For as much as I avoid the Lower East Side, I love the Lower East Side. The grungy neighborhood is filled with boutiques from of-the-moment designers and a legendary NYC nightlife scene. Between the dive bars and scene-y rooftops attracting recent grads and those trying to relive their college days are a phenomenal swath of Lower East Side cocktail bars bringing New York City’s mixology-obsessed into the neighborhood.
As a matter of fact, the neighborhood is home to two of my all-time favorite cocktail bars in the city: Attaboy and Double Chicken Please.
What I love most about Lower East Side cocktail bars is that at several, you can catch the owner working the bar, mixing drinks, and bussing tables like any other employee. You wouldn’t know that they’re the mastermind behind the operation unless you asked, which demonstrates such a passion for the craft and the place.
I’ve spent countless weekends bar-hopping on the Lower East Side. From Berlin to Banzarbar, I’ve managed to hit several of the neighborhood’s top nightlife spots. These are the Lower East Side cocktail bars you should know about:
Disclaimer: I’ve visited every single bar on this list personally, with the exception of Gugu Room, Subject: A Cocktail Bar, and Verlaine. Those bars come with strong customer reviews and recommendations from other NYC locals.
Address: 245 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
Bar Goto is a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of place. The lowkey LES cocktail bar is marked only by a large wood door and the bouncer that’s always in front of it.
Opened by Kenta Goto (ex. Pegu Club), Bar Goto is undoubtedly one of the best date night spots on the Lower East Side. It’s firmly rooted in moody, minimalist Japanese design and features an Izakaya-like menu to match. Cocktails, sake, shochu, and Japanese whisky are all on order, as are a small selection of bar bites such as okonomiyaki and miso wings.
Cocktails are elegant and refined, hardly fussing around with superfluous garnishes and novelty ingredients like other bars in the neighborhood. My usual picks are the Ume Paloma (tequila, Wakayama plum, grapefruit, soda, and sea salt) or the Far East Side (sake, tequila, shiso, elderflower, lemon, yuzu bitters). I’ve been told that the Old Fashioned is among the city’s best.
Address: 134 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
With an entrance that looks more like a service entrance than a world-class cocktail lounge, Attaboy keeps a low profile. Like an homage to trailblazing mixologist Sasha Petraske, Attaboy, founded by Petraske’s protogés, Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross, opened the speakeasy in the old Milk & Honey Space.
Attaboy’s version of a menu isn’t a menu at all. It’s a series of questions posed to each guest about the spirits and flavor they’re in the mood for that night. If you say you’re looking for something spicy, you might be asked if you would like your drink “spicy like peppers or spicy like chai.”
It’s this element of the unexpected that keeps me going back to Attaboy time and time again. It’s not a bar for the picky but rather for cocktail enthusiasts who love putting their trust in their bartender. You can, and you should, here. Others seem to agree: Attaboy has been a mainstay on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, currently ranking at 22, once breaking the top 10 and ranking as the best bar in NYC.
Reservations are not allowed at Attaboy. When Attaboy has a wait (which is frequent), head to Bar Goto up the street for your first round while waiting. It’s just close enough that you’ll have time to pay the bill and walk back when you get that coveted “your table is ready” text.
Double Chicken Please
Address: 115 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
NYC’s most coveted cocktail bar reservation right now is the Coop at Double Chicken Please, a sexy, Art Deco-inspired lounge serving whimsical creations and Asian-influenced bites, the likes of which I have truly never seen before.
Envisioned by GN Chan and Faye Chen, Double Chicken Please feels, in many ways, like the embodiment of modern New York. Despite its accolades and oh-so-fabulous design, there’s something grounded about it, as exemplified by Chan bussing tables and working the bar like any other employee during one of my visits. Ranked by The World’s 50 Best as the sixth-best bar in the world at the moment, Double Chicken Please is currently the best cocktail bar in NYC, not just on the Lower East Side.
