8 Manhattan Cocktail Bars That Make a Great Case for Going Underground
If our heart belongs to rooftop bars in the summer, the minute there’s a chill in the air we’d much rather hunker down somewhere warm and cozy for our next drink. Fortunately, the city has plenty of subterranean spaces outfitted for just that. Here’s where to find speakeasy vibes and serious cocktails below ground.
Alley Cat Amateur Theatre
This intimate space opened in the cellar of The Beekman hotel back in April, but it’s hardly “new”: The 2,500-square-foot lounge is housed in a century-old mechanical house. Now it’s a moody cocktail den inspired by both an old-school playhouse and a Tokyo speakeasy. The menu is similarly Japanese-inspired, with drinks like the yuzu and chili Kosho Margarita and the Green Toki Highball (whiskey, sencha tea and lemongrass honey).
10 Theatre Alley; thompsonhotels.com
Downstairs from lively West Village hot spot the Happiest Hour, you’ll find this sexy Old Hollywood–themed cocktail lounge, which nails the date-night vibes with art deco decor and dim lighting. Snuggle into a dark-red-leather banquette and sip signature drinks like the lemony and sparkling Ingrid Bergman or the pineapple-infused Tropical Julep.
121 W. Tenth St.; slowlyshirley.com
At this West Side watering hole, the decor evokes the hectic winding streets of Tokyo’s Golden Gai district. Choose from a menu of boilermakers, highballs and signature cocktails like a shisogin and tonic and the Calpico Swizzle, made with nigori sake, sansho pepper and Champagne. The grub marries American bar food with traditional izakaya fare, meaning you’ll definitely want to try the deviled eggs with white miso and salmon roe.
531 Hudson St.; katanakitten.com
Gibson + Luce
This historic space (now the Life Hotel) was once the headquarters for Life magazine, and it’s rumored that the bar—accessed via a hidden staircase behind the elevator bank—was an actual speakeasy where staffers gathered to party during Prohibition. (It’s even named for the mag’s former editor and publisher Luce.) Nosh on sophisticated bar snacks like goose-fat potato knishes and merguez meatball pizza, or go all out with the Mar(Tiny) Service: an ice-cold flask of martinis on draft, served with various tinctures and garnishes to DIY your drink to your liking.
19 W. 31st St.; lifehotel.com
It’s not often you wander down a flight of stairs to discover a surprise bowling alley. This recently opened spot inside the Dream Midtown is basically the game room of your childhood dreams, plus booze. Aside from the bowling, the space boasts Skee-Ball machines, a photo booth and several vintage arcade games. To really stay on brand, the bar has a giant fish tank as its centerpiece and fishbowl-size drinks, like one made with vodka, Thai tea, lime, ginger syrup and orange bitters.
210 W. 55th St.; fishbowlnyc.com
Bo Peep Cocktail & Highball Store
This intimate Garment District piano bar is housed in a converted clothing factory and draws its design inspo from the tailor’s fitting room that once occupied the space. The menu features more than 30 mixed drinks (like the mezcal and blackberry Four Pocket Waistcoat) along with elevated late-night eats (such as burrata crostini and house-made sausage pizza).
70 W. 36th St.; ragtradernyc.com
Venture down an unassuming staircase on Lafayette Street and you’ll find a spacious, nautically themed bar with big sail-covered booths, dark wood furniture and warm lighting. You’ll also find yummy small bites like slow-cooked octopus and Wagyu carpaccio, but the cocktails are the star of the show. Try the Fox (tequila, lime and white cacao liqueur) or opt for the bartender’s choice if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
158 Lafayette St.; theshipnyc.com
Opening in November, this downstairs neighbor of French-Brazilian bistro Brigitte (pictured) promises leafy wallpaper, pink neon lights and a breezy cocktail selection to match. It’s named for the Brigitte Bardot film Manina, the Girl in the Bikini, if that gives you any idea of the beach-chic aesthetic.
37 Canal St.; brigitteles.com