Walk down a shabby street on the Lower East Side, to a place which has no sign, no website, and no attitude. With the only signage being the words ‘Tailors and Alterations’ in the window, you would chicken out and walk on if it weren’t for the tiny chalkboard pinned to the unassuming grey door reading ‘AB 134’ to quell your fears. Knock twice, and the door will open part way. If there is availability, you will be swept through a thick velvet curtain and into a long, dark, dimly lit bar with a cool and sensuous vibe. Attaboy certainly has the edge for hospitality and excellence on drinks, and, with no menu, cocktails are tailored to suit the individual customer based on their preferences, tastes, and favourite styles. These cocktail geeks know their flavours, and can produce an extensive repertoire of cocktails with their own twist on recipes – a Tom Collins for those who want a refreshing, citrusy drink comes with added macerated grape juice or, for something a little stronger, the Scotch-based ‘Penicillin’ is a house favourite. But who am I to recommend drinks – go in and test their knowledge based on your own preferences.
134 Eldridge Street (near Delancey Street), door marked ‘AB'
Death and Co.
As their online preface states, ‘It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death. It was thought by some that these were death and company.’ This dimly lit, speakeasy-styled cocktail lounge lives up to its reputation of mixological excellence, serving exquisitely crafted cocktails and impeccable sipping spirits. Whilst it may be difficult at times to squeeze through the door without being wait-listed, behind the scarcely marked entrance lies home to a few modern classics and a cocktail emporium that would tickle the fancy of any hardcore-cocktail enthusiast. You’ll swoon before you even take a sip.
The décor vaguely resembles that of a tiki bar with wall murals, a wooden-clad low ceiling, and pictures referencing the Prohibition era banning the consumption of intoxicating beverages. Order a ‘Sea Legs’ with 8 year Old Haitian rum, ‘Scarlet Ibis’ – a rum produced specifically for Death and Co. – navy rum, coconut liqueur, Reisetbauer hazelnut Eau de Vie and Fee Brothers whiskey barrel bitters. For those looking for something with a bit less rum, the ‘Paper Tiger’ with gin, sherry, lime and grapefruit; or a ‘Drama Queen’, which mixes gin, lemon, and honey with celery bitters and sparking wine are both viable options. If anything, you’ll leave with a boosted knowledge of liqueur ingredients.
433 East 9th Street (between Avenue A & 1st Avenue)
With one of the best Chartreuse collections in the city, this bar is not to be missed. Easy to mistake for being closed, head up a squeaky staircase adjacent to a tobacconist into a large, panelled room with a steady beat playing and a relaxed atmosphere. Drinks are well priced and regular clientele includes the local students from Alphabet City, who help create a friendly yet quirky atmosphere. The lights have been turned up a notch so you can actually see your drinking partner and decipher the menu, and arguably so have the drinks.
Take in the extensive menu of cocktails and bites, with the aid of a scatter-graph style ‘map’ to help you determine what style of drinks you will like, with scales from ‘refreshing to spirituous’ and ‘comforting to adventurous’. Make use of the bar-staff’s knowledge of flavours and taste by asking for their recommendations - ‘A Night at the Wigwam’ uses yoghurt as a replacement for egg whites allowing bartenders to make the drink in half the time, and doesn’t feel too much like a desert (and surprisingly, it works). A spirit aficionado should consider ‘Murder Country’ with tequila, sherry, vermouth, orgeat syrup and grapefruit bitters.
Second Floor, 225 Avenue B (between 13th& 14th Street)
Amor y Amargo
Translated as ‘love and bitterness’, this tiny bitters ‘tasting room’ is enjoyable and educational if you’re not yet versed in the ways of bitters and amaros. Practically standing room only save a couple of bar stools, this watering hole pours character and knowledge from every nook: windows filled with barware and bar books for sale, bold and complex concoctions served, and a house made sweet vermouth on tap. Drink bespoke cocktails based around an Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, or Negroni, or take a trip on the wild side with 'house favourites’ and 'riffs on classics’. Highly recommended is the 'Guatemalan Square’, a nightcap of spiced rum, sweet vermouth, rye whiskey, Bénédictine, peychauds and angostura bitters, or the ‘Amaris’: a minty blend of Fernet-Branca, Gran Classico, and Strega (amaro, amaro, and more amaro) with dry vermouth and Burlesque Bitters.
443 East 6th street (between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
Yet another place where you can expect to leave your name at the door and be asked to return in thirty minutes or so. Smaller groups or arriving early on a Sunday evening will provide a better chance of skipping the queue completely, and they also take same-day bookings from 3pm. Located through a 1940s wooden phone booth found inside Crif Dogs, a hot dog and retro gaming bar, PDT (short for Please Don’t Tell) is one of the original Manhattan bars modeled on Prohibition speakeasies. Pick up the old-fashioned telephone inside the phone booth and dial 1 to request entry into this drinker’s ‘bat cave’ and perch on a bar stool in between exotic taxidermy and staff with elaborately groomed facial hair.
Rest assured that the cocktail menu, launched by the widely respected Jim Meehan, and now overseen by head bartender Jeff Bell, is worth the wait, and the vibe is sophisticated but not pretentious. Try a ‘Green Thumb’ with rum, lime & celery juice, matcha, and elderflower liqueur, or a ‘Rock & Chai’ for something stronger, featuring ‘rock & rye’ whiskey, chai tea, pomegranate liqueur, Fernet-Branca, lemon juice, with hot dogs and sides ordered from next door.
Crif Dogs, 113 Saint Marks Place (8th Street, between Avenue A and 1st Avenue)
The Pegu Club
Hailed as a Mecca for cocktail connoisseurs, the Pegu Club was established in 2005 by Audrey Saunders, the creator of the Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni and mentor to one of London’s Sipsmith distillery co-founders. Located on the busy West Houston Street and sandwiched between launderomats and frippery stores, once you see the front door with a tiny neon green placard in the window, you’ll thank yourself you didn’t walk straight past.
Upstairs reveals chic Asian touches to the décor and a spacious bar area, compared with other Manhattan hide-outs. There's a focus on the small touches, such as freshly squeezed juices, house-made infusions, tinctures, flavoured syrups and ginger beer; cocktail condiments on every table and the use of nice big ice cubes. Signature creations include the bar’s namesake, The Pegu Club Cocktail – grapefruit with a hint of smokiness – and the Gin Gin Mule, or for something sweeter and fruity, the Pisco Punch.
77 West Houston Street (between LaGuardia Place & Wooster Street)