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Food + Drink

Start Spreading the Booze

We’re raising a glass to the Big Apple’s best new bar scenes. From a grand dame made new in Midtown to a Chinatown dance den and a Tribeca hang for a downtown's pretty young things, consider your next NYC bar crawl covered

See recent posts by Nikki Ridgway

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Café Standard at The Standard East Village

Fresh from a two-year, Balazs-helmed renovation, The Standard East Village is now home to two new restaurants: upscale Narcissa and streetside bistro, Café Standard. While foodies are beginning to flock to Narcissa for Michelin-starred chef John Frasier’s New American fare, after-work crowds are filling the corner booths and cherry red bar stools in the petite café. Open from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. (and later on Fridays and Saturdays), 12-buck cocktails look to tropical shores for their tequila, mezcal, rum and grenadine staples, though the St. Mark’s Swizzle is a Francophile favorite for its Armagnac, pastis and fresh mint flavors. Get to know the handsome bartenders now and it might just help you score a sure-to-be-coveted outdoor table on the Bowery-facing patio come summer.

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Tavern on 51 at The New York Palace in Midtown

Whether you enter directly from 51st Street or via the grand staircase of the fully revamped New York Palace hotel, Tavern on 51 transports you to a clubby, claret-hued take on Old New York. Snag one of the high-back armchairs in the wood paneled lounge or take up a prime perch at the bar and watch the bartenders prepare speciality cocktails like the Honey Bramble and Madison Avenue, plus vintage favorites like the Tom Collins and a Sidecar. The expertly crafted cocktails are worth the splurge for the chance to ogle the Palace’s restored opulence (including a statement stained glass window), eavesdrop its suited and booted clientele and sip on a Rare Manhattan.

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Paul's Baby Grand in Tribeca

Opened at the tail end of 2013 inside the Tribeca Grand Hotel (there’s a separate entrance on 6th Avenue), Paul’s Baby Grand is the brand new offering from Paul Sevigny, NYC’s nightlife legend behind the Beatrice Inn and Kenmare. His latest boite gets packed with a mix of young models, magazine editors and downtown scenesters who fold into the red velvet sofas and zebra print armchairs and order rounds of champagne juleps. A world away from the west side mega clubs, this is a late-night scene to throw shapes to remixed soul classics (no shoegaze shuffle here) and admire waiters’ tropical flower colored and covered aprons designed by little sis Chloe Sevigny. There’s no magic formula for getting past the door, just dress in your patterned best and don’t leave it too late — there's no entry after 2 a.m.

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PLAY at the Museum of Sex in Nomad

If you’ve ever been thwarted by lower Midtown’s dearth of good bars and after-work spots, save the Museum of Sex to memory. A lesson in not judging a book by its cover, this decade-old tourist attraction is now home to one gem of a cocktail bar, PLAY. Opened in October 2013 off the Nice & Sweet cafe, the low-lit space has the look of a classy library lounge — all leather sofas and chairs tucked between open bookshelves. Innuendo-laced cocktails like the Sweet & Sour Swizzle (rum, Tabasco and pineapple), and the citrus-y Loose Women & Pickpockets are prepared by a team of expert bartenders including Jim Kearns of Pegu Club and the NoMad Hotel fame.

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303 at Louie and Chan in Chinatown

Echoing the winning upstairs dining/downstairs dancing formula of Soho favorite, Acme, Chinatown newcomer Louie and Chan attracts a young downtown crowd for its Chinese and Italian fare up top and late-night DJ scene in the subterranean 303 bar. This snug space fits a mix banquette dwellers sipping on Asian-inspired cocktails and dance floor queens kept glued to the spot by big-name mix mavens like Nickodemus, DJ Sabo, Ron Trent and Carlos Mena.

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Diamond Horseshoe in the Theater District

After a 63-year slumber, this 1940s vaudeville theater was brought back to life by developer Aby Rosen and Sleep No More producer, Randy Weiner. Secreted away in the basement of what’s now the Paramount Hotel on West 46th Street, the legendary club underwent a two-year, $20 million restoration and reopened its doors for the inaugural performance of Weiner’s fantastical opera/circus/banquet, Queen of the Night, on New Year’s Eve. Splurge on the $125 ticket to experience Weiner’s surrealist world and Diamond Horseshoe’s hallowed setting, or trust the rumors that the theater will unveil its own program of events after the show ends on March 23.

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Baby's All Right in Williamsburg

For live music and a bargain happy hour, get off the island and over to South Williamsburg’s new Baby’s All Right. Opened during CMJ last October, Brooklyn-based Hecho, Inc is behind the textured, colorful look of the hybrid bar/restaurant and music venue, while chef Ronald Murray (of Bouley and Acme) oversaw the seasonal, small plates menu of lamb meatball flatbreads, Thai fried chicken, smoked wild boar sandwiches and more. Cheeky cocktails include the Ai Weiwei with illegal mezcal and jalapeno, and gin-based Death in the Gulfstream. Nightly live music events include raucous soul and funk discos, indie pop DJ sets and one recent performance by Broken Bells.

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Bea in Hell's Kitchen

Bridging the gap between Hell’s Kitchen’s sports dens and upscale restaurants-with-bars, Bea NYC is a four-month-old cocktail lounge with a resolutely downtown look (exposed brick, filament bulbs, mismatched wooden benches and cross-back chairs), petite backyard and Italian-inflected small plates menu. Brothers and owners Sotir and Vasile Zonea enlisted Jason Walsh of Monkey Bar and Bouley to craft the 20-strong cocktail list, with favorites like the St. Germain- and Prosecco-infused Flora Belle, and the Lavender Monk, made with lavender infused Tito’s vodka.

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