by Justine Goodman - 81 Reviews - 104 List
Almost every New York bar now offers a specialty cocktail menu, but hard-line cocktail purists measure a bar's merit by the quality of its classic cocktails. Masterpiece martinis and gimlets are simple but rare, and perfectly made old fashioneds, daiquiris and Sazeracs are scarcer still, but we've found five New York bars where traditional recipes and time-honored technique get the respect they deserve, and you get the classic cocktail you came for.
Updated: September 13, 2011
How could you not order a gin martini, what with the mood-setting live piano and creamy leather banquettes? Patrons serious about drinking imbibe the classic cocktail while basking in the glow of the bar's unique surroundings--the walls, and even the lamp shades, were decorated by the illustrator of the "Madeline" books, for whom the bar is named.
Enter this hideaway off Grand Central Station and brace yourself for a jazz age time warp. Dress the part (no jeans and sneakers) and clutch a classic creation like the Prohibition punch, reminiscent of the potions served during--you guessed it--Prohibition. This one's made from passion fruit juice, Grand Marnier, Appleton spiced rum and Moet & Chandon.
The refreshing Pimm's Cup was originally invented as a healthful beverage, but don't tell that to the sinful young things drinking at this sleek art deco-inspired venue. The blend of Pimm's, ginger soda, cucumbers and mint wins points for crispness, its ability to transport to times past, and the handsome suspender-clad bartenders who make it just so.
Many times, a perfect cocktail made according to strict principles is served in a severe, overly serious atmosphere. But not at Dram bar, on Williamsburg's booming south side. Here, the atmosphere is warm and relaxed, and the classic cocktails--from Sazeracs to Dark and Stormies to Hemingway daiquiris--are pitch-perfect.
The dimly lit space, which feels trapped in time, has several deep, cozy banquettes and a small bar. A single waiter gently whisks drinks on a candle-lit platter to and from the bar. The only sounds are the murmur of voices and the shaking of cocktails, which happen to be exquisitely executed--especially the classics. You'll need to reserve a table just to get in the door, which is intentionally hard to find, but worth the trouble.
If cocktails actually do what their names suggest they will do, then we could all use a Corpse Reviver No. 2 from Flatiron Lounge. The drink is made with gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and fresh lemon and can be traced all the way back to 1895.
Fancy a mint julep? Look no further than this Hawaiian-themed cocktail den, which celebrates the union of the Pacific and the Atlantic with a menu of tasty treats and boozy drinks that hails from both regions and everywhere in between. The julep is made with your choice of bourbon, Cognac, applejack or aged rum, and enjoying it while donning a large derby hat is recommended, but not required.