The West Village is one of the best neighborhoods in Manhattan to spend a weekend in. The brownstone-lined neighborhood is filled to the brim with fantastic restaurants and even better cocktail bars. After dinner at Fiaschetteria Pistoia or L’Artusi, I’ve been known to frequent plenty of the best West Village cocktail bars.
The West Village has a lot more to offer than millennial mainstays like the Garret, hidden above Five Guys, and Due West on West 10th Street. These West Village cocktail bars blend impressive technical talent and a penchant for flavor for a truly impressive night out in New York City.
I’ve made it to many of the bars on this list, save for LB, Bosco, and Bar Pisellino (though I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up at one of those soon). Each bar offers something a little different, allowing you to tailor your night out in the West Village to your mood.
Little Branch (LB)
20 7th Avenue S, New York, NY 10014
In true speakeasy fashion, Little Branch (LB) is a single, unmarked door on a triangular corner in the West Village. The bar keeps an ultra-low profile, lacking a website and forgoing reservations.
This isn’t a bar for those seeking gimmicky mixology or some sort of cheesy novelty schtick. It’s a neighborhood spot for locals seeking a true hideaway, a serious focus on the classics, and some of the West Village’s best ambiance.
Staff has received praise for their “encyclopedic knowledge” of classic cocktails, which range from truly traditional to refreshed iterations with modern flavors. It’s a date night spot in the West Village, not just for the drinks but also for the dim lighting and live jazz that echoes throughout the space periodically throughout the week.
LB operates on a first-come, first-served policy. Get there early for a chill, intimate vibe, or come later when the bar gets lively and becomes standing-room only.
45 Grove St, New York, NY 10014
Plainly, it would be wrong to start this list with any bar other than Angel’s Share. A West Village transplant, the legendary East Village speakeasy reopened on Grove Street just a couple of months ago after being forced to shutter its original haunt in a bitter real estate dispute last year.
Thank goodness it did because losing this moody, East-meets-Old New York lounge for good would have been a devastating loss for the city’s cocktail scene. Founded by Tony Yoshida, the bar was revived and is now owned by his daughter, Erina Yoshida, who could be found welcoming guests and working the door the night I visited (exactly how I knew I was in for something special).
The bar, founded in 1993, is credited for revolutionizing the craft cocktail scene, bringing precise Japanese cocktail methodology to the city. Bartenders who polished their skills working at the bar have gone on to gain international notoriety, including two of my favorites in New York, GN Chan of Double Chicken Please and Takuma Watanabe of Martinys, in addition to Shingo Gokan of SG Club in Tokyo, among others.
Though the space has changed, the idea remains the same. The bar’s iconic angel mural was saved and now hangs behind the bar, while the bar rules in place since 1993, hang at the entrance: no sandals, no groups larger than four, no reservations, and for the love of all things beautiful, no standing at the bar.
The rules are strictly enforced, but keep the bar intimate and special, as does the abundance of eagle-eyed staff. It’s a welcome break from the sloppy, arrogant crowds at flashier nearby cocktail bars in the West Village.
Papaya and Friends, a careful balance of spicy and sweet made of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf-infused Aldez, papaya, pineapple, lime cordial, jalapeño tincture, and cilantro was my opening round. The drink came with the perfect amount of heat to be noticeable but still very sippable, while bright papaya cut through the cilantro.
At my bartender’s recommendation, I moved to the Fool Me Once, crafted out of coriander-infused Herradura reposado, orange, passionfruit, mint, jaggery, lime, and coconut milk served alongside a crispy panipuri puff. My eyes widened as I took the first sip—passionfruit cocktails tend to rely heavily on the fruit to carry the drink, but this one used it as a team player rather than the hero, which made for a far more interesting number.
The bar hasn’t relied on its laurels. Every drink on Angel’s Share’s lengthy cocktail program is highly-considered, innovative, and with such simple appearance, deceitfully complex. Though their ingredient list may be lengthy, each one truly serves a purpose—there’s no self-righteousness on display. The bar has the grandeur of the best cocktail bars in the world, with the humbleness of your nearby neighborhood bar—the perfect go-to for locals okay with a wait.
531 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Currently ranked as the ninth best bar in the world by the World’s 50 Best, Katana Kitten has the zest of an izakaya in Tokyo with cocktail savoir-faire more akin to an omakase restaurant. Dubbed “director of deliciousness,” its head bartender and managing partner, Masahiro Urushido, was voted Altos Bartenders’ Bartender 2022 by fellow head bartenders from North America’s 50 Best Bars.
