpad for several former employees to grow the presence of sake in the United States, becoming prolific in their own right.
Decibel offers over 40 sake labels, including a lengthy list of sake by the glass and bottles broken down by type. There’s an offering of inexpensive sake cocktails and a few quality Japanese whisky labels as well.
Happy hour at Sake Bar Decibel is from 6 pm to 7 pm.
Address: 13 1st Ave., New York, NY 10003
According to the staff at Double Chicken Please, one of my favorite NYC cocktail bars, Superbueno, is the up-and-coming East Village bar that locals need to know about.
After being told that the Double Chicken Please kitchen had already closed, DCP staff redirected my friends and me to Superbueno—a tiny, joyful corner space in the East Village with a penchant for Mexican flavor and the type of music that makes you want to dance (read: don’t expect to hear the person next to you).
Conceptualized by Ignacio Jimenez of Ghost Donkey, it’s easy to see why Superbueno is becoming an industry darling. Drinks, such as the Roasted Corn Sour, Mushroom Margarita, and Mole Negroni, leverage ingredients such as guajillo, huitlacoche, and xocolatl bitters in ways that feel inviting and approachable.
Food is just as important at Superbueno as the drinks and is not to be skipped. The Birria Grilled Cheese is a fan favorite. However, I absolutely loved the Roasted Poblano Quesadilla served alongside crema fresca, salsa de serrano, and queso fresco. The quesadilla is an exceptional vegetarian option in terms of typical bar food. Portions are sized to quell hunger without leaving you in a food coma—exactly what you need on a night out.
Address: 134 1st Ave., New York, NY 10009
I promised I wouldn’t recommend a grungy East Village dive bar or any fratty sports bars on this list, but I’d frankly be a bad New Yorker if I failed to mention at least one East Village party bar on this list. This one comes at the recommendation of several East Village bartenders and my own personal experience.
“Goodnight Sonny isn’t a cocktail bar; it’s a bar with good drinks.”Pineapple Club bartending team
If I’m being roped into a night of casual bar hopping in the East Village, you better bet that Goodnight Sonny is on the schedule. Although I can’t say that I’d ever be caught at the bar in the daylight, it’s a solid stop on the weekends after the sun goes down.
After sunset, Goodnight Sonny becomes standing-room-only, and familiar music fills the space. The cocktail menu, far more unique than your average East Village bar, is split into decent takes on classic cocktails and signature house cocktails with buzzy ingredients like cantaloupe, celery, roasted jalapeño, and basil. That said, you won’t be given any side eye for opting for a rail drink—Goodnight Sonny is a solidly non-pretentious drinking experience.
Goodnight Sonny offers happy hour Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Amor y Amargo
Address: 95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
Amor y Amargo would feel out of place in the East Village if it wasn’t so essential to the neighborhood’s cocktail scene.
Located in a former sandwich shop, the standing-only bar channels the energy of an Italian espresso shop as if it’s a West Village transplant. The utter lack of chairs in the cozy East Village cocktail bar keeps the energy upbeat yet sophisticated thanks to its tiled rail and dark wood-lined space.
Opened in 2011 by Ravi DeRossi and Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo is the first bitters-based bar in the United States. Over a decade later, the bar has cemented itself as an integral cocktail institution to New York’s mixology industry, ranking at 23 on North America’s 50 Best Bars in 2022.
Despite the bar’s accolades, it still very much feels neighborly. As I uncertainly walked into the tasting room and bottle shop, I was greeted by cheerful bar staff and was immediately put at ease.
“If spirits are soup, then all these bitters are seasoning…you wouldn’t eat unseasoned soup, so why are you drinking an unseasoned drink?”Sother Teague to The New York Times
I’m not usually one for bitter-forward drinks, but the way bright flavors unexpectedly cut through sharp bitters made Amor y Amargo a surprise for me—I thoroughly enjoyed it. That said, bitters purists will love that Amor y Amargo does have straight vermouth and more classic approaches to the concentrate.
The Cabinet Mezcal Bar
Address: 649 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009
From the hospitality group behind Katana Kitten, Mace, and Superbueno comes The Cabinet Mezcal Bar. Opened in 2019, The Cabinet spotlights mezcal and tequila, capitalizing on the surging popularity of the spirits.
Like Mace, the bar’s exposed brick, sleek rail, and warm tones give it a trendy but laid-back, comfortable feel. The Cabinet’s extensive menu highlights several rotating “Mezcales of the Moment,” a curated vintage selection, cocktails, flights, and bar snacks.
In addition to serving up drinks, The Cabinet also offers cocktail classes and mezcal and tequila tasting events. In November and December, the bar transforms into “The Miracle on 9th Street,” a festive, Christmas-themed bar.
