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A well-crafted Manhattan is a beautiful thing. Herbaceous and fragrant, it teeters between sweet and savory with a deep ruby sheen and just a hint of whiskey bite, rounded out by the luscious complexity of sweet vermouth. Raise a glass to the city that lent its name to this slice of cocktail magnificence at these standout bars.
Bemelmans Bar, Upper East Side
Stashed inside the Carlyle Hotel, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, on the tree-lined Upper East Side lies Bemelmans Bar, a cocktail den as charmingly classic as its picturesque cocktails. A martini might be a tempting order when surrounded by such old world elegance, but skip the gin in favor of old New York’s signature drink: the Manhattan. Made with premium spirits and presented alongside a frosty sidecar for tableside refueling, the crisply balanced rye tipple mirrors the sultry sounds of the club’s live jazz ensemble. The drink is excellent, of course, but the ambiance—tuxedoed barmen, warm lighting, and tufted leather banquettes crowned by a playful hand-painted wall mural from Madeline author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans—truly seals the deal.
701 West, Times Square
It might be smack dab in the middle of the island’s most hectic tourist hub, but this fine dining escape inside Ian Schrager’s posh new Times Square EDITION hotel oozes with sweet, boozy serenity. The restaurant’s Signature Manhattan, an Absinthe-spritzed mix of house-blended vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a Maker’s Mark single barrel hand-selected by Bar Director Salvatore, Chef John Fraser, and Wine Director Amy Racine, perfectly embodies the dreamy, velvet curtain-lined atmosphere.
“I wanted to create an experience around the Manhattan cocktail for both visitors to New York and locals, with artisanal attention to each detail of the drink,” says Tafuri, describing his seductive creation. For the full experience, tote yours out to the open-air deck where you’ll find sweeping cityscape views high above the neon-lit madness.
Employees Only, Greenwich Village
Peppery Rittenhouse Rye kicks off this lauded westside speakeasy’s stellar Manhattan Cocktail, tempered by rich Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a hit of Grand Marnier to add depth and a touch of citrusy sweetness. Grab your icy coupe and ease into a table in the wood-paneled back nook for an intimate evening or sidle up to the perpetually packed bar and watch as the white-jacketed perfectionists behind the sticks make the magic happen.
The Campbell Bar, Midtown
Train travel might not be as glamorous as it once was, but thanks to this 1920s-era financier’s private office turned luxe Grand Central cocktail destination, stopping to savor a delicious Manhattan before dashing off to the tracks hasn’t yet lost its sparkle. Sipped beneath intricately carved 25-foot-tall ceilings and soaring antique glass windows, the Campbell Bar’s mahogany-hued GG Manhattan—Woodford Reserve bourbon, vanilla-laced Carpano Antica vermouth, Angostura bitters—is guaranteed to spice up any working stiff’s evening commute.
Existing Conditions, Greenwich Village
Dropping a wooden token into an old-timey vending machine to retrieve your craft cocktail might give booze purists some pause, but one sip of this cheeky, molecular gastronomy-driven West Village outpost’s ingenious Bottled Manhattan is enough to put any stuffy skepticism to rest.
“It is perfectly diluted and perfectly cold but not too cold, about negative four celcius,” notes Existing Conditions co-owner and all-around mastermind Dave Arnold. “Perfectly consistent, super-fast, and fun.” What’s better than an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola fresh from the cooler? Rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a cherry—that’s what.
Saxon + Parole, NoHo
This brunchy downtown hideaway keeps the good times flowing by putting their tasty Manhattan on draft. Batched with sweet vermouth, roasty leather-scented bitters, and AvroKO restaurant group’s proprietary Parole Whiskey then finished with a couple booze-soaked cherries, the remarkably smooth and always perfectly chilled concoction tastes like a brisk autumn breeze and goes down easier than a lazy summer day.
Amor y Amargo, East Village
“In our nearly nine year history, we’ve only made three cocktails: Old Fashioneds, Negronis, and Manhattans,” says Amor y Amargo Beverage Director Sother Teague. Teague, an accomplished writer and industry expert, oversees the pint-sized East Village establishment, known for their dazzling array of bitters, tinctures, specialty amari, and other curious potions tailor-made to take a seemingly simple boozy indulgence to the next level. “We work from these three templates for every drink we make,” he continues. “It’s challenging and fun.”
Brandy Library, Tribeca
You can pick your poison at this handsome downtown spirits mecca, where coveted bottles from all corners of the world stare down at patrons atop illuminated floor-to-ceiling shelving. Join the suit-and-tie set in blowing off some steam after the closing bell with a traditional Manhattan, made with your choice of top-notch bourbon and a splash of sweet vermouth, or change it up with a Perfect Manhattan, an underrated throwback featuring equal parts dry and sweet vermouth alongside your desired whiskey.
Manhatta, Financial District
Little known fact: It might be revered for its incredibly scenic vantage point, but the creative and refined cocktail menu at this sky-high white tablecloth spot from acclaimed restaurateur Danny Meyer is almost as stunning as the dining room’s sweeping downtown views. And the namesake Manhatta, a perfumey, cunningly dry riff on the classic made with New York Distilling Ragtime Rye, Punt e Mes Italian vermouth, Lustau East India Sherry, and bitters, is in a class of its own. Come for the panorama, stay for the libations.