Urushido, who got his start in bartending in high school serving beer at karaoke bars in Tokyo, first splashed into the New York cocktail scene after being introduced to Kenta Goto of Bar Goto (one of my most-frequented Lower East Side cocktail bars). He eventually connected with Greg Boehm (Mace, Cocktail Kingdom, Superbueno), who pitched the idea of opening a Japanese-style bar with Urushido in his arsenal.
Cash-adorned orbs hang over the whimsical, rock and roll space as guests sip on a cheeky, playful cocktail program, the likes of which I’ve truly never seen before. When the drinks start to hit, imbibers indulge in sandwiches and bar bites that match the bar’s Japanese-American vision.
Katana Kitten’s cocktail menu features five fresh twists on highballs in an homage to Japan’s beloved drink, five signature cocktails, and three boilermakers. Nostalgic ingredients found in your local Asian market, like Calpico and salted plum, make appearances, as do more unusual flavors like Hinoki tree essence.
I’ve never been let down on a visit to Katana Kitten. The bar’s top-of-the-world accolades are well-justified for its position as a disruptor in the West Village. Only opening five years ago, the bar has become my first recommendation for friends seeking the highest caliber of vibrant NYC nightlife thanks to its non-pretentious approach to world-class cocktails. Just be warned—Katana Kitten keeps it loud, so this might not be the best “get to know you” spot.
Katana Kitten is walk-in only. Expect a decent wait if you visit around peak hours.
7 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014
Closing after nearly a decade in Williamsburg a few years ago, Donna is back, this time with a smaller space in the West Village. The new space is owned by its employees, currently four worker-owners. It plans to welcome more employees into bar ownership after one year of employment.
Donna invites people to come as they are. It’s an undeniably cool, mid-century hangout playing a funky, vibey playlist that doesn’t take itself all that seriously, even though it does serve up some seriously good cocktails.
I got lucky, stopping by on the bar’s test run of happy hour. Hopefully, they keep it around.
The signature Brancolada is what the bar is known for. Lo, the bartender that night, describes it as a “piña colada meeting a thin mint,” but I’d almost say it’s like a New Yorker in Tulum (the beach clubs there should stop serving their watered-down drinks and pay attention).
After polishing off a Brancolada, I followed up with the Sporty, Scary, Baby, Posh…which was a delicious balance between spicy and fruity, with ginger that gave it a bright kick. This drink might be taken off the menu shortly—visit before it is.
Food is Pan-Latin and compliments that bar’s exuberant cocktail program. Skip the Smashed Potato, which was definitely not smashed, in favor of the bean and cheese pupusa, which was fried to perfection and served alongside some pickled vegetables with real zeal.
Bartenders are chatty, upbeat, and all too humble about just how fabulous the bar is. The space is overflowing with staff that just really care about the place. It’s just as good for locals as it would be for solo female travelers in the city (the crowd was a mix of both).
The “special sauce” at Donna is that it’s not like the other top West Village bars. The patrons come from down the block and aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation with someone nearby.
Donna is a true hidden gem in the West Village. Visit before the masses catch a whiff of just how fabulous it is.
35 W 8th St, New York, NY 10011
Rated number 18 on the World’s 50 Best Bars’ North America list, Mace places the spotlight on herbs and spices. Each drink on the menu served in carefully selected glassware, is designed to highlight a specific spice.
The bohemian Gothamist bar’s choice of music sets expectations for the menu—a mix of old school hip hop and energetic New York jazz fills the surprisingly expansive space. Spices line the back of the bar as ferns and vines tower over guests seated in the bar’s booths.
Drinks might look simple, but they have an overwhelming amount of depth in a good way. Relying on my bartender to guide me through the brief but thoughtful menu, I started the night with the Garlic, an unexpected contrast of sweet and savory made of chamomile-infused cognac, Aperol, fermented garlic honey, grilled pineapple juice, and lime.
I moved on to the Sumac, but not before being slid a sample of the Jalapeño by my bartender. The Jalapeño, made of peanut butter vodka, coffee liqueur, Grey Goose, strawberry, jalepeño, spiced syrup, lemon juice, and whey, was shocking and bold. The Sumac, a concoction of snap pea Aperol, sumac Nikka, rhubarb syrup, lemon juice, pink salt, absinthe, and prosecco, was more delicate yet no less multifaceted. With each sip, a new flavor could be detected.
