Most restaurant rankings focus on food and atmosphere. For us, at W&S, that’s not enough. We also want to be assured there’s going to be something good to drink. A mixologist worthy of her title; a wine list proffering bottles we rarely see—or better yet, have never heard of—and a staff to guide us through them. Certainly the food has to be good, but wine and spirits are an integral part of the equation. So after dining around town with a close eye on what’s in our glasses, we present you with the most exciting new openings of the last 12 months, the places you’ll want to be dining—and drinking well—in 2013.Valley. Last year, he decided that he wanted a concrete egg for fermenting some of his grenache blanc. ly, with
Sean Josephs had been a restaurant wine buyer when he teamed up with Michael Tsoumpas, an American whiskey collector, to open Char No. 4 in 2008. The restaurant brought bacon, Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey together in Cobble Hill, well north of the Smoky Mountains or the Ohio River port town of Maysville, believed to be the site of the first Kentucky distillery. Now Maysville, along with the distillations of more than 170 American masters working in wheat, rye, corn and blended American whiskeys, has settled into Manhattan. Located on a block in the upper Flatiron district of wholesale trinkets and sari shops, the restaurant joins NoMad and the Ace Hotel’s Breslin in transforming this neighborhood into a culinary mecca. Josephs hired Kyle Knall, late of Gramercy Tavern, to riff on smoke in food, and not just to satisfy the whiskey buffs at the bar. Knall’s food is subtle and complex enough to warrant an investment in one of the bottles off Josephs’ extensive wine list. Consider the subtleties of smoke in a Raveneau Chablis Valmur 1998, a Leflaive Bâtard 1999 or Drouhin’s Montrachet Marquis de la Guiche from 1993. These Burgundies have a place with Knall’s slow-roasted arctic char over cabbage, parsnips and mussels. The smoked trout is made for riesling, especially one of the J.J. Prüms, von Schuberts or Dönnhoffs from the 1980s and 1990s. If you stop in for lunch, try the grilled fish sandwich with Pépière’s Muscadet, or kale salad with duck confit alongside Sunier Fleurie. It’s the sort of menu and wine list that will keep you coming back for more, especially if you like to start your evening with a one-ounce taste of Lincoln Henderson’s Angel’s Envy or a small-batch Bourbon from Hirsch. —Joshua Greene
Maysville, 17 W. 26th St.; 646-490-8240, maysvillenyc.com
Located on a dismal stretch of West 8th Street near 6th Avenue, Neta keeps a low profile; the space is sign-less, with beige curtains covering the windows like camouflage. Inside, Masa alumni Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau have created one of the year’s most exciting dining experiences. It starts—or ought to, at any rate—with a cocktail. The seven on Neta’s list are among the most intriguing in all NYC, subtly complex and well executed, incorporating ingredients like bonito flakes, konbu, nori, chilled buckwheat tea, sautéed maitake mushrooms, gardenia-infused sake and Japanese single-malt whiskey. When you’re ready to dig into the food—say, a tartare of toro tuna and caviar or Neta’s tempura, a wintry mix of battered kabocha squash, lotus root, baby squid, potato leaves and soft-shell shrimp—look to general manager Jerrad Ruiz’s beverage list, a white-heavy array of bottles that pays particular attention to Europe’s cooler climes and covers sake handily as well. An example of the possibilities: Terenzuola Vermentino from Lunigiana with a special of wok-sautéed spicy lobster. —Alan Tardi
Neta, 61 W. Eighth St.; 212 505-2610, netanyc.com
You could drink a Jean-Louis Chave Crozes-Hermitage at The Marrow, or a Taupenot-Merme 2000 Charmes-Chambertin. There’s an intriguing clutch of West Coast wines as well (Bedrock Heritage zin, Copain syrah and Oregon pinots), and plenty of Italian choices. But, tempting as they may be, there’s really no reason to move beyond the first three pages of The Marrow’s bottle menu, densely stocked with German and Austrian whites. A Dönnhoff riesling will have no problem playing to chef Harold Dieterle’s bi-cultural menu—one side Italianate, to honor his mother; the other, Germanic, his father’s heritage—as it weaves through a salad of leafy greens and cuts into cuttlefish and herring salads alike. Maybe step up to a 15-year-old Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spätlese if you want the duck schnitzel, with its hazelnut-strewn spätzle, or the juniper-braised lamb neck. This isn’t to say the Italian selection isn’t as spectacular—Jill Roberts, the beverage manager, knows her way around Italy, too, after a stint at The Harrison. It’s just that the space—a cool, loud room with large glass windows looking out on a West Village corner—is not the first place you might look for a list deep in wines only geeks drink. Then again, neither is Kin Shop, Dieterle’s Thai restaurant, where general manager Alicia Nosenzo wrote a list that landed them in these pages last year. —Tara Q. Thomas
