Modern mixology as we know it was basically invented in New York City.

In the 1980s, bars such as The Rainbow Room transformed the once-humble cocktail into a thing of beauty, as ornate and complex as any Michelin-starred meal.

(You can discover the history of the cocktail industry here.)

New York may be a hell of a town, but it's also a hell of a big one – you will struggle if you start your evening in The Bronx and hope to end it in Brooklyn.

Even Manhattan, the most celebrated of the five boroughs, offers a very different experience depending on whether you're drinking on the Upper East Side or Hell's Kitchen.

Therefore we've narrowed our focus to Lower Manhattan – namely West Village and East Village – and picked six cocktail bars to visit next time you're in town.

To make life even easier, we've even suggested what to order – although, obviously, the choice is yours...

Can you do them all in one evening? (Insert reminder about responsible drinking here.)

The Leroy House

The Leroy House is simply a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. Even if you stick to tap water, the elegant interior of this West Village townhouse-turned-restaurant cannot fail to provide a sense of enormous well-being (and not a pigeon or sparrow in sight). But don’t stick to tap water, because then you’ll miss out on fragrant-fresh cocktails and bar snacks of the highest calibre. The dining area opens onto a private rose garden, bringing a bucolic vibe in the middle of the metropolis.

Two to drink

  • Short Goodbye (gin, toasted rosemary, lime juice) – $16
  • La Nina (tequila, mezcal, fresno chilli, cucumber, lime, pineapple) – $16

Two to eat

  • Spicy Crab Gratin – $14
  • Devilled Eggs – $6

430 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014, USA;

The Happiest Hour

As you would hope from the name, The Happiest Hour is a joy. It’s definitely the liveliest establishment on this list, the place to go if you want to turn evening drinks into a full-on night out. The spacious exterior has a vaguely tropical theme, and there’s a vast shelf containing all manner of curios (a toy motorbike, a pink Calavera). The menu offers comfort food of the highest quality, and the cocktails are served with the mantra, ‘you build ‘em, we pour ‘em’ - meaning you have a choice of three different alcoholic bases. You’ll be happy, sure, but you’ll want to stay longer than an hour. Fortunately the next place isn’t far…

Three to drink

  • Shimmy Shimmy (coconut, Halbenero, lime. Choose from aperol / rum / Jalepeno tequila) – $14
  • Mango Mango (mango, lime, cane, chipotle, salt. Choose from tequila / rum / mezcal) – $14
  • Belle of the Ball (red pepper, lemon, Habanero Shrub. Choose from mezcal / tequila / gin)– $14

Two to eat

  • Bonsai chicken bites – $10
  • Mac 'n' cheese bites – $9

121 West 10th Street, New York, NY, 10011;

Slowly Shirley

Slowly Shirley is situated directly beneath The Happiest Hour - both share a common ownership, and food menu - but the two bars couldn’t be more different. While upstairs is all fun and frivolity, Slowly Shirley has a much more speakeasy vibe, all low lighting and Art Deco decor. You could easily imagine Bogart and Bacall hunched in one of its shadowy corners. The cocktails are complex, coming with their own tasting notes. This is a grown-up bar for grown-up drinking. Go slow.

Two to drink

  • The Long Goodbye (whisky, applejack, blackstrap, banana, maple, Peychaud's bitters, Angostura, absinthe. Tasting notes: apple, banana, molasses, cobble)– $17
  • Silencio Old Fashioned (Amburana cachaca, gin, angostura, absinthe, cane. Tasting notes: spicy, light, mysterious) – $18

One to eat

  • Well it’s the same menu as upstairs… but Blistered Shishito Peppers ($10) fits the vibe

121 West 10th Street, New York, NY, 10011;

Mister Paradise

East Village is the neighbourhood Shoreditch wishes it was - all the cool, none of the pretension. (Well, less of the pretension.) You can’t walk for 30 seconds without passing a bar of some description: sports, dive, cocktail, themed. Mister Paradise, with its green facade, is a hard place to miss, albeit you may need a few moments to locate the actual door - it’s hard to distinguish from the front windows. The interior is also quite green, and the seats are patterned like shells, all adding to the aquatic vibe. A fine place to wet your whistle.

Two to drink

  • Party Lobster (tequila, mezcal, campari, watermelon, lime, garlic, fermented habanero) – $14
  • An Awfully Big Mustache (aged rum, beet, sesame, lime) – $15

One to eat

  • Cubano Hotpockets (pork shoulder, swiss cheese, ham, pickles, mustard) – $9

105 First Avenue, New York, NY 10003;

Paper Daisy

Paper Daisy is among the most charming bars in East Village. Bag one of the tables out front on a sunny afternoon, and there can be few better places to sit, drink, and watch the world go by in all its magnificent oddness. Order Some Bonk but be careful - it tastes divine, and very non-alcoholic, always a potentially dangerous mix. (Ah, whatever, it’s East Village. Go nuts.) Bonus points for having Beat poem ‘Pull My Daisy’ framed in the toilets - well, the Gents at least. No idea what’s in the ladies.

Two to drink

  • Some Bonk (Corralejo tequila, hibiscus, lime, orange, jalapeno) – $13
  • Split Personalities (redemption rye, doctor bird rum, banana, pandan, bitters) – $14

One to eat

  • Grilled flatbread (ricotta, prosciutto, pear, Brussels sprout) – $15

41 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003;


Fancy a trip to the Old West? Then step on into Honnybee’s, not so much a bar as a saloon straight out of Red Dead Redemption. The Bourbon & Rye cocktail menu is displayed on paper the colour of parchment, and the bill is presented within the pages of pulp Western novels, their covers showing cowboys doing cowboy stuff (I got Free Grass and The Fighting Edge). Drinks aren’t cheap but you know where the money went - plus you can enjoy a thrilling read should your companion leave early.

Two to drink

  • Salt Peanuts Whiskey (Old Overholt Rye, peanut syrup, peanut bitters, salt) – $16
  • New Boots (Elijah Craig Bourbon, CioCiaro, cherry bark vanilla bitters, Memphis BBQ Bitters) – $16

Two to eat

  • Honeybee Burger (steak fries, beer battered onion, caramelised onions, cheddar/pepper jack, house made pickles, Texas BBQ sauce) – $25
  • Charred Broccoli (ranch dressing, trumpet bacon, hazelnuts, red onion, pickled raisins) – $10

95 Avenue A Floor 2, New York, NY 10009;