The Cabinet Mezcal Bar is one of the pricer East Village cocktail bars. Go during happy hour to take advantage of the $12 margaritas, $3 beer, and $18 bartender’s choice mezcal flight.
Address: 132 1st Ave., New York, NY 10009
Another East Village establishment from Endless Hospitality Group (The Wayland, Goodnight Sonny, Madeline’s Martini), Bar Lula is an agave-driven cocktail bar paying homage to Latin traditions.
By 6 pm on a weekend, the bar is buzzy without feeling annoyingly packed. Music is sultry and tropical, like your favorite beach club in Tulum.
When you finally look up from your phone after settling in, you’ll realize that the bar’s shelves are lined with bottles not often found around the city. Bar Lula places heavy emphasis on Latin-distilled spirits rather than opting to include the flashy brand names gracing the walls at other East Village cocktail bars (though familiar favorites like Don Julio are, of course, still on offer).
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this is one of the best East Village cocktail bars for a first date—you’ll impress with the drinks and ambiance, but it’s laidback enough that you can cut it short if needed (let’s hope you don’t).
Bar Lula’s bestselling potato and mushroom croquettes are the crispy, creamy bar bites dreams are made of. The elevated small plate has a subtle heat that gives it some interest, counterbalanced with a creaminess that reminds me of my favorite arancini. Pair them with the One Way to Oaxaca (mezcal, guava purée, lime, rosemary-jalapeño syrup) for a refreshing balance.
Down and Out
Address: 503 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009
Easily one of the best-rated bars in the East Village, Alphabet City newcomer Down and Out is a jazzy oyster saloon with a cocktail menu of refreshed classics, a robust selection of craft beers, and several bottles of wine.
True to its prohibition inspiration, Down and Out boasts a collection of over 250 whiskeys, including a collection of vintage bottles dating back to pre-prohibition that act as a “calling card” for the bar, according to owner Joshua Richholt.
Happy hour runs daily from 4 pm to 7 pm, including deals on drinks and the bar’s carefully selected oysters. Seafood-themed small and large plates are available for those looking for something more filling.
Address: 509 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009
I’ll admit: I didn’t think much of Pineapple Club before talking to the staff. When I finally did, it became obvious that they were passionate about mixology, even if the establishment’s cocktail menu is decidedly safe.
Pineapple Club describes itself both as a “cocktail-focused restaurant” rather than a cocktail bar and as a “tikeasy” (tropical speakeasy). Somewhere in the middle is what the cocktail bar actually accomplishes—I’m ruling out “speakeasy” due to the bar’s name being printed in large text on the awning outside, but in all fairness, the bar does focus more on cocktails than your average East Village restaurants.
Drinks are tropical and fun, playing up the fruity drinks you’d find at a tiki bar, as is the plush velvet booth seating and pineapple-print wallpaper, even if it’s a little on the nose. The bar’s bubbly design feels like a grab for the Instagrammy brunch crowd, of which Pineapple Club is known to be one of the best in the East Village.
Pineapple Club’s cocktail menu rotates seasonally. When I visited in the summer, it was filled with tropical fruits and Latin flavors. As the weather gets colder, Pineapple Club offers a holiday cocktail, the Holly Jolly Highball (pomegranate, wine, cinnamon), served in an ornament, and the Pumpkin Pie, consisting of clarified rum, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and pineapple juice.
Happy hour is offered Monday to Thursday from 5 pm to 6:30 pm and Friday from 4 pm to 6 pm.
The Garret East
Address: 206 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
East Village residents who love The Garret will be pleased to know that they don’t need to cross Fifth Avenue to visit the busy West Village cocktail bar.
A small lounge with a residential feel, The Garret East sees far better reviews than its older sister in the West Village these days. It’s casual and unpretentious, the type of place that you’d take a first date you don’t really know how to feel about yet.
Adding to The Garret East’s appeal is that it shares a space with Borrachito, an “indoor street taco” concept from The Garret Group that puts tacos on the menu for the cocktail bar.
More Top East Village Bars
These bars may or may not focus on cocktails but are neighborhood favorites or new arrivals.
- Ace’s: Chic new cocktail bar scoring a “perfect 10” with locals for the crowd, drinks, space, and service
- d.b.a: beer, whiskey, and video games in a pet-friendly space
- Holiday Cocktail Lounge: Classic dive reimagined as a cocktail bar
- Proletariat: Regarded as one of the best beer bars in NYC, also serving vegan British bites
- Soda Club: Stylish, Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded vegan wine bar
- The Headless Widow: Cocktail bar with an “amazing vibe,” generous happy hour, and friendly staff
Find more amazing places to dine and drink in New York City by clicking the links below:
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