New York is synonymous with the iconic Martini: think of iconic individuals sipping cocktails at The Stork Club or ’21,’ and a crisp gin Martini is what automatically leaps to mind. Even some the city’s best-known architectural highlights, like the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building, have features reminiscent of the sleek V-shaped Martini glass.
NYC still offers some of the best Martinis going, although modern-day bartenders are likely to frame them in coupe or Nick & Nora glasses (though some old-school joints still break out the classic V-shaped Martini glasses). The classic cocktail has also become a showpiece at some higher-end bars, treated as an interactive performance when mixed tableside, with guests encouraged to chime in to select their preferred vermouth and bitters. At other establishments, it’s about elegant presentation: poured from crystal decanters, having been pre-batched and frozen beforehand, for example, or arriving with an array of garnishes for guests to select from, plus a sidecar set on ice to pour out a chilled top-off.
These days, a snapshot of the New York Martini experience isn’t complete without including Brooklyn’s well-established bar and restaurant scene. At certain venues across the river, the scene feels almost like a raucous, casual dinner party, with friends gathered around large tables slurping fresh-shucked oysters and catching up over freshly stirred cocktails. And perhaps one of the best aspects of Brooklyn’s bar scene is the prospect of al fresco sipping by the East River – or in some cases, such as the bar built on a vintage schooner, literally on the water – toasting to New York’s iconic skyline, glass in hand.
Here, fifteen places on both sides of the river that should be on your Martini checklist.
This handsome wood-paneled space is run by hospitable Pegu Club alum Kenta Goto and is known for cocktails accented with Japanese ingredients—their Martini variation comes garnished with a salted cherry blossom—plus bar snacks like okonomiyaki.
At this UES gem, settle in at the front bar or head back towards the skylight-accented main dining room; either way, you’re getting an excellent burger and a classic Martini.
The sprawling, palm frond-accented room, food and liquid refreshment all evoke an escape to Prohibition-era Cuba. (Even the bar stools are patterned after those at Havana’s famous El Floridita, one of Hemingway’s famed haunts.)
Look for the brightly-painted blue door at the back of Mediterranean restaurant Local 92. Once inside, the tiny space transports with flickering lights, a tiled bar, tea-spiked cocktails and a frozen Martini.
This genteel Brooklyn stalwart marks its 10 year anniversary this month; celebrate with their signature Martini variation, the Gin Blossom.
Located within a 100-year-old restaurant space in the heart of Greenwich Village, the tableside Martini Service here serves up to six.
Dante at Genuine
… or walk a few blocks southeast to experience Dante’s Little Italy sister restaurant, where you can cool off with a Lychee Martini before diving head-first into the wild-boar pappardelle.
At its raucous best late-night, this spot feels like a dive bar that serves craft cocktails. Look for tacos, frozen Martinis and a DJ spinning well-worn 45s.
Frankies 570 Spuntino
Indulge in Tuscan fare in a warm, wood-paneled space in the West Village. The Frankies Antipasti platter plus a classic Martini is the ideal happy hour option.
Grand Army Bar
This neighborhood bar in Boerum Hill has a welcoming vibe that ensures you’ll want to stay a while. Bring friends and settle in with a platter of fresh-shucked oysters, Martinis and some of the best bread-and-butter in NYC.
Long Island Bar
Though this landmark bar has been in place for more than 50 years, the drink menu has been refreshed by bartending luminary Toby Cecchini. Start with the Martini, followed by the ever-popular burger made with dry-aged beef.
This subterranean space is something of an industry clubhouse; as the name suggests, it’s an ideal spot to for that last drink of the night. Opt for a flight of four Martinis, including dirty and espresso variations, for a memorable close.
This Brooklyn steakhouse/cocktail bar spinoff from nearby Frankies has a rustic, intimate feel. Pair the Lazy River Martini with a freshly-made soft pretzel the size of your head.
It’s a bar located on a vintage schooner docked at the pier in Brooklyn Bridge Park, with oysters, Martinis and killer views of the Manhattan skyline. What more could you want?
One of a panoply of bars and restaurants within the newly-refurbished Freehand Hotel in Gramercy, here bar star Karen Fu mixes the Diamonds Are Forever, a sherry-spiked variation on the classic Vesper.
This list is just a start – there are more Martinis worth a stop at the bars below:
134 Eldridge St
1304, 55 Little W 12th St
Park South Hotel
945 Madison Ave
575 Hudson St
221 Smith St, Brooklyn
120 E 28th St
Passage Irish Kitchen
40-11 30th Ave, Astoria
99 E 52nd St
29 W 35th St
The Malt House
206 Thompson St
768 5th Ave