Got-to places and cocktail culture in New York by Henrik Steen Petersen

Seven days a week

First and foremost, you never have to look for cocktail bars or opening hours. They are everywhere and generally open every day of the week. New York is the city that never sleeps and where you meet in town rather than at home as space is a luxury afforded by few.


Most people live in one-bedroom apartments, and often share even that with others. Consequently, the streets, small restaurants, diners and, naturally, bars are buzzing with life. So people meet up for drinks when they’re partying as much as when they’re just casually socializing. In other words, the bars are extensions of many homes. Even in a weekday!

No Food, No Drink

Food too is effortlessly integrated into the menu at every bar.


By law, almost every liquor license in New York requires that the place serves food – which isn’t a catch-all including snacks like peanuts and olives. As a natural consequence, many bars are already heavily frequented at dinner time.


Back in the days women weren’t welcome in the bars. Luckily, this changed. At first, they were only allowed table service as the bar itself was still reserved for men. Later, the men tried to lure them in with stereotypical taste notions and the sweet, red, elaborately decorated drink. Today, the women have assumed their place behind the bar with great success and are rightfully always featured among the best bartenders in the city.

Skærmbillede 2016-07-27 kl. 13.47.45Or, in the words of Audrey Saunders, “…we were too easily written off as ‘a pair of boobs and a smile’”.

Competition and camaraderie

Although there are many takers for every job, and fierce competition abounds, there’s also a great sense of camaraderie among the bartenders who typically work in several bars during the week. The competition, of course, also keeps the standards high as only the very best will get a foot in the door.

Which bars can, and should, you visit when heading for New York?
New bars pop up almost every week, bartenders jump from one bar to another, but a good search around the web will take you a long way.

The headlines there will obviously refer to the newest and most often mentioned bars, but you should also pay attention to the following categories:

The New Classics
The new classics, a list of iconic cocktail bars that stood the test of time, the initial appeal of newness, and helped created the vibrant cocktail culture associated with New York today. Among these, you’ll find Death & Co., PDT, Pegu Club, Employees Only, Mayahuel, Attaboy, and also many more.




The Old Classics
Put on your best attire and explore some of the city’s old, renowned bars, such as Bemelmans Bar/The Carlyle Hotel, King Cole Bar/St. Regis Hotel, birthplace of the American Bloody Mary, and The Blue Bar/The Algonquin Hotel, the hangout for the cultural elite during The Roaring Twenties.

Off Manhattan
New York is much more than yellow cabs, skyscrapers and hectic Manhattan life. Treat yourself and go across the East River for a day, or night, in Brooklyn where you will find Clover Club, Long Island Bar, Maison Premiere, Fort Defiance and some more recent successes, like Leyenda and Le Boudoir.


Henrik Steen Petersen
The former catalyst and force behind one of the first classic cocktail bars in Copenhagen in our time, Moltkes Bar, and responsible for facilitating logistics, seminars, and education during Copenhagen Spirits and Cocktails 2011-2013. Member of the Seminar Selection Committee for Tales of The Cocktail since 2013, and presenter in 2016. Currently hosting seminars and cocktail classes in Copenhagen.


New York kick started an interest in cocktails years ago and remains a goto spot several times every year, for visiting old friends and finding new inspiration.

Henrik enjoys fine spirits and great cocktails – less so, attitudes and bullshit.

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