The 6 Best Places for Holiday Drinks NYC Has to Offer!

Dec 10, 2018

The 6 Best Places for Holiday Drinks NYC Has to Offer! | Holiday Cocktail Lounges in Midtown East Manhattan
By Rich Weidman

The 6 Best Places for Holiday Drinks NYC Has to Offer!

“The right drink does more than slake a thirst. It takes you somewhere, even though ‘somewhere’ might be the very place you happen to be sitting.” - William Grimes

The Manhattanhenge moments of city summertime are far behind in the rear view, and the holidays are upon NYC! Combine the “City That Never Sleeps” with more than 10,000 bars located throughout New York City and you will realize why drinking in the Big Apple is considered more than just a hobby – it’s a true art form! And the festive holiday season in New York City is simply the best time to visit one of the cozy holiday cocktail lounges tucked away in the lively urban grid between The United Nations (near the East End of Tudor City) and the West Side of Murray Hill, known as Midtown Manhattan East,... and sample some amazing Christmas cocktails – whether you desire a White Christmas Martini, Hot Buttered Rum or even some traditional Mulled Wine. In fact, if you are looking for the best places for holiday drinks NYC has to offer, you’ve come to the right place! Tis the season for holiday hangovers and we’ve got the top 6 places to enjoy your favorite Christmas cocktail in Midtown East. By the way, the late, great crooner Frank Sinatra reportedly drank at several of the NYC cocktail lounges listed below and who’s going to argue with the “Chairman of the Board”? So as you're searching for the best places for holiday drinks in NYC this season, let us help perk up your pub crawl as take a deep 'dive' into six posh places (which are anything BUT dives), to take in some Christmas cocktails in Manhattan! From merry martinis to festive Fuzzy Navels de Navidad, this ultimate holiday lounge guide to help you find the right holiday haunts filled with the high life, cheer and plenty of beer.

1 | Monkey Bar | Christmas tipplers will love the array of seasonal specialty cocktails sure to brighten their holiday cheer at the legendary Monkey Bar, an exclusive American eatery in Midtown East known for its grand hospitality, cutting-edge cocktails and colorful murals. The famous mural of “cavorting monkeys” at the Monkey Bar was painted by caricaturist Charlie Vella (according to rumor, live monkeys once roamed around the bar until the Board of Health stepped in and put an end to the practice!). This joint is the perfect place to let your hair down, but in a luxurious setting that fits the posh and circumstance of the season. Like Christmas carols? Don't worry, the joint's not that stuffy. But,... just be careful! You may very well end up singing for your supper!

A true NYC landmark, the Monkey Bar was a favorite of such celebrities as Tallulah Bankhead, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Joe DiMaggio and Tennessee Williams (who died after allegedly choking on a bottle cap in a suite of the hotel upstairs from the Monkey Bar in 1983). In 2009, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter purchased the Monkey Bar and commissioned artist Ed Sorel (“one of America’s foremost political satirists,” according to the New York Times) to paint an immense mural that depicts celebrities who frequented the Midtown Manhattan East establishment during the “Roaring Twenties” and Great Depression Era. Essential Cocktail: 54th Street Special (Gin, St. Germain, Grapefruit, Raspberry, Champagne).

WHERE: 60 E. 54th St., New York, NY 10022 | WHO: (212) 288-1010

2 | Ophelia | A sophisticated rooftop cocktail lounge located at the historic Beekman Tower (which first opened in 1928) in Midtown East, Ophelia boasts spectacular 360-degree East River views and plenty of holiday spirit for everyone. Earlier incarnations of the bar were frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and even Frank Zappa. Ophelia has been named among “The 10 Best Rooftop Bars in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler, which states, “New York City has dozens of awesome rooftop bars, but few hit all the marks like this 2018 newcomer that crowns the Beekman Tower in Manhattan’s Midtown East neighborhood.” And though the views from her are certainly cool, there's plenty of plush bar real estate to keep your tush warm, while you gaze out into the crisp night to get glimpse of Old Kris Kringle!

Ideally located just a few blocks from the United Nations Plaza, amid the snow-speckled landscape of NYC holiday markets and seasonal haunts, Ophelia feature an indoor/outdoor wraparound patio and a delightful menu full of modern classics and signature cocktails. Essential Cocktail: Ophelia’s Ascension (Smoked Jamaican Pepper infused Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Makers Mark, Sri Lanka Palm Sugar, Aromatic Bitters, Cedar Smoke).

WHERE: 3 Mitchell Place, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10017 | WHO: (212) 980-4796

3 | Lantern’s Keep | Billed as delivering “innovative cocktail concepts and a speakeasy vibe to the heart of Midtown Manhattan,” Lantern’s Keep features classic mixology in a classy and intimate saloon atmosphere. But as the festive season sets in, Lantern undergoes it's own brand of jolly metamorphisis. Festive foods and warm moods meander through the space, making everything bright, which sometimes means,... It's beginning to look a lot like,... Citrus?

Critics have described this hidden NYC gem as the “Best speakeasy in Midtown” and “an innovator among NYC cocktail bars.” But no matter which way you prefer your hand-crafted cocktails, you're gauranteed and sampling of good, old-school mixology fromthe turn of the century, when tycoons still cared about Tiny Tim, and even the surliest Scrooges managed to sip a Gibson or two. Or three. Or seven.

Lantern’s Keep is located just a couple of blocks from Bryant Park, known as “Manhattan’s Town Square.” Essential Cocktail: Fredo Corleone (Aged Rum, Lime, Maple Syrup, Banana). Don't miss out on this amazing holiday haunt if you can help it!

