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A British Bar Tour Through New York City

With cask-conditioned ales, deep Scotch selections and white-jacket Martini service, here’s where to channel the British spirit stateside.

The Winslow is practically designed to inspire you to dig in and stay awhile: dark-wood walls, a soccer game on the TV, pints of Fuller’s London Pride pulled from the tap, patrons spilling out onto the patio area, drinks in hand. It has the distinctive feel of a traditional British pub—albeit one with a New York accent.

Over the course of a few of days, it’s possible to experience a microcosm of British drinking culture in New York City. Whether it’s a beer and a Strongbow cider at a casual pub-style haunt, English fizz in a gastropub or a high-end Martini in an atmosphere that suggests a grand London hotel, New York, with its strong network of British expats, has become an epicenter for enjoying British drinking culture, sometimes in unusual ways.

“Great products are coming over from the U.K., and [consumers] are more knowledgeable about spirits than ever before,” says Aidan Bowie, bar manager at The Aviary NYC and The Office NYC, himself a British export, hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland (The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). “A lot of bars are doing cool stuff with British spirits.”

The Office NYC, in particular, is renowned for its emphasis on luxury and rare spirits; for those feeling flush, there’s no better place to sink into a leather club chair and indulge in a dry Martini made with a circa-1960s bottle of Beefeater London dry gin. In addition to the vintage stuff, Bowie also favors newer brands, such as Hendrick’s, which he’s currently showcasing in a “bright, green, grassy” Gimlet variation made with olive oil and eucalyptus.

Meanwhile, when he misses home, Bowie heads to Swift Hibernian Lounge in the East Village for a beer, sausage rolls and chips. “The taproom bar feels like a little taste of home,” he says. “It’s nice to hear a familiar accent.”

While some of these bars and restaurants—like Bluebird London NYC, and the forthcoming steakhouse Hawksmoor—are Gotham outposts of English mainstays, others channel a British vibe, by giving food and drink a distinctly local spin. The Breslin, whose kitchen is helmed by Birmingham, England, native April Bloomfield, is an excellent example of the latter. Settle into the lively, always-packed downstairs barroom for a cask-conditioned ale or climb the stairs to the quieter balcony bar space for a house Martini made with Ford’s Gin, alongside a Scotch egg or beef and Stilton pie.

Back downtown, in the West Village, Highlands bills itself as a Scottish-American gastropub. Owned and operated by Scots, it’s known for importing artisanal ingredients from Scotland and, of course, plenty of Scotch whisky—and cocktails made with it. If whisky isn’t your thing, you can opt for a Scottish ale from The Orkney Brewery.

The atmosphere also matters, and helps put the drinks in context. At The Winslow, for example, the three owners come from different heritages: Scottish, Irish and English-American, and sought to evoke their collective notion of the pub experience—and not a caricature of a pub, festooned with Union Jacks or shamrock cut-outs. “That’s not how bars are in Ireland, or Britain,” says co-owner Mark Tafoya.

Sometimes an authentic British vibe doesn’t even happen on purpose, but is still hard to miss. Case in point: the George Washington Bar within the newly minted New York outpost of the Freehand Hotel. The bar itself is relatively small and intimate, giving the place a restrained, clubby feel. But visit on the right night and you just might spot Tom Lasher-Walker behind the bar—an alum of London’s Savoy Hotel—clad in crisp white uniform. “Those white pristine jackets, it’s an old-school London hotel vibe,” Bowie rightly observes. Paired with the house GW Martini, made with both Plymouth and Tanqueray gins, it’s possibly the most uniquely British drinking experience available in New York City right now.

The Itinerary  

The Winslow | 243 East 14th Street
Bordering the East Village and Gramercy neighborhoods, this U.K.-inspired gastropub and gin bar offers more than 40 gin bottlings (listed by key botanicals and flavors) and a strong roster of gin cocktails. But it’s also a spot for Strongbow cider and Scotch eggs, and big screens showing football from both sides of the Atlantic (or rugby, depending on the season).

Go for: A Gin & Tonic.

The Breslin | 16 West 29th Street
Located inside The Ace Hotel in the NoMad district, The Breslin offers British-style comfort food and drinks, often made with locally-sourced ingredients. Try a cask-conditioned ale pulled from a hand pump, or any number of beers, ciders or wines by the glass. Soak it all up with a Scotch egg and a beef and Stilton pie.

Go for: A cask-conditioned ale.

Highlands | 150 West 10th Street
You know you’re in the right place when you see the tartan-tufted seats and a back bar packed to the gills with Scotch whisky. While you can indulge in meats, cockles, cheeses and other delicacies imported from Scotland, it’s all about the dark spirits here: try a Scotch Old-Fashioned or the Catholic Guilt (Black Bottle blended Scotch, ginger, lemon, fig and orange bitters, with a Fernet-Branca float).

Go for: A Scotch Old-Fashioned.

Bluebird London NYC | 10 Columbus Circle
Newly opened on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, this British import offers an all-day café featuring Cornish chicken pie, English farmhouse cheeses and Sipsmith gin-cured salmon. Wash it down with a gin cocktail like the classic Bramble (Tanqueray 10 gin, blackberry, lemon) or choose from a selection of Gin & Tonics and British fizz in the form of sparkling wine, beers or cider.

Go for: English sparkling wines and ciders.

The Office NYC | 80 Columbus Circle
Reserve a spot at the bar and enjoy bar manager Aidan Bowie’s Scottish lilt along with an expertly made Martini. “We’ve got a nice selection of British gins, some you wouldn’t typically see in every bar,” says Bowie. A current favorite: the recently-launched Hepple High Fidelity Gin made with three varieties of juniper. “It’s beautiful, made in a country estate north of England. It’s a good example of a British gin that is being creative and pushing boundaries.”

Go for: A gin Martini.

English Sparkling Wine