The Marrow, 99 Bank St.; 212-428-6000, themarrownyc.com
NoMad is north of Eleven Madison Park, where Daniel Humm and his small orchestra of chefs tune the spare to the sublime. NoMad is also an oasis in what long has been a food desert, the midtown south strip of Broadway, where wholesale jewelry shops are layered under upper-story businesses secreted behind cardboard-draped windows. The building itself is one of the grand, forgotten Beaux-Arts landmarks of New York, constructed in the early 1900s and recently converted into a posh hotel. Elegant hipsters wander the glass-tented dining room to the library bar in the back, or to a second dining room with a panoramic window framing the motion of white toques and the sizzling chickens in an equally long, rectangular oven. Those chickens are reason enough to book a table. Chef Humm believes the texture of the meat is due to the birds themselves, sourced from his favored farmer in Pennsylvania; the flavor comes, in part, from the black truffle paste he slips under the skin. To match, wine director Thomas Pastuszak may point you toward a local white. He has a full page of Finger Lakes rieslings—maybe an Argetsinger Vineyard from Ravines or the Magdalena Vineyard from Wiemer. You can also head farther afield, with Champagne from Larmandier-Bernier or Etna Rosso from Tenuta delle Terre Nere. The list is extensive, but it doesn’t wander off into head-trips of $1,000 Bordeaux and Burgundy, trading instead in more esoteric voyages to the Canary Islands (the rustic, high-acid Monje Tintilla for roast suckling pig with apricots) and Campania (falanghina from Feudi di San Gregorio for salmon rillettes). —J.G.
NoMad, 1170 Broadway; 212-796-1500, thenomadhotel.com
The glass-and-iron construction that houses L’Apicio stands in stark contrast to the tenements of East 1st Street. And yet, sit long enough in the lounge to order up an aperitivo, melt into the oversized couch and people-watch out the window, and the restaurant quickly feels as comfortable as it is dynamic. The newest—and biggest—venture from Joe Campanale and the Epicurean Management crew (dell’anima, L’Artusi, Anfora), the place feels even warmer and more inviting once the food starts to arrive. Chef Gabe Thompson excels at pasta, like the mezzalune—buttery, half moon-shaped bites filled with a silky puree of cauliflower accented with capers and pinenuts. He braises short ribs to tenderness and nests them into parmesan-infused polenta, a fine excuse to delve into the library of older Barolos Campanale and his assistant beverage director, Lara Lowenhar, stock. Then again, the regular list sports plenty of more eclectic choices, including an array of domestic bottlings that are either Italianate in composition (Clendenen Family Friulano, Heitz Grignolino) or in their convivial spirit (Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay, Broc Cellars Carbonic Carignane). And if orange is your color, there’s plenty to choose from in both the New and Old Worlds. —Carson Demmond
L’Apicio, 13 E. First St.; 212-533-7400, lapicio.com
After the success of his pint-sized, Michelin-starred Korean sophisticate restaurant Danji, chef Hooni Kim has opened Hanjan, a place that brings more savory innovation with a slightly more downtown feel. Expect fluffy scallion pancakes fried up with local squid, or vibrant, spicy kimchi with molten tofu, but be sure to explore the section of the menu devoted to “fresh killed chicken.” “In Korea, chickens are killed the same day they are served, never seeing a refrigerator before being consumed,” says Kim. “I wanted to bring this same concept to New York.” So he sourced the best chickens he could find locally and has them delivered still warm from the butcher in the early afternoon. He excels at skewers of hearts and skins, prepared simply on yakitori grills and served with house-made ssam jang, a fermented mix of soybean paste, red pepper and walnuts. Justine Hah has authored a smart short list of wines with a focus on Austria and France. A 2007 grüner veltliner Sekt from Bründlmayer handily carries the peppery tang of kimchi fried rice, and Christian Vergier’s 2010 release of Brouilly St-Lager seems built for those chicken skins. —C.D.