Leather booths line the dimly lit space as guests order drinks such as the Cold Pizza (Don Fulano Blanco, Parmigiano Reggiano, burnt toast, tomato, basil, honey, egg white), which, yes, somehow tastes exactly like a New York slice, and the Japanese Cold Noodle (Bacardi Superior, pineapple, cucumber, coconut, lime, sesame oil).
There’s no lack of detail at Double Chicken Please, as exemplified by the handcrafted, made-from-scratch garnishes like the chocolate-dipped “Oreo” on the French Toast (Grey Goose, roasted barley brioche, coconut, milk, maple syrup, egg).
Food is fairly priced, and a must-order at Double Chicken Please. I dream about the Tofu Sandwich, a vegan invention complete with indulgent, creamy peanut butter, which, at $13, feels like a steal. As the name suggests, Double Chicken Please is also filled with fried chicken sandwiches with unexpected ingredients and a gourmet approach to popcorn chicken.
Reservations for the back room at DCP open one week in advance and go quickly. If you can’t manage to snag a reservation, walk in for a stool in the Front Room, which highlights cocktails on tap.
Subject: A Cocktail Bar
Address: 188 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002
Subject: A Cocktail Bar has evaded the long lines of better-known Lower East Side bars, but it isn’t for lack of ingenuity. The cozy bar offers a robust cocktail program separated into three sections: seasonal, classic, and legacy.
The bar’s legacy cocktails tend to be the most interesting, making use of trending ingredients with mild tropical influence. Highlights include Three Weeks in Pasadena (Vida Mezcal, Chareau Aloe Vera Liqueur, Carrot Eau de Vie, Dolin Blanc, cocci Americano, and togarashi bitters) and Cabo Crush (Copalli White Rum, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, blue Curacao, Velvet Falernum, passionfruit, pineapple, lime, and Tiki Bitters).
I wouldn’t be surprised if news of this creative neighborhood cocktail bar spreads fast. Go now before you’re fighting to get a seat.
Address: 45 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
A nook carved into Orchard Street, Reception Bar channels the energy of a chic mid-century hotel lobby bar. You won’t have to deal with the incessant noise of guests checking in and struggling with luggage, just some appropriately on-theme elevator music and light chatter.
Noticeably, drinks on the menu don’t contain any of the spirits lining the shelves at other Lower East Side cocktail bars. Instead, every drink on the menu is soju-based. I’ve had several soju cocktails around the world, but nothing quite like what’s on offer at Reception Bar. The light spirit is transformed into everything from delicate tea cocktails, like the Lotus Breeze that I tried, to herbaceous, bitter concoctions like the Smokes.
Food is minimal but not lacking. You can order garlic knots from Scarr’s just down the street, given a Korean twist with kimchi, or pick from two variations of japchae mandu (Korean dumplings with glass noodles).
If you’re spending an evening dining and drinking downtown on the Lower East Side or Chinatown, think of Reception Bar as the prelude that sets the tone for a fabulous night.
Address: 151 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
At the risk of being redundant, stepping into Lullaby is like a lullaby. A basement on Rivington, Lullaby is a refuge from the chaos of the Lower East Side, complete with dreamy music.
In this oasis, you’ll find the Negroni Whip (negroni, dole whip), an adult play on Dole Whip. Served low with a toppling swirl of Dole Whip, the cocktail is a sophisticated way to be a kid on a night out.
Don’t let the bar’s polished facade fool you—Lullaby is still very much a spot in the Lower East Side, for the Lower East Side. Bathrooms, almost ironically labeled “powder rooms,” are covered from floor to ceiling with graffiti.
Lullaby is the perfect bar for a first date on the Lower East Side. It’s not a party, and music is kept at a volume that doesn’t make silencers awkward but doesn’t intrude on conversation, either.
Your loud, drunk friend—keep him away from here and let Lullaby sing its song.
