Between dingy Irish pubs, overpriced pre-theater spots and clubby rooftops, Midtown can feel like a cocktail desert that should be avoided at all costs. We get it. But for all the times you need to grab a post-work drink or meet your friend who’s just rolled in on Metro-North, we’ve rounded up a bunch of stylish watering holes that’ll quickly make you forget the throngs in Times Square.
The Pool Lounge
You’ll find this sleek and luxurious bar (literally—it’s made from mother-of-pearl) in the renovated space of the former Four Seasons. Recline on plush sofas, nibble seafood appetizers and sip fantastical, poolside-inspired cocktails from Thomas Waugh (beverage director at hot spots like Dirty French, Carbone and ZZ’s Clam Bar). Watermelon, white rum, shiso and lime cocktails? We’ll take two.
99 E. 52nd St. (at Park Ave.); 212-375-9001 or thepoolnewyork.com
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Le Bernardin is legendary, but its $157 prix fixe isn't exactly an everyday indulgence. Luckily, it’s easy to head next door to the wine director’s slightly more laid-back establishment, where chef Eric Ripert oversees the menu. Keith Haring paintings on the walls, low sofas and stellar but completely affordable glasses of wine give this lounge a decidedly downtown vibe. Best of all? No reservations are necessary.
151 W. 51st St. (at Seventh Ave.); 212-554-1143 or aldosohmwinebar.com
If the name rings a bell, chances are you’ve seen this bar on your Insta feed. That’s because its experimental cocktails are half booze, half artwork. Take the “Science A.F.” (yep, that’s a drink). It’s heated up right before your eyes in a giant, bubbling, fiery test tube contraption. It’s pretty perfect for a special occasion (or a Boomerang).
Mandarin Oriental, 80 Columbus Circle (at 60th St.); 212-805-8800 or aviarynyc.com
The colorful, artistic space is a fitting backdrop for what’s practically guaranteed to be a lively night. You’ll find six different fancy margaritas on the menu, plus creative Mexican-inspired cocktails like The Devil’s Margin (Avua Cachaça, ginger beer, LeJay cassis and Campari). Bonus: Two drinks in, you can (and should) order one of the spot's signature tacos, like one with pastrami and mustard-seed salsa or a dessert version with corn ice cream.
510 Madison Ave. (at 53 St.); 212-858-9365 or empellon.com
Raines Law Room at the William
OK, we’ll be the first to admit we had no idea the chic Chelsea speakeasy had a sister bar hidden away in the basement of this midtown hotel. With gauzy curtains, cozy couches and mahogany bookshelves, it rocks the same Victorian-living-room vibe and actually encourages walk-ins. Now you know.
24 E. 39th St. (at Madison Ave.); raineslawroom.com
The Rum House
You’ve been stopped at least seven times by people hawking you comedy shows, men masquerading as giant Disney characters or tourists asking you how to get to Bloomingdale's. That’s where this oasis, smack in the middle of the Theater District, comes in. Low-key live jazz music, strong cocktails and old-timey copper and dark wood ambience are just what you need.
228 W. 47th St. (at Eighth Ave.); 646-490-6924 or therumhousenyc.com
This bar is sort of like a Labrador retriever: It’s impossible not to like it. Extensive cocktail, craft beer and wine lists coupled with the upscale, large, dimly lit space make it a great choice for large groups or first dates. Don’t miss the Winona, a bourbon-based concoction that the bartender will infuse with hickory smoke in front of you.
204 W. 55th St. (at Broadway); 646-590-2034 or tannersmiths.com
Nestled away in the back of the Iroquois Hotel near Bryant Park, this cozy saloon—complete with white marble tables and light blue velvet chairs—is just the spot to enjoy a flawlessly mixed G&T or old fashioned after work.
49 W. 44th St. (at Sixth Ave.); 212-453-4287 or iroquoisny.com/lanternskeep
A soaring, Hogwarts-esque cavern hidden away in the bowels of Grand Central: How do we get there again? The bar recently reopened under new management (the same team behind the chic downtown lounge Mr. Purple), and we’re loving the aviation, extra-dirty martini and mini lobster rolls.
15 Vanderbilt Ave. (at 42 St.); 212-297-1781 or thecampbellnyc.com
Admittedly, people usually flock to this sceney eatery for its whopping chicken Parm (and we’re not one to argue). But the bar is always happening and fun, spilling onto a patio along the sidewalk in warmer weather. The pitcher of negroni and extensive list of brunch cocktails are part of the appeal.
57 W. 57th St. (at sixth Ave.); 212-390-1111 or qualityitalian.com