1. La Esquina at 114 Kenmare Street
When it opened in 2005 People Magazine touted this Mexican restaurant and bar as “harder to get into than Harvard.” But now years later, us regular folk have begun to frequent this From Dusk to Dawn-ish, darkly romantic, secret basement below a taco stand. This is where you can enjoy amazing Mexican food like Elotes Callejeros (grilled street corn) or Mole Enchiladas while surrounded by iron candle chandeliers, skull-shaped bottles of tequila and beautiful people.
2. The Mulberry Project at 149 Mulberry Street
After fighting through the tourist hordes of SoHo and wrangling yourself into and out of some endlessly tight pants and high heels, you deserve Prison Sex — a mix of vodka, kiwi, St. Germain, peach, egg white, and lime.
3. Milk and Honey at 30 E. 23rd Street
This is the first — the granddaddy — of all New York speakeasies, with a strict code of conduct. It’s a rule that all gentleman must be formally introduced to the lady they fancy by the bartender. And if you can behave yourself here, you’ll get to sample the world’s best cocktails.
Ask for the famous Penicillin, even Pippa Middleton’s tried it. There’s no menu, but you can discuss with your server what you typically like and the preternaturally gifted bartender will whip you up a selection based on your preferences.
4. Little Branch at 20 7th Ave. S
Opened by the same guys who brought you Milk and Honey, Little Branch is less formal and more crowded. The drinks are still pretty amazing though, even if you do order them off the menu here. Don’t worry, your inner hipster will still feel satisfied with the level of cocktail intellectualism. And if you order a Mojito, be prepared to say whether you want the Cuban or Trinidadian version.
5. Middle Branch at 154 E 33rd Street
Like Little Branch but more conveniently located for those whose poor sense and/or lack of cash led them to live in Midtown instead of the West Village.
6. Raine’s Law Room at 48 W 17th Street or 24 E 39th Street
Ring the doorbell to get in at one of Raine’s two locations — near Union Square and Grand Central Station. Then get your Downton Abbey on by summoning the bar staff with the cord at your table. The primary adjective locals use to describe this place is ‘sexy’ — maybe its mojo will rub off on you.
7. Employees Only at 510 Hudson Street
Created as a bar for barstaff, this place has long since been given over to the masses. Luckily the cocktails are still good enough to impress the professionals. The predictions made by the psychic out front probably aren’t quite as reliable.
8. Apotheke at 9 Doyers Street
The sign says ‘Chemist,’ the bartenders wear white coats, and the drinks are listed under prescriptions. Even with all that, the cocktails are probably still bad for your liver, but they sure are good for your soul.
Live jazz performances by Cole Ramstand are on Mondays, High and Mighty Brass Band on Tuesdays, and Broadway Brassy on Prohibition Wednesdays, which also features burlesque shows. Live Footage plays Sundays. To get in on Prohibition Wednesdays, you’ll need to contact them online to get the password.
9. Pulqueria at 11 Doyers Street
Why be predictable and get Chinese food in Chinatown when you can go for Mexican? Bar to the left, restaurant to the right — once you have the guts to head through the two unmarked entry doors.
10. Attaboy at 134 Eldridge Street
Housed in Milk and Honey’s old digs on the Lower East Side, Attaboy’s got some tall glasses to fill in order to live up to their predecessor. So far reviews are good. Same intimate space, but brighter and less formal than Milk and Honey was. They keep the no-menu tradition going, and you can still order the old-school favorite Penicillin.
11. PDT at 113 St Marks Place
PDT stands for Please Don’t Tell, but with a James Bond-worthy entrance and bacon-infused bourbon, people have to say something.
12. The Campbell Apartment at Grand Central Terminal, 15 Vanderbilt Ave
Gossip Girl fans will recognize this bar as the site of Serena and Nate’s hot hookup. The clientele tends to be an after-work crowd though, so don’t expect a show.
13. Bathtub Gin at 132 9th Ave.
If you do want a show though, try Bathtub Gin. They’ve got Burlesque on Tuesdays and Sundays. The ladies are beautiful, talented, and rather naked — so you can expect some good, not so clean fun for boys and girls.
14. Beauty and Essex at 146 Essex Street
This is where you go if you’ve spent all your money on trying to look like a celebrity and now you can’t even afford a drink. There’s free champagne in the girls’ bathroom.