The Best NYC Bars for Great Martinis — and Even Better Vibes
Because half the fun of drinking a martini is reveling in its aesthetic
We don’t need to tell you that the martini and its many variations (particularly its caffeinated counterpart) are having a moment — though maybe the martini never went out of style. Perhaps the martini’s simple sophistication has allowed it to outlive other aperitif trends. Or maybe, just maybe, the enduring hipness of the martini is rooted in our everlasting desperation to feel cool.
For months, I’ve been becoming more familiar with the martini, and its many iterations. So far I’ve learned that I like a classic vodka martini with three olives (preferably blue cheese stuffed olives), while an espresso martini is a necessity if I have a long night of dancing and drinking ahead of me. And while I do, honestly, enjoy the taste, I wouldn’t be half as inclined to keep ordering them if they didn’t make me feel so goddamn cool.
Perhaps it’s uncouth, embarrassing or even shallow to admit, but half the fun of drinking a martini is reveling in its aesthetic. It’s hard not to feel effortlessly elegant while holding a coupe or classic martini glass delicately in your hand. There’s no squandering my desire to want to be seen drinking a martini, either. So I upload a photo of my freshly ordered drink in its chic long-stemmed glass, two deliciously round olives transparently submerged while the third peeks its juicy little head out, to my Instagram story and then proceed to, literally and figuratively, get drunk on my extremely fashionable drink.
But I’ve also learned my urge to order one comes, in part, from the environment I’m in. I’m talking bars with dim to pitch black lighting, piano players or soft jazz playing in the background. I want velvet couches, leather booths and white tablecloths. I need candles and lots of old hardwood. Cozy, intimate and romantic is the prerequisite vibe for enjoying a martini.
So if you’re like me (unabashed about your superficial intentions for ordering a specific cocktail) and have an unending appetite for martinis, below you’ll find a list of the best bars to get a great one, while you soak in immaculate-martini drinking vibes.
The Vibe: A winding, red-carpeted staircase leads you down into the basement of the iconic Solow building in Midtown, Manhattan. Awaiting you down below is a gold-plated cocktail bar, a large dining room with gigantic booths and a circular piano lounge that connects the two. It’s colorful, it’s swanky and sort of feels like you’re sipping cocktails in a 1960s airport lounge. And hey, if it’s good enough for Carrie Bradshaw, it’s good enough for me.
The Martini: Monday through Friday from 4-7 PM Cucina 8/12 throws a lively Apprevito Hour where you can enjoy many vodka or gin “mini martinis” with your choice of garnish. (Though they be but little, they pack a punch.)
The Vibe: Romanticly dim and a bit scene-y (making it the perfect spot to people watch and cast silent judgments with every sip). Similar to the joint above, stepping into this Nolita bar is like entering a time capsule to the ‘40s, thanks to its Art-Deco design with old hardwood framework and black and white checkered floors.
The Martini: From Olive Oil Martinis to Gin & Sins, Temple Bar boasts a lengthy Martini menu. Add a caviar bump to any ‘tini for twenty bucks.
The Vibe: You wander into this unsuspecting Irish bar in the East Village and can feel the coziness of this neighborhood joint as soon as you cross the doorway.
The Martini: Okay. They have cold brew martinis on TAP at this place. (Must we say much else?)
The Vibe: As one of Greenwich Village’s most beloved watering holes, the vibes at Dante are, naturally, high and buoyant. Sit down with a group of friends at one of the bar’s green velvet booths and have yourself a vodka/gin-fused day.
The Martini: From 3 PM-5 PM enjoy “Martini Hour,” where everything on Dante’s martini cocktail list is just $10.
The Vibe: Maggie Hall’s is the sophisticated sister bar of Astoria’s beloved, but a tad rambunctious, Judy Punch (which is conveniently located right next door). Expect old-world ambiance, lip-syncing contests — making it the first stop on your spontaneous 30th Av. bar crawl.
The Martini: Did I have the best espresso martini of my life here? Yes, yes I did.
The Vibe: Familiar, local and comforting. A place to seek refuge, mozzarella sticks and a no-frills martini.
The Martini: A refreshingly cold $12 martini. Simple and delightful.
The Vibe: We don’t need to eulogize the St. Regis hotel’s legendary bar (that claims to have invented the Bloody Mary), but picture wood-paneled walls, cozy candlelit tables and soft jazz playing in the background. Essentially, it’s the hotel bar of your dreams.
The Martini: TBH? You’re paying around $26 for an average martini, but remember, you’re here for the atmosphere.
The Vibe: There’s a disco ball in the bathroom of this vibrant, red-brick Italian restaurant. Enough said.
The Martini: The “Grace Jones” is a “funky take on the dirty martini.” AKA it’s a delicious vodka martini with spicy oil and a pepperoncini garnish. If you like your drinks with a kick, you’ll lap up this piquant cocktail.
The Vibe: It’s relaxed, rustic and pleasantly ill-let at this basement-set West Village spot.
The Martini: “The Soup of the Day” — an extra dirty martini with house-made blue cheese olives. Yum.
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