Hanjan, 36 W. 26th St.; 212-206-7226, hanjan26.com
What happens when former Soho House chef Paul Gerard teams up with Employees Only owner Bill Gillroy and chef-owner John Harris of Lilette in New Orleans? Answer: the latest contender for warmest eatery in the East Village. The place feels like a cozy New-York-New-Orleans-hybrid dinner party circa 1965. Start with Gerard’s Cajun twist on arancini—golden “jambalaya balls” served with dirty gravy; move on to his version of carbonara—ribbons of sweet-savory spaghetti squash topped with a single poached egg, panko-breaded and fried crisp on the outside, the yolk still beautifully liquid. To reach epiphany, eat it with Domaine du Closel’s Savennières La Jalousie—one of the many exciting bottles Travis Benvenuti has managed to pack onto his single-page list. That selection includes Sherries as well as bubbles—of which there are as many as there are reds or whites—and is rich in choices like Domaine de la Pépière’s pet-nat Muscadet, Dirler-Cadé’s ’09 Brut from Alsace and rosé from grower Pierre Brigandat. —C.D.
Exchange Alley, 424 E. Ninth St.; 212-228-8525, exchangealleynyc.com
Murray’s Cheese Bar
In another life, the long, narrow bar facing a glass-enclosed display case might be serving up sushi, the room Zen-quiet with the murmur of Japanese and wooden chopsticks. In this moment of affineur mania, the bar is white marble and the treasured slabs behind it are the aged, fermented milk of goat, sheep and cow. The single line of tables against a tiled wall are packed with noisy revelers who have come for a flight of cheeses, a charcuterie plate, a cheeseburger dowsed in Alpine fondue or a grilled cheese with bacon. Order one of six suggested flights ($14 to $16), or construct your own plate from the à la carte menu, arranged from fresh to soft-ripened, washed rind, semi-firm, firm and blue. A short list of meats offers a counterpoint, including a meltingly soft speck and a chewy, spicy chorizo. And the tight selection of wines bridges the hipster aesthetic of West Village bianchello and bobal drinkers with more classical cheese mates like Huet Vouvray Pétillant (a no-holds-barred match for the Nettle Meadow Kunik, a soft, creamy goat and cow’s milk cheese from New York State), or a Niepoort 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (with the Mitibleu sheep’s cheese from Spain). Murray’s cheese shop is right down the block, where it has supplied the neighborhood with cheese since the 1940s. Rob Kaufelt, the third owner of the store, has been building the breadth and diversity of his caves since the 1990s, when fromage was still considered fussy. Now that American farmstead cheeses can stand with the best from Europe, his cheese bar feels right at home on Bleecker Street. —J.G.
Murray’s Cheese Bar, 264 Bleecker St., 646-476-8882, murrayscheesebar.com
It’s tough to recreate the grit of a Paris bistro in New York without it feeling like a movie set. At Calliope, there’s the zinc bar, the smoke in the silvering on the mirrored wall, a pressed tin bench beneath it, heavy metal café tables and light café chairs. There’s the menu, which also reads as though it were lifted from a café on the Left Bank, with a leek and chanterelle tart, braised tripe and rabbit loin wrapped in bacon. And yet once the food starts to arrive, it all feels real, entirely unpretentious and soul satisfying. The care that Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsch, the husband-and-wife team in the kitchen, put into their terrine of tête de porc, or the mayonnaise and celery salt for what would otherwise be simple boiled eggs, gives the food personality that connects it to the chefs and the farmers who supply them. There’s nothing contrived about the wine list either, focused largely on France with an occasional foray into Italy, Greece and Chile while holding to the spirit of the food. The wines—about 60—start at $36 (for a bottle of Anjou Blanc) with only a few rising over $100. You might try a Cuilleron St-Péray with rabbit pappardelle, or a Luyt carignan (made by a Frenchman mentored by Marcel Lapierre in Chile’s Maule) with one of the specials focused on game, such as roast Scottish partridge over a dark braise of chanterelles. A little satisfaction on East Fourth Street. —J.G.