Address: 2 Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002 (entrance through Freemans Restaurant)
There’s magic in the air at Banzarbar. A 20-person nook, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was stepping into.
The wonder starts the moment you turn off of Rivington and onto Freeman’s Alley, a funky, graffiti-covered alleyway that feels like a destination in and of itself for the Instagram-obsessed.
At the end of Freeman’s Alley is Freeman’s, a taxidermy-adorned American restaurant. When the hostess led me upstairs, I thought I’d step straight into your typical “speakeasy” second floor. Instead, I was led down a maze of narrow hallways, and each time the hostess exclaimed “corner,” my anticipation and excitement grew a little more.
I thought my night would start with the Vøkkå Nåtu Swiit (vodka, marigold, green chile, blood orange amaro, guava, lime, Peychaud’s bitters, and Greek yogurt), a fruity vodka endeavor with bright green chili as the perfect foil. Instead, Banzarbar starts its guests off with an opening shot of botanical Spanish vermouth, setting the tone for the evening.
I followed the Vøkkå Nåtu Swiit with the Oryza, a succulent, aromatic cocktail served low, featuring Sichuan baijiu, Batavia arrack, gooseberry, sauternes dessert wine, lemon oils, and absinthe. The aroma, albeit delightful, was surprising, almost reminding me of a fine French cheese. The cocktail is served with humble presentation (low in a chilled glass, no garnish), yet its flavor is anything but, with the stage presence of a Met Opera diva. It’s fruit-forward, with a savory undercut that reminds me of grass jelly.
Banzarbar is a really special place—like New York’s best-kept secret reserved for just a few locals in the know. It has the coziness of a New England cottage (with the colonial 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-esque decor to match) and the savior-faire to compete with the World’s 50 Best Bars.
If I was on a first date on the Lower East Side, and my date took me to Banzarbar, he would definitely be getting a second. I almost didn’t want to write about Banzarbar because, well, loose lips sink ships.
Address: 143 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Some nights don’t demand tiny plates and elaborate drinks, rather an all-around experience that weighs food with equal importance to its cocktail menu.
Gugu Room understands that assignment perfectly. A Filipino-Japanese izakaya, the cocktail-focused restaurant has been hailed as having a “Michelin Star level of food and service” by diners.
The chic restaurant is an impressive date night spot, offering a menu of cocktails mostly rooted in Japanese technique and flavor (you’ll find variations on a highball and tons of Japanese whisky behind the bar).
Visit during happy hour from 5 pm to 7 pm Tuesday to Saturday for $10 cocktails, $7 glasses of wine, and $6 beers.
Address: 202 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
It’s a good sign when the bartender says, “I got you,” after asking just a few questions. That’s exactly what happened at The Dancer, as I was informed that the Torres Sour (mezcal, Salers aperitif, grapefruit, and lemon) was sold out.
Like usual, I put my trust in the hands behind the bar, and like usual, it paid off. My “dealer’s choice” cocktail was juicy and citrusy with a slight kick—exactly the pick-me-up I was looking for.
If you’re just a passerby on the street, The Dancer is unmarked and generally missable. A dugout next to a Subway, the lowkey bar has made a name for itself in being a hidden gem, only made remarkable through good old-fashioned word of mouth.
It almost feels wrong to call The Dancer one of the best Lower East Side cocktail bars because in a lot of ways, it captures the spirit of a true bar that others on this list don’t—it’s casual and laidback, a good spot for catching up with friends in the neighborhood or avoiding your roommates for a few hours—The Dancer just happens to have bartenders with exceptional skill.
Drinks are shockingly reasonable—$14 for most of the main program and just $12 for the daily special. Bar snacks follow suit—small bites can be found for $7.
Speaking of which, at $7, I didn’t expect a whole lot from the Israeli Scotch Egg, but I thoroughly enjoyed the perfectly jellied egg and crispy, spiced falafel it was wrapped in. In my quest for the best cocktail bars in NYC, it was by far one of the best bar bites.
