On first glance, Little Branch doesn't look like much at all. This teeny, narrow space lives behind a discreet door in the Village – often the only clue that you've found the right place are the people queuing up outside. Upon further inspection, however, you'll begin to notice the nuances: a well-worn piano stands guard in the corner and the social decencies of the past are stringently enforced. No nonsense or talking loudly permitted. If you're permitted entry, you'll likely find a jazz trio manning the corner, and a smattering of suspender-wearing bartenders pouring up old classics. Order a Manhattan, or even better, scotch neat.
If your definition of a fantastic lounge includes good tunes alongside your cocktails, you've just found your new favorite bar. Rockwood Music Hall is a cozy space where artists rotate hourly. This means if you don't like a performer, they'll be off the stage before you even finish your cocktail. Speaking of cocktails, don't come here for the best ones on the list, but the entertainment sure makes up for it. Prices are reasonable and there's rarely a cover. Instead, they'll pass the hat for tips at the end of a set. If you're able, check the website before you go to listen to the evening's acts.
Upscale, decadent and set in the heart of TriBeCa's legendary restaurant and entertainment scene, the Brandy Library is a great place to catch your breath (and look good doing it!) at the close of the day. Booze, not books, line the floor-to-ceiling shelves behind the candle-lit bar, and the skilled waitstaff has a veritable cornucopia of top-flight bottles on hand, from aged single malt scotches to a 1945 Darroze armagnac. If a bite or two is in order, their menu doesn't disappoint thanks to high-brow offerings like tuna tartare, croque-monsieur and Valhrona chocolate cake. Food is served until the small hours, so yes, you can have fresh eclairs at 2am.
Finding this Chinatown speakeasy is your first task. Apotheke is located down a dark, quiet alley - at first, you may think the cab has dropped you in the wrong spot. Once inside, you'll find bartenders donned in white lab coats dolling out "prescriptions" in the form of spirits. Antique bottles collected from around the world and a vintage vibe will take you back to the old days of the apothecary and leave you wondering why all pharmacists don't offer absinthe. A farm on the rooftop and weekly visits to the local greenmarkets ensure only quality, organic ingredients are making it into your cocktails.
The NoMad Hotel's Library Bar is anything but bookish. Jacques Garcia, of Paris' L'Hotel fame, designed the interiors of this smart cocktail den and the adjoining NoMad restaurant. Walk through the dining room (it's a little awkward, yes, but the staff will guide you along) to reach the bar in the back. Though the leather-bound cocktail list and glamorous dark wood tables present a strong argument towards the formal, the atmosphere at The Library Bar is surprisingly relaxed and welcoming. Skilled bartenders are happy to make recommendations, and pour a variety of classics and house creations by Jessica Gonzalez, most recently of the East Village's seminal Death & Co. cocktail bar.
At Pouring Ribbons, cocktails are rated on two sliding scales: one teeters between refreshing and spirituous, the other comforting and adventurous. Drinks like the Chain of Command with gin, lemon, Earl Grey tea, dry curacao and amaretto fall on the refreshing, comforting side, while head turners like the Wings of Desire - a genmaicha-infused rum, bianco vermouth, cinnamon, peach bitters concoction - land on the other end of the spectrum. Like all places on this list, you'd be best served to show up early, or you may end up bargaining with the doorman to let you pass. Once inside, the pretension turns way down - expect a laid-back vibe and attentive service.
The Press Lounge at Ink48 Hotel is perched atop the city, rewarding patrons with unobstructed views of Manhattan and the Hudson River. It's won accolades the city over, including from The NY Times' Frank Bruni who wrote it was "without question, one of the city's most attractive bars." Stunning views aside, the bar's impressive cocktails make it a favorite among in-the-know New Yorkers looking to impress clients or dates. It's equally suited for both occasions, but if you're looking for the former, regulars say The Press Lounge could be your lucky ticket. Keep in mind that luxury like this comes at a price - you'll find drinks are poured for a premium, but they're worthy of the up-charge.
The Wren is where you envision yourself drinking when you finally "grow up." Reminiscent of a country cottage, the Wren turns out drinks that are delicious, inventive, and yes, pricy. Unless you're a finance "mogul" or PR "maven," this certainly isn't somewhere your wallet can comfortably afford 5 nights a week, but it's more than worth the occasional bi-weekly visit. When deciding what to order, don't miss the Wren-quila, a margarita spiced up with house-made habanero-infused tequila, or a keep it simple with a classic like the old-fashioned. The Wren also dishes out really delectable seasonally sourced food from their kitchen, and bonus: the basement is available to rent out for private parties.
Regulars have their preference on whether they'd like to sit upstairs or down, but it really comes down to what you're drinking. The Taproom (downstairs) is more informal, with a long list of whiskeys from around the world. The Parlor (upstairs) is a nod to the 19th century, with bartenders on hand to mix one of 72 cocktails from the menu. Dead Rabbit has won more cocktail awards than we can count, including one from Tales of the Cocktail's Spirited Awards for World's Best Bar in 2015. Like all places worth going, you'll battle the crowds during prime hours, but it'll all be worth it once you take your first sip.