Calliope, 84 E. Fourth St., 212-260-8484; calliopenyc.com
Le Philosophe doesn’t set out to reinvent classic French cooking; in fact, it offers frogs’ legs, stuffed trotters and turbot. And yet a dinner here feels remarkably fresh. Take the blanquette de veau, a dish that hasn’t been in vogue in at least 30 years. Chef Matthew Aita handles it with the same delicate touch he might have at Jean-Georges, where he was sous chef, binding tender chunks of meat and crisp-tender vegetables with a silken cream sauce. Ditto with the bouchot mussels—along with bone marrow, the city-wide appetizer of the day—napped in a sauce that’s merely a vehicle to highlight their succulence rather than the main event. The high-ceilinged room can be cold, the wind creeping in the soaring old windows that front the space, but you’ll find plenty of warmth on the wine list. Amadeus Bogner, who ran Hung Ry in the same space, has a knack for finding great wines at low prices. Bottles start at $19 (Cassagnole ugni blanc; Dehesa Rueda) and include Királyudvar Tokaji Sec for $36; Scherer Alsace pinot at $29 and ’96 Potensac at $70. A reserve list—titled pour s’éclater!—includes Arnoux Vougeot 1993 for $238. Have fun indeed. —T.Q.T.
Le Philosophe, 55 Bond St.; 212-388-0038, lephilosophe.us
NYC’s love affair with ramen joints seems to have opened up the floodgates for sake bars, with traditional places like Yopparai and Shigure as well as flashy spots like Cherry opening in the last few months. But if there’s one that could very well change most New Yorkers’ relationship to sake—that is, as a beverage drunk only with Japanese food—it’s SakaMai. The long, narrow space was intentionally designed to only hint at the sake focus. “We want people to feel welcome, to come here like they would any wine bar,” says Yasuyuki Suzuki, a sake sommelier who’s honed his craft at Kumo in LA and NYC’s 15 East. He follows through on that desire by keeping his list broad but not overwhelming, kicking it off with flights that explore sake by brewery or style and are particularly suited to the season. On a cold night, a trio of Nama Genshus—draft and cask-strength sakes, or Atsu-Kan (warmed sakes)—quickly take off the chill; so does the food, a series of creative plates by chef Takanori Akiyama that echo the space in their sleek, nationless composition. Crisp batter-fried shishito peppers would be at home in any restaurant; a small cup of fresh mozzarella, uni, olive oil and yuzu is delightfully confounding, refusing, like the space, to be pigeon-holed in any one cuisine. Take a seat in the dining room, or sink into a plush chair by the fireplace in the lounge; if you have a large party, reserve the sky-lit table in the loft. At SakaMai, you can have your sake any way you want—and until 3 a.m. —T.Q.T.
SakaMai, 157 Ludlow; 646-590-0684, sakamai.com
For most Manhattanites, Brooklyn’s easternmost point is the Lorimer stop on the L. This might explain why you never have to wait to pull up to the bar in Dear Bushwick. Add four more stops on the L and you’ll find it’s worth the trip. Here, in a cozy, tin-ceilinged space lit by low-hanging lanterns, Natasha David—formerly of Maison Premiere in Williamsburg—shakes cocktails from a list heavy in gin, rum and Sherry—in that order. The Brave Benbow, an ambitious combination of hot-headed Navy gin countered by sweeter Old Tom and again by bitter Campari, is a classic example of her style. Good drinks deserve good food, and owner Julian Mohamed has enlisted Jessica Wilson from Prune to create a drink-friendly, British-accented menu. Snacks like smoked eggs and pork sausage rolls are natural fits, but Wilson’s more ambitious dishes are just as cocktail friendly: The seared pork belly, for instance, does the Brave Benbow justice, softening the drink’s bitter edges and playing up the fruit and spice. —C.H.