I can’t believe that I once let a date convince me that Analogue just down the street was the superior bar to Mace, but I guess that’s my penance for giving yet another investment banker a chance (I kid, kind of).
Everything I tried was incredibly solid, certainly creative, and well above average. I don’t think it entirely stacks up to its accolades, but it still is the perfect go-to bar in the neighborhood if you’re looking for a place that isn’t impossible to get into but will still impress on date night.
Mace reservations can be made on Resy, but you’ll probably only need one if you’re visiting with a group on a Friday or Saturday night. I was seated immediately as a solo guest on a Sunday evening, though the bar was still bustling.
West Village: 551 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Greenwich Village: 79-81 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012
At one point in time, Dante was a single local spot in the Village. Those days have passed since achieving the coveted top spot on World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 (more recently clocking in at number 36 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022). Tourists now beeline to the cozy Italian haunt on MacDougal that has since expanded into two locations, each within a twelve-minute walk of the other.
Caffé Dante opened its doors in Greenwich Village in 1915 as an espresso bar in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, attracting New York’s notorious mobsters. The Dante we know today didn’t come about until 2015, when the café came under new management, which gave it a stylish facelift and world-renowned beverage program, cutting “Caffé” from the name in the process.
Some credit Dante’s original location with popularizing the Negroni in the United States, but that isn’t all that’s on the menu (though they do occupy a full page)—there’s also a lengthy list of spritz variations and spirited signature cocktails combining Italian favorites with global influence. If that wasn’t enough, the bar also serves several seasonally rotating drinks (you will not regret going for the summer menu, trust me).
The charming West Village location features much of the same for cocktails. Food highlights wood-fired and charcoal grilled plates rather than the more familiar Italian fare at Dante’s location in the Village. The location fosters a more intimate feeling, with florals gracing the inviting green exterior and a smattering of tables and bar seats indoors.
In full disclosure, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the bar’s West Village location during a private mixology event announcing a Dante partnership led by the bar’s beverage director, giving it perhaps an unfair advantage over others on this list.
I’ve visited both bars, preferring Caffé Dante for food and the West Village location for ambiance and tourists’ somewhat less frequent appearance. Even still, despite their Instagram-worthy design and undeniable attention, both locations haven’t sacrificed quality for quantity. Dante is still a well-worth visit for cocktails, even if the food is a little forgettable. If I’m entertaining guests in the city, it’s one of my first choices for welcoming them to the Village.
52 Grove St, New York, NY 10014
You’re in Rome, strolling through Piazza Navona, ducking down romantic narrow alleyways, popping into espresso bars in the morning for a quick jolt only to turn around quickly and head about your day before settling into a bar for aperitivo as evening settles in. That’s the effect Bar Pisellino captures.
Bar Pisellino might come as a shock to New Yorkers used to sitting in coffee shops for hours on their laptops or drinking at dimly lit speakeasies with pages-long menus that are open until the wee hours of the morning. The airy corner bar serves a streamlined menu of Amari and vermouth cocktails in addition to aperitivi, coffee, and a few paninis and pastries.
Envisioned by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi the couple behind Via Carota, I Sodi, and Buvette, Bar Pisellino is an homage to Italian drinking culture best absorbed on a picturesque day in the West Village before the sun sets (the bar is only open until 10 pm daily, anyway).
Seating is limited because you’re meant to be social, stand, and maybe meet someone interesting. On a Summer Friday, the well-heeled crowd floods into the sidewalk, crowding the bar’s entrance and furthering the charm of the neighborhood.
520 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
You’d be forgiven for thinking that B’artusi, the younger sister to Italian juggernaut, L’Artusi, is more about the food than it is the drinks, but the wine bar’s limited cocktail menu is a refreshing spin into Italy on a sunny day in the West Village that perfectly compliments the bar’s bites.
The crowd fluctuates between the typical West Village young professional crowd of work-hard-play-hard Goldman Sachs cronies and those anxiously awaiting tables at L’artusi down the street, but that doesn’t mean that B’artusi isn’t a worthwhile destination in and of itself.
I opted for the Yacht Club, a juicy, salty cantaloupe number that swept me right onto a boat off the Amalfi Coast. I paired the drink with the Fuso panini, a melty sandwich of zy gorgonzola, soft taleggio, and crisp apple, finished off with a smothering of walnut pesto.