Once upon a time, The Dancer was cash-only. These days, it prefers card.
Address: 110 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
Verlaine blends into the LES like a Jewish deli or indie bookstore. The down-to-earth hangout is one of the best Lower East Side cocktail bars to meet up with friends pre-club or kick off date night. It’s affordable and, oh yeah, serves toppling plates of Chinese-American favorites and Asian fusion food.
I hope you like lychee because the cocktail menu is full of it. A lychee martini, lychee margarita, lychee Aperol spritz, and red sangria with lychee all make an appearance on the brief cocktail menu (much to my delight).
Late-night happy hours in NYC are rare, but at Verlaine, they take place every day that the bar is open (Tuesday to Sunday) from 5 pm to 10 pm, during which lychee martinis and sangria are just $8.
Verlaine isn’t a cocktail bar in the Lower East Side for some unforgettable creation with a garnish just as tall as the glass. Instead, it encapsulates the spirit of the neighborhood: cheap drinks, big energy, indulgent food, and of course, a great party.
Address: 14 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Bar Belly isn’t a flashy destination bar. It’s a chill spot for locals to hang out, enjoy each other’s company, and have a really good drink, sometimes to the sounds of live music and DJs at the bar.
Within a minute of sitting down in Bar Belly’s dark, laidback space, I had a bowl of Parmesan popcorn and a menu in front of me, which is hardly a surprise as service stands out here. Both bartenders and waitstaff approach guests with a familiar welcome as if they’re good friends or neighbors, not just another patron.
The design of Bar Belly’s space reflects this comfortable approach. Unfinished walls and brown leather booth seating will transport you to your childhood friend’s parent’s basement in a good way. The music might as well be stolen from my Spotify library. Throwback hits like Daydreamin’, Slide, and Fast Car echo through the bar, taking me right back to my serendipitous post-senior year summer. Any bar will win me over if Zhu comes on the speakers (which, of course, it did at Bar Belly).
Join for happy hour every day of the week from open until 7 pm (yes, even on the weekend). A smattering of cocktails are discounted to $14, while oysters will run you just $1 each.
More Amazing Lower East Side Bars
These spots may or may not be Lower East Side cocktail bars, but they each bring something unique to the neighborhood:
- The Back Room – One of only two Prohibition-era speakeasies still operating in NYC
- Black Crescent – Cocktails, oysters, and seafood
- Copper & Oak – Sultry, tiny bar reserved only for whiskey enthusiasts—Copper & Oak has hundreds available
- Gem Wine – Bohemian wine bar with indulgent bites
- The Grand Delancey – Robust beer bar with over 50 craft beers on tap
- Excuse My French – Intimate tapas bar with specialty cocktails
- The Flower Shop – American restaurant that transforms its basement into a buzzy nightlife spot (a favorite of my friends in college)
- Fools Gold – Pub specializing in craft beer and bourbon
- Lobby Bar at The Ludlow – One of NYC’s chicest hotel lobby bars
- The Magician – “Everyday bar” popular with neighborhood locals
- Outer Heaven – New nightclub gaining a reputation as one of the best in NYC
- Parcelle – Wine bar and delivery service offering sommelier-led classes and bottle delivery
- 169 Bar – Funky dive bar pouring affordable drink specials for over 100 years
Lower East Side Cocktail Bars: FAQ
Attaboy is a cocktail bar in NYC without a menu. The speakeasy was founded by Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross, protogés of the late Sasha Petraske, whose trailblazing cocktail bar, Milk & Honey, previously occupied the space.
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Eva Phan is the founder of Eva Darling, a travel and style website aiming to empower women to see the world solo while sharing on-trend, luxury feminine style inspiration. Featured in publications including Forbes, Thrillist, and Yahoo News, Eva has combined her education from Parsons School of Design with her incurable case of the travel bug to create a global destination that encourages others to romanticize their everyday.