Dear Bushwick, 41 Wilson Ave., Brooklyn; 929-234-2344, dearbushwick.com
Alex Raij and her husband, Eder Montero, have made a name by creating little pieces of Spain in NYC. There’s Txikito, a boisterous Chelsea restaurant offering a slice of Basque country; and El Quinto Pino, a closet-sized bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Jerez. La Vara is different, a cool, white space on a tree-lined, mostly residential block of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. And the cuisine is different, too, a recreation of one that barely exists anymore. Moorish tones color the orange-scented, lard-enriched rolls and saffron-hued fideua; Jewish ones flavor the hard-boiled quail eggs served with a tahini dip and crisp eggplant drizzled with honey. The wine list is similarly focused on Spain’s lesser-known traditions. The obvious place to start is in Andalucía, once a Moorish stronghold and still the world’s best source of high-acid aperitifs—although a glass of sparkling trepat or pink prieto picudo might also be tempting, and just as good with the crispy artichokes with anchovy-spiked aioli. Thus primed, you’ll be ready to dive into the bottle list, a tight selection skewed toward the high acid and lean (think Ribera Sacra and suckling pig). When you’re finished but not ready to leave, ask what’s on hand for liquid dessert. Beyond the Gran Reserva Don PX, they might have a little Navazos–Palazzi Single Oloroso Cask brandy left to go with those last bites of bombolini. —T.Q.T.
La Vara, 268 Clinton St., Brooklyn; 718-422-0065, lavarany.com
Reynard, more commonly referred to as “the restaurant in the Wythe Hotel,” is the latest venture by Andrew Tarlow, whose restaurants Marlow & Sons and Diner have secured Williamsburg as the preeminent borough ’hood for destination dining. Like its brethren, Reynard feels über-trendy, the converted warehouse space only lightly manicured, but the cuisine keeps it from feeling clichéd. The focal point of the menu is the wood-burning oven, from which nearly every dish emerges, whether the beets atop the bay-leaf-scented yogurt, the sweet potatoes drizzled with marrow or any number of cuts of meat. The reliance on local farms and purveyors inspires a list of daily specials nearly as long as the standard menu, even in the depths of winter. Lee Campbell echoes the kitchen’s farm-centric approach with a list heavily weighted toward the miniscule and independent, the all-French list a key sheet to the country’s overperforming underdogs. In the very likely chance of a wait, don’t fret; just take the elevator up to the hotel’s rooftop bar, The Ides, for cocktails with a view of Manhattan. —Lara Douglass
Reynard, 80 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg; 718-460-8004,
Runner & Stone
Third Avenue in the Gowanus neighborhood isn’t exactly the most likely place for destination dining, the industrial block heavy with truck traffic and run-down auto shops. But cheap rents and empty storefronts ready for reinvention have seeded what might become a Gowanus gourmet ghetto. If there’s a linchpin to secure it all, it’s Runner & Stone. A bakery-cum-restaurant, it opens most mornings at 7:30 am, the scents of just-baked croissants, palmiers and crisp-crusted baguettes warming up the cool, semi-industrial space. By dinner, the room’s clean lines read as sleek, an interior plate-glass window offering a view to the brightly lit kitchen that sits at a remove, on the other side of a grass-topped roof. Chris Pizzulli (Blue Ribbon) works in tandem with Peter Endriss (formerly head baker at Per Se and Bouchon Bakery) to showcase the power of grains, using cubes of rye and apples for a definitively East Coast panzanella and sneaking buckwheat into the dumplings that accompany chicken. The effect is a little baker-gone-wild, the sophisticated-playground feel extending to the wine list. Here, the two cooks fill a single page with personal favorites, from local pours like Bedell’s Long Island Taste White and Wiemer’s Finger Lakes Riesling to Ancarini’s orange wine (available by the glass). For dessert, turn to the bar: A glass of local rye whiskey completes the brownie sundae, a study in rye, from the flour at its base to the whiskey whipped into the ice cream. —T.Q.T.
