There is a loud pop. The band stops playing and a collective gasp is heard. At the staircase a crowd is gathering. By the bar, a man lays motionless; a circle of blood pools beneath his head. A petite woman collapses in a plume of red feathers, sobbing, howling as she pounds her fists on the body.
"Santori," She screams, black mascara tracks line her face.
"My cousin just killed my husband!"
An angry buzz fills the air. Actors scurry to the bar as patrons relax into their seats. The second scene is off to a dramatic start. Sipping my jalapeno infused vodka and bitters drink from a white porcelain teacup, I allow myself to enter the world of the play. The band plays the old New Orleans standard St. James Infirmary as the body is marched through the bar.
Not your typical bar experience? In New York, there is no such thing.
In a city that goes above and beyond, bars are no exception. In New York, you can expect to be taken on a journey, whether that journey is back in time to the roaring twenties, to the garden for a farm to drink herbal infused cocktail or on a sensual trip to Italy via her finest wines.
Here's where to go for a memorable New York bar experience:
9 Doyers St
New York, NY 10038
In a dark alley in Chinatown, through a small unmarked door, you'll find Apotheke. Enter to be transported to "Old New York." Behind the bar, along the exposed brick wall highlighted by candlelight, you'll find apothecary jars, herbs, bitters and a variety of liquors. Bartenders dressed in suspenders, vests or lab coats, mix, measure, whip and blend their creations. You've heard of farm to table, but have you embraced the concept of farm to bar? Here, organic herbs are infused into drinks with formulaic and medicinal precision. Broken down into categories such as stimulants, aphrodisiacs, stress relievers, pain killers, and euphoric enhancers, the menu is reminiscent of an old apothecary.
2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10026
Earl Grey infused gin? Whisky with herbal essences? Inspired by Almack’s Dance Hall, one of the first black owned bars in Harlem, 67 Orange Street is a hip central Harlem staple. 67 evokes the feel of the Harlem Renaissance. It is a small intimate speakeasy, the perfect bar for a quiet night out with your artsy friends. Be daring and ask the mixologist what drink they're working on and give the off-menu options a try. We sipped a dark chocolate margarita inspired cocktail infused with jalapeno peppers. So good.
98 Rivington Street at Ludlow
New York, NY 10002
Rustic and cozy, Inoteca is a classic wine bar (and restaurant) on the LES. The wine list carries over 500 varieties, you can't go wrong here. Inoteca is where I first discovered Lambrusco during a slow post-brunch wine break. With a ceiling to floor window wall facing Ludlow, this is the perfect spot for people watching, or if you're in the mood for privacy, head downstairs to the wine cellar, where you can relax around aromatic wooden tables with family, friends and a bottle or glass of your favorite vino.
The Back Room
102 Norfolk (near Delancey St) New York, NY 10002
Walk down a flight of stairs, crouch through a small wooden door that leads into an alleyway, walk up the fire escape and in through the small door and you've arrived at The Back Room. Come prepared to play. There's dinner theatre and there's the speakeasy bar theatre experience at the Back Room. Conjure up your finest Gatsby era attire and rub shoulders with ghosts of New York's prohibition past. Sip drinks out of teacups as you do the Charleston to a live brass band, take in a burlesque show or two on the second floor and get ready for the theatrical action as actors simulate a bar fight, a murder, a police raid and countless other scenarios.
127 Macdougal Street
New York, NY 10012
Easily one of the most romantic spots in New York, Wine Spot, is a cozy, exposed brick room, in the heart of the West Village. I'm reminded of that iconic scene from Lady and the Tramp whenever I stop by. Between the french inspired cafe tables, the soft candles and delicate flower arrangements, it is hard not to fall in love. If you time it right, you can snag the chaise lounge in front of the working fireplace. This is an ideal place for a date night, but the best time to go is during the week before seven pm, as it crowds quickly.
768 5th Ave
New York, NY 10019
For a dose of sophistication, the Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel is an afternoon or evening well spent. Get dressed up and relax in the luxurious lounge. The Champagne list is extensive and features some of the finest champagnes the world has to offer. With crystal chandeliers overhead, plush velvet seats and a great view of Central Park, it's easy to spend more than a few hours and dollars here. Drinks are pricy, but at least the buttery popcorn is free.
549 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Alice's Arbor is a hipster hang-out with an emphasis on farm to table fare. Part bar, part restaurant, the drink menu is as quirky and layered as the country cottage/mod decor. Alice's Arbor has a hearty wine and whisky list. When it comes to creative cocktails, it's all about the details and my favorite is the spicy jalapeno infused margarita.