WHERE: 49 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036 | WHO: (212) 453-4287

4 | The Grill | A classic American chophouse, The Grill is the perfect place to enjoy a well-crafted holiday cocktail. Occupying the old Four Seasons Grill Room in the iconic Seagram Building (which was completed in 1958) in Midtown Manhattan East, The Grill has been totally restored and features an “old school menu” and signature cocktails that “revive the famous and obscure drinks from mid-century Manhattan.” By the way, the Seagram Building served as a filming site for the 1988 Bill Murray Christmas comedy, Scrooged, another great reason to visit The Grill during the holidays in New York City. Essential Cocktail: Fogcutter (Rum, Cognac, Gin, Orgeat, Sherry).

WHERE: 99 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022 | WHO: (212) 375-9001

5 | Pouring Ribbons | Holiday cheer is definitely in the air at Pouring Ribbons, an upscale second-story cocktail bar in the East Village that specializes in brilliantly crafted cocktails. The holidays is traditionally a time to pour on a few more, but beware! Do you have what it takes to try the 'Wheels of Steel'?

Pouring Ribbons boasts a seasonal cocktail menu and “is a carefully constructed refuge that takes its cocktails seriously,” according to The New Yorker. Essential Cocktail: Prabu Punch (Bourbon, Orange Cordial, Garam Masala Pumpkin Syrup, Curry Leaf). So I guess you could say this lounge is the Village's gift to locals and visitors for the holidays, poured (and wrapped up) neat, with ribbon. ;)

WHERE: 225 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009 | WHO: (917) 656-6788

6 | Dear Irving | A “cocktail parlor” with a speakeasy vibe along with a time-traveling theme inspired by Woody Allen’s critically acclaimed 2011 fantasy comedy, Midnight in Paris? Somehow it all works and Dear Irving, which is nestled in the heart of Gramercy Park, offers the perfect locale to enjoy some delicious holiday-inspired libations. Get festive at Dear Irving, which features four cozy cocktail rooms, each of which represent a different historical era: Marie Antoinette Room, JFK Room, F. Scott Fitzgerald Room (where you can channel your inner Great Gatsby) and Abraham Lincoln Room. I mean let's face it, the only thing crazier than a bar crawl Christmas bash is getting Merry with Mad Men style in the back of this joint! Enter the corporate Christmas carousing version 2.0...

Best of all, there is no waiting to be served – patrons simply hit a personal buzzer at their table to summon a waiter and order cocktails. Time Out calls Dear Irving “New York’s most overachieving themed bar.” According to Gothamist, Dear Irving “is a place to drink, and more specifically, it’s a place to drink slowly. These cocktails are not for pounding, they’re for savoring.” Essential Cocktail: Writer’s Retreat (Gin, Dill Aquavit, Byrrh, Peychaud’s Bitters).

WHERE: 55 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003 | WHO: (212) 533-4466

BONUS #1 | Holiday Cocktail Lounge | If you are seeking a holiday drink in New York City, what better place than the Holiday Cocktail Lounge? A legendary classic dive, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge once served the likes of W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Frank Sinatra, the Ramones, a pre-fame Madonna and reportedly even Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. At one point starting in the 1920s, this East Village landmark was known as the Ali Baba Lounge and got rebranded as the Holiday Cocktail Lounge in the 1950s. Nowadays, hipsters and happy-hour patrons looking for weird things to do in NYC at night mingle and drunk dial friends and family to gather round with some holiday cheer from the famed phone booth inside!

After closing briefly in 2012, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge was totally revamped and today features a vintage tiki bar atmosphere and a nice selection of eclectic cocktails. But truly, these drinks are always changing, always beautifully (yet simply) bespoke, depending on the mood of the owner and mixologist crew, so grab these Christmas cocktails while you can, because after the New Year they'll probably be extinct!

Either way, Holiday Cocktail Lounge is a fun, laid-back joint to people-watch and enjoy some quality holiday cocktails during the Christmas season in New York City (just look for the distinctive red awning that's withstood the test of time). Essential Cocktail: Los Hollywood (Whiskey, Fernet-Branca, Bitters).

WHERE: 75 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10003 | WHO: (212) 777-9637

BONUS #2 | Boilermaker | Dreaming of a tropical holiday amid the backdrop of another chilly NYC winter? From now until December 31, 2019, the friendly neighborhood bar in the East Village, Boilermaker, has been transformed into "Sippin' Santa's Surf Shack," a lively holiday pop-up bar where you can celebrate the holidays "tiki style" with a great selection of tiki holiday-themed cocktails such as the Kris Kringle Colada and the Jingle Bowl (shareable rum punch). Essential Cocktail: Christmas Eve of Destruction (Dark Overproof Rum, Herbal Liqueur, Nutmeg Syrup, Lime Juice, Angostura Bitters).

WHERE: 13 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003 | WHO: (212) 995-5400

So pop the champagne and fix your eyes on the rooftops (especially rooftop bars in Midtown) because this holiday season is bursting with bubbly and boozy boutique bars all around! And with these happy holiday haunts, you're sure to have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in NYC, no matter which lounge you choose. Craft cocktails and crisp night air combine every night in New York City, to make the season (and your outlook for tomorrow) a little brighter. Bottoms up!

Love our destination travel blog guides? Find out about next year's places to watch Manhattanhenge , find free museums in New York, get your karaoke New York groove on, explore the best rooftop bar New York midtown has to offer, explore things to do near Grand Central Station, and discover NYC wine bars in a whole new light,.... PLUS... try the best hotels in NYC on for size, all at these links!


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