Runner & Stone, 285 Third Ave., Brooklyn; 718-576-3360, runnerandstone.com
Tucked away in Vinegar Hill, a tiny neighborhood of cobblestone streets and Federal-style houses just north of the Brooklyn Navy Yards, Hillside is worth the trek. To find it, look for the cerulean building on the corner, right next to the Vinegar Hill House, Hillside’s big sister of sorts—both share owners Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa, chef Brian Leth and wine director William Fitch. But where Vinegar Hill House acts as a full restaurant, Hillside is meant to be a wine bar, the focus on simpler, smaller dishes, and wines to drink with them. If there’s one unifying theme to Fitch’s list, it’s “brisk,” his by-the-glass offerings devoted to breezy European wines and crisp Spanish ciders. Cut out of work early enough to make it for happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30, when $10 gets you half a dozen East Coast oysters as well as a glass to fill from the “Island White” section of the list. Stay on for the bone marrow, a sizeable piece detailed with bottarga and a few dill sprigs, or a Caesar with “schmaltz croutons.” With a list of bottles that ranges from Hunter semillon to Slovenian teran, most under $60, it’s easy to make a night of it. —L.D.
Hillside, 70 Hudson Ave., Brooklyn; 718-522-7957, hillsidevhbk.com
It would be easy to write off Aska as another hipster, intellectualized, Scandinavian-themed foray into foraged fare if they didn’t execute it so well. Located in the Kinfolk Studios space in Williamsburg, across the street from The Wythe Hotel, Aska feels less like a restaurant and more like an art gallery that happens to sport a full bar and an 18-seat dining room. There, Swedish-born chef Fredrik Berselius is doling out roots, herbs and legumes in dishes that might look like miniature ecosystems but taste hearty and wholesome, accented here and there with something pickled, cured, soured or preserved. The bread and butter alone is worth the trip—an artful presentation of fluffy, fresh-baked caraway rolls and house-churned goodness. If the service staff seems overly excited about what’s on the plate, they might have had a hand in its procurement; Berselius and partner Eamon Rockey (Atera, Eleven Madison Park) organize foraging excursions for local botanicals. Those ingredients might adorn your herring, or they might wind up in one of Rockey’s cocktail inventions. He and wine director Shiraz Noor have also put together one of Brooklyn’s most exciting wine lists—deep in German riesling (a Weiser-Künstler Kabinett trocken handled the full tasting menu impressively well one winter evening) and offering a tour of Beaujolais crus, often with bottle age. If a Terres Dorées Moulin-à-Vent ’09 doesn’t do the trick, try a Desvignes Morgon Javernières ’05. —C.D.
Aska, 90 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn; 718-388-2969, askanyc.com
The Dead Rabbit
When Jack McGarry of Milk & Honey London and Sean Muldoon of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast talked about opening a bar, they had two things in mind: an 18th-century tavern and a pre-Prohibition-style cocktail bar. They chose a historically appropriate spot: a building just down Water Street from Fraunces Tavern, where Washington gave his farewell address to the Continental Army in 1783. And they borrowed the name from a gang that ruled the street in the mid-1800s. On the first floor of The Dead Rabbit, they designed a taproom, a place to have a beer or a “pop-inn”—essentially an improved boilermaker, using liqueurs such as Chartreuse or Cointreau in place of the usual whiskey—along with some hearty pub fare (think ploughman’s sandwich and steak-and-porter pies). Upstairs is a more refined affair, focusing on mixed drinks inspired by 19th-century recipes. Punches, sours, fizzes, cobblers, cups, flips, nogs, fixes, daisies, slings, juleps, smashes, bishops and fizzes—72 drinks in all—own real estate on this menu. Food is also available, but here you might want to leave the sandwiches for the pub and instead order the pâté of the day. It makes a nice side to a Stone Fence, an orchard fruit cocktail grounded with Calvados and spiked with Chartreuse Verte—an addition that sends it into a delicious botanical stratosphere. —Chris Hallowell
The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water St.; 646-433-7906, deadrabbitnyc.com
In a neighborhood already well-stocked with exceptional cocktail bars—Mayahuel, PDT, Amor y Amargo, Summit Bar, Gin Palace and Cienfuegos, to name just a few—Pouring Ribbons more than holds its own. Perched atop an Avenue B liquor store, the bar is the work of Troy Sidle (of Chicago’s Violet Hour), Toby Maloney (Milk & Honey) and Joaquín Simó (voted Bartender of the Year in 2012 at Tales of the Cocktail). Forgoing the popular laundry-list approach to cocktail menus, they offer just 15 to 20 drinks they’ll change two to three times a season. And in place of detailed explanations, they’ve drawn two gradients on which they place the drinks in terms of comforting to adventurous, and refreshing to spirituous. For instance, if you’re feeling adventurous and want something spirituous, you might choose In Spades, a high-octane, bitter-edged blend of Weller Bourbon with a myriad of gentian liqueurs. The Tropic of Cancer, by comparison, falls in the middle of their scales, blending chile-infused Tequila and coffee-infused Carpano. Among their “comforting” suggestions, a mezcal-and-pineapple number took a surprising direction this winter with a splash of Palo Cortado Sherry, orgeat and a warming dose of cocoa. —C.H.
