The Barfly’s Guide to New York

By: Maxine Sheppard

July 27, 2011

It’s summer in the city again, and New York is really feeling it this year. With temperatures soaring past 100 degrees there’s a need to sit back and take it really slow, so our Flying Barman Marc Plumridge is on hand once again with his pick of the best places in NYC for laid back libations of the handcrafted cocktail variety.


Milk & Honey

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey


Milk & Honey truly is a New York institution, run by the renowned Sasha Petraske, an individual who can be credited for inspiring and raising the bar scene not only in NYC but in many other cities aside.

The bar is hidden behind a plain door simply numbered 134; reservations are tricky but not impossible so ensure you ring or mail beforehand to secure a place and be sure to check out the “˜house rules’ after you enter which always raise a smile.

This was one of the first places to really focus on the little things that make all the difference in the art of mixology. The notion of freshly squeezed juices, hand cut ice and intense attention to detail began here, and the quality of the raw ingredients and a tangible pride in what’s served shine through. Sit back and ask for a well-made classic like a Rob Roy or a classic New York Sour with a dash of claret on top to get the evening started.

NB: This is a members bar but non-members can gain access towards the beginning of the week before 11pm.

134 Eldridge Street (nr Delancey St), Lower East Side. For reservations email

PDT (Please don’t tell)

This place has generated a huge amount of hype throughout the bar world for quite some time and deservedly so. At PDT you’re transported into a world where the most important thing is what you hold within your glass”¦ be it an Aviation, a leather-infused Old Fashioned or simply a decent drop of your finest tipple dressed with hand cracked ice.


Getting inside can be puzzling to the uninitiated; you have to gain entry via a 1940s phone booth (stationed inside “˜Crif dogs’ hot dog store), pick up the receiver and press a button to be buzzed through (but be sure to make reservations beforehand).

Once inside, you’ll find yourself in a comfortable, low-ceilinged room seating just 45 souls. Simply watch on as renowned bartenders like Jim Meehan shake and stir to the admiration of onlooking guests.

113 St. Marks Place, New York


PKNY (Painkiller NY) sports the tagline – “˜Manhattan is the greatest island on earth. A fresh blend of tiki culture and 1970’s New York, Painkiller is your island outpost.’



Painkiller New York by scaredy_kat on Flickr

Painkiller New York by scaredy_kat on Flickr


This haven of all things Tiki is one of the coolest haunts in the city, manned by a crack squad of New York’s finest bartenders. This small but fruity drinking den concocts and constructs a host of tiki-inspired libations from Swizzles and Zombie Punches to one of my all-time favourite drinks, the Daiquiri – often described as the mother of all cocktails.

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu but if it’s inspiration you need check out a Rum Swizzle for the ultimate in refreshment and taste. Alternatively go for the “˜PKNY Choice’ on the menu and let the guys knock up something especially for your tastes and as they say”¦ “˜Give us free reign to ease your pain!’

49 Essex Street, New York

Employees Only

The one thing that people always seem to say about Employees Only is how the place really seems to come alive with the frivolous spirit of the 1920s and 30s. The team wanted to recreate the concept of – and tip their hat in honour to – the spirit of prohibition-era America when people defied the ban on the bottled stuff to enjoy drinking and socialising in speakeasies.



Employees Only ©

Employees Only ©


So many bars come and go but EO seems to continue to hold its own. From the bartenders’ attire to the consistent manner in which drinks are made, it’s clear to see why people keep coming back for more.

Try a Lazy Lover on for size (Leblon Cachaca, Jalapeno infused Chartreuse, Benedictine and lime) or a Bella Rossa – either should kick things off nicely.

510 Hudson St. between Christopher and W. 10th Street



In the basement of Nolita French bistro Jacques, 1534 bills itself as a “˜cocktail sanctuary’, bringing ingredients, flavours and all things French to this New York outpost. From absinthe fountains to a library of spirits to colonial snacks, 1534 wants nothing more than for you to have a great time, and offers up treats like croque monsieurs and cod fritters to munch on while you decide with what to tempt your palate.

The menu breaks the drinks down into continents with an array of well composed combinations of classic French ingredients – Pineau des Charentes and Cognac to name but a few. Cocktails like Same, Same but Different (Peruvian Pisco, lemon-grass syrup, lime, ginger and egg white, dusted with chai green tea and bitters) offer up a terrific medley of flavours that will certainly excite the tastebuds. Seasonal/monthly punches to share are also on offer which are a great way to interact when in a group, and small trays of ingredients allow you to add your very own “˜cocktail seasoning’ in order to customize your drinks accordingly.

The simple, unfussy and relaxed décor is abundantly dressed with cute tea-lights and is perfect for unwinding with friends, or tucking yourself away in a corner with someone special.

20 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott)

More great New York bars…

If you have the time and the inclination, then I would also recommend trying out any of these :


Cienfuegos is a tucked away little rum bar in the East Village, or worship at the altar of tequila at Mayahuel or get intimate at the low-lit Death and Co. from the same team.

Jimmy at the James Hotel has an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline, and the new Mondrian in SoHo should not be missed, even if only for one drink.

If you’re into the whole tiki thing, take a look at the Hurricane Club or go for signature classics at 44 at the Royalton Hotel or get your risqué cabaret and cocktails fix at The Box.

Thanks to Flickr photographer scaredy_kat.

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Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places