The brilliance of B’artusi’s casual bar approach with ties to such a well-renowned restaurant is that the cocktails and food each stand up equally on their own. You could have one without the other and still walk away perfectly satisfied with your experience.
While I can’t say that B’artusi is the most inventive of the West Village cocktail bars on this list, it’s not necessarily trying to be, either. Instead, it’s a pretty slice of laid-back comfort perfect for people-watching.
B’artusi reservations can be made on Resy. The bar fills up fast, but walking in alone on a Saturday night, I had no issue grabbing a stool.
169 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012
Greenwich Village’s Bosco is so close to the West Village that I am controversially qualifying it as one of the best West Village cocktail bars for the sake of this article. The fusion spot is described by Resy as an “Irish bar and Latin American restaurant with an Italian name.”
The craft cocktail bar can only be described as colorful and lively, as indicated by the large pineapple mural decorating the exterior of the space. On the menu are a few miscellaneous stirred cocktails and specialty variations of daisy cocktails, highballs, margaritas, and spritz.
Accompanying Bosco’s drinks is a selection of Latin-influenced street food and burgers. Until 4 pm daily, brunch is served, and happy hour steals are to be found every day of the week except Saturday. The bar’s Sunday happy hour runs until close, making it a decent late-night stop if you find yourself not needing to be at the office the next morning.
On the weekends, a DJ takes over at night, attracting a young crowd ready to party, just like its older sister, Tara Rose. Like Tara Rose, Bosco is a place for warm Irish hospitality (which, when originally opened, was Tara Rose’s crown jewel).
I’ve been meaning to try Bosco since it was announced, not just because it looks like a lot of fun but also because it’s from the team behind my casual neighborhood bar of choice, Tara Rose. Hopefully, I’ll make it soon.
510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Let’s make one thing clear: Employees Only is “only” on this list because it’s one of the most well-known West Village cocktail bars, not because the Hudson Street institution lives up to its reputation.
It sounds harsh, and maybe I’m still a little bitter from my uncomfortable recent experience, which felt like a funhouse of contradictions as I write this sleep-deprived and, frankly, in need of a good bagel (someone, please call Tal on my behalf).
The West Village clubhouse has had an impressive, 10-year-long run on the World’s 50 Best Bar list (Employees Only currently sits at number 47 on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 and number 14 on North America’s 50 Best Bars 2023).
An ostentatious speakeasy, Employees Only maintains an air of pretension in its hallowed Art Deco space, complete with snooty, model-like waitstaff that doesn’t have any patience for patrons. After walking past a once-kitschy, now-cheesy psychic and pushing past a dense swath of tourists and downtown residents who care more about being seen than they do a quality night out, we were seated in the bar’s dining room, which opens right into the crowd.
There’s no denying that the EO bartending team knows how to mix an exceptional cocktail. Despite my quips, I respect the storied establishment for being a disruptor in New York’s nightlife scene. The old-school cocktail program feels like an homage to vintage New York glamour. I can’t say that it quite competes with some of the other World’s 50 Best honorees in the West Village, but drinks are reliable and extremely sippable.
My pick is the Amelia, a vodka and St. Germain cocktail shaken with juicy, puréed blackberries and fresh lemon juice. It’s sophisticated without being serious, packing more of a punch than your average juice-adjacent fruity drink.
Criticism aside, I do think Employees Only brings something to the cocktail scene in the West Village. It feels sleek and clubby without feeling overly trashy and isn’t a bad post-dinner stop if you’re seeking an upscale, energetic nightlife spot. It would be exceptional if service was better and the crowd wasn’t quite as overwhelming. Just skip making a reservation—you’ll be expected to order food, which is nothing special.
More West Village Bars
These bars can’t necessarily be considered the very best cocktail bars in the West Village, but they still offer something unique on a night out amongst the brownstones. I tend towards a true cocktail bar, so I’ve yet to make it to any of these, but they’re local favorites.
- White Horse Tavern: This historic watering hole is the second-oldest pub in NYC and has hosted the creative likes of Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, and James Baldwin
- Blind Tiger: This Bleecker bar is known for its robust menu of rotating craft beer, mostly sourced from the New York area and New England, though a few US-based outliers also make the list
- Hudson Bar and Books: Touting itself as “the most refreshingly civilized places to meet,” dark bookcases line the walls at this West Village bar, where whiskey and cigars reign supreme
- Corner Bistro: True American bar bites are rarely found at the best cocktail bars in the West Village, which is why residents have turned to this raucous West 4th Street joint for toppling burgers over the years
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