Pouring Ribbons, 225 Ave. B, 2nd fl.; 917-656-6788, pouringribbons.com
The newest addition to the Death & Co. family, Gin Palace delivers what its name promises: a showcase for the juniper-scented spirit. Here, downstairs from Cienfuegos—a rum palace from the same group—the bartenders take their classics seriously. They also push the envelop for gin mixology, presenting drinks like the M15, a refreshing combination of Plymouth gin, applejack, sweet vermouth and Cynar. But perhaps the most outstanding facet of Gin Palace is the prices. At $7 for a Gin and Tonic, their drinks are cheaper than the beers sold in many neighborhood bars. And did I mention the G&T was on draught, mixed daily from meticulously portioned amounts of craft gin, Bittermen’s Commonwealth tonic and grapefruit bitters? Add a “scotched” egg and some tandoori-spiced chips, and you’ll have a light dinner for less than $20. —C.H.
Gin Palace, 95 Ave. A; 212-614-6818, ginpalaceny.com
Pegu Club alum Del Pedro is an American-history-and-culture buff and his new cocktail joint, Tooker Alley, is the beneficiary of his interests. There’s the bar itself, salvaged from an old flatbed truck, and the jazz playing quietly in the background. And then there’s the drinks menu, a tome that weaves 12 cocktails into more than 20 pages of philosophical essays and cocktail history. There’s nothing dull about the place, however; the vibe alone is reason to go. On any given weeknight, the crowd might include a pair of knitters, a solo drinker tucked into a book and two guys having an informed conversation about the commendable integrity of the editorial in Playboy circa 1970. On the weekends it gets more crowded; better to head over on a Wednesday with friends for a festive, pineapple-infused Jala-Piña or Red Emma, or enjoy a quiet evening with a Puritan, a yellow Chartreuse–laced take on a Martini. —C.H.
Tooker Alley, 793 Washington Ave., Brooklyn; 347-955-4743, tookeralley.com
The Flatiron Room
In September 2012, The Flatiron Room began providing rent-paying New Yorkers something they’ve only dreamed of: ownership. Order a bottle from a list of 500 whiskeys; if you can’t muster the resolve to finish it, a whiskey steward will brand the bottle with your name and set it aside in a locker where it will wait for your next visit. If a bottle isn’t your speed, choose a cocktail from the whiskey-heavy list constructed by Miguel Aranda, formerly of Daniel and Apotheke. The drink called The 1920s embodies the atmosphere of the room: simple, perfectly balanced, slightly cerebral and rye-centric, with the trendy pre-Prohibition vibe of absinthe. That said, this place is less about the creativity of the cocktails than it is about spotlighting the raw spirit. Think of it as the distilled-cereal-grain equivalent of the Brandy Library, with live music, instructive flights and an extensive schedule of tastings with distillers. Recently, Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie was on hand to pair his Scotches with food. When’s the last time you had diver scallops in a mint-citrus vinaigrette with a briny Speyside malt? —C.H.
The Flatiron Room, 37 W. 26th St.; 212-725-3860, theflatironroom.com