It’s damn near a tragedy when out-of-towners visit New York City and end up having a beer at some fake Irish pub that looks like the first bar Tom Cruise worked at in “Cocktail.” It’s NYC, friends. Many of the best watering holes in the entire world are clustered in neighborhoods in eastern and lower Manhattan.
Alexander Hamilton drank ‘round here. Teddy Freaking Roosevelt drank ‘round here. So let’s not throw away our shots, shall we? Let’s speak softly and carry a big ol’ cocktail. Or something like that.
Anyway, here are three recommendations from our recent journey.
Existing Conditions, 35 W. 8th St.
I have been jonesing to come here since it opened 18 months ago. After our Saturday evening visit, I am so glad we did.
Existing Conditions is a nondescript little bar, clean but nothing particularly fancy, a spot with the look and feel of a true neighborhood joint. But the drinks – oh my, the drinks – are so much more than that.
The conceit here is that every cocktail is carbonated or otherwise science-ed to produce a cocktail that resembles an old favorite you love but one that is also entirely unique.
I was a little worried the bar would be too gimmicky, but in reality all the hardcore chemistry happens out of view. You get your drinks quickly, and they are at once singular and comfortable.
I had a smooth little number called the Banana Justino, then a hairy-chested yet balanced drink called the Portfolio, which features both Scotch and mezcal but doesn’t overwhelm you in smokiness.
Existing Conditions fits like an old shoe that happens be made from the finest Italian leather. I’m going back, for sure.
Blind Tiger, 281 Bleecker St.
Do you like beer nearly as much as United States Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh? Then here’s your huckleberry. We have returned to this divey little beer bar several times since first randomly discovering it a few years ago. The Blind Tiger turns out to be maybe Manhattan’s pre-eminent craft beer bar. There are dozens of taps, and hundreds of bottles, mostly focused on East Coast beers. It’s easy to ask questions. It’s easy to find a beer you will like from the many selections. It’s a fantastic way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday as your spouse visits an art museum or spends a paycheck on shoes. (For the record, SBH was doing neither of these things. She was drinking a beer with me.)
ABC Cocina, 38 E. 19th St.
This is a trendy-ish Mexican restaurant in the venerable ABC restaurant family. I did eat there once, and don’t remember a thing about it. But, because of it is located near my uncle’s place, we return nearly every year to the tequila-and-mezcal focused bar in the restaurant.
This restaurant bar will win no awards and get little acclaim. But what it will do is make you a fantastic high-end margarita and/or a Mezcal Negroni that has become one of my favorite NYC cocktails.