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Nylon Nights

A Power Ranking Of The Best New Cocktails In New York Right Now

Based on taste, quality, buzz, atmosphere, and vibes.

by Tim Latterner

New York nightlife is all about knowing the best spot to be on any given night. Once you get there, though, knowing what to order might be even tougher. But the payoff can be big — the same way that the smell of a cocktail makes it taste better, sipping on something nice in a cool bar can make it feel your surroundings feel even cooler.

That’s why, as NYLON’s resident nightlife reporter, I’ve humbly offered my services to bounce around the city to compile a power ranking of the 10 best cocktails. The drinks on this list are, first and foremost, about quality. (You won’t find a vodka soda just because it’s from some hotshot newcomer.) We’re also not adding something that’s so precious it can’t be enjoyed in a crowd. We’re looking for drinks that are delicious, manageable in a nightlife setting (henceforth referred to as its “spill-ability ratio”), and are worth telling your friends about.

We’re fully confident that, as of press time, these are the 10 absolute best. But just like the song of the summer, new contenders enter the ring all the time as others fall to the wayside — which is why you’ll want to check back as we update our list accordingly.

01

Superbueno’s Roasted Corn Sour

Kristina Lopez

This is, admittedly, the first time I had a corn-based cocktail and didn’t regret the decision. Corn whiskey (the latest name marketing departments have come up with after the “moonshine” boom of 2014) mixed with tequila, roasted corn, lemon, and guajillo creates a mix of flavors that’s somehow refreshing and savory — like a fish taco. It kind of tastes like lunch in a glass. But I mean that as a good thing. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Superbueno was recently named one of the best bars in North America.)

02

Lovers Of Today’s Fan Mail

This is a perfect example of a cocktail that’s improved by its setting. The Fan Mail — a mix of rum, lavender honey, lime, and champagne — is really a take on an Air Mail, made with Brut and honey syrup. The little coupes are a sweet pick-me-up, but the underground, tucked-away setting is what makes it special.

03

Superiority Burger’s Pimm’s Cup

Superiority Burger’s big-deal return is still going, and their vegetarian offerings are perfectly complemented by an exceedingly simple Pimm’s Cup. When done poorly, Pimm’s Cups can end up resembling bad sangria; at Superiority Burger, they’ve kept it to just lemon juice, Pimm’s, ginger, and seltzer. It’s bitter, sweet, gingery, and balances some of the savory plates on the menu like collard greens and broccoli rabe.

04

Bemelmans Bar’s Madeline’s Vesper

Daniela Spector

As the story goes, after having his heart broken by Vesper Lynd, James Bond ordered a drink that was part-gin, part-vermouth, and part-vodka: something that would have no taste but be strong enough to show him the error in his thinking. At Bemelmans, the swanky bar in the Carlyle Hotel, their revised version balances out those ratios more, using better vodkas and gins for a crisp, smooth martini that will 100% put you under the table by your third. Now, Madeline’s Vesper is the standard-issue martini on the menu. Sip it while talking to someone in a ball gown or tuxedo after they’ve come from an actual ball — that’s still very much a thing the people who frequent Bemelmans do.

05

The Wayland’s Garden Variety Margarita

This drink has been around for some time now, but that doesn’t make it any less good. In fact, it makes it a load-bearing cocktail: not quite a classic, but tested beyond a flash in the pan. It’s not that a green-juice margarita is so revolutionary, but it’s making its way onto this list because, besides tasting nice, Alphabet City is about to have even more of a boom with openings galore. And when the East Village crowd continues to move to Avenues B, C, and D, The Wayland is a good weigh station before deeper exploration.

06

The River’s Violetta

Courtesy of The River

Behind most bars, there are those bottles that never really get used. But at The River, the Chinatown bar frequented by the poets, writers, and literary cool kids of the downtown world, one cocktail is dusting off a lot of Chambord. The Violetta is vodka, lemon juice, crème de violetta, and the aforementioned black raspberry liqueur. When I order one, it feels like something from another era: sweet, a little bitter, and just left of center for this sort of crowd. More importantly, four people around me asked what I was drinking, so it starts conversations in a way that a martini won’t.

07

PubKey’s Spaghett

I won’t lie to you: PubKey wouldn’t make a list of the top 10 bars in the city. (But I don’t think they care about being on such a list anyway.) They do, however, make one very interesting cocktail I’m obsessed with. It’s a spaghett, or a Miller High Life (certified cool) with a dash of vermouth, and topped with Campari. It’s refreshing, a little bitter, and just Italian enough to order four. I suggest going to PubKey to learn the proper ratios first, but this is also easily duplicated for park-picnic days, too.

08

Bar Pisellino’s Negroni Classico

Bar Pisellino

Not everything needs to be so reinvented, and Bar Pisellino has found the right balance between simple drinks, Italian cafe aesthetics, and a breezy vibe. It’s a place to sit outside and people-watch while looking tasteful doing it. The reason this negroni is on the list is half because of the atmosphere it’s served in, and half because of the presentation: The thick rocks glass is perfectly weighted to create a moment each time it’s lifted up to your face. And for something as simple and balanced as a negroni, it’s all about the context.

09

Tigre’s Cigarette Martini

Eric Medsker

This was making the social media rounds a little while ago, but it’s certainly interesting enough to mention here. It’s a smoky martini in a crystalline glass, which sounds elegant — and it is — but ends up tasting like you made out with someone who’s just had a smoke. To some people reading this, that sounds really hot; to others, it’s exceedingly gross. [Editor’s note: NYLON managing editor Chelsea Peng is in the former camp.] I guess it’s who you picture the make-out session being with, but much like this martini, great risk could have great reward.

10

Bar Goto’s Amaro Highball

Bar Goto

I don’t necessarily subscribe to the low- or no-ABV movement, but I will, however, get behind cocktails that are lighter, refreshing, and highly drinkable for when you’re not feeling like you’ve got to go to bed or take your clothes off after three drinks. The amaro soda — or highball — is a great way to do that. It’s low-proof enough that you can have them throughout the night, but with just enough spirit that you won’t down six before the mains come. Bar Goto has an impressive collection of Japanese spirits, and the amaro they use in this cocktail is the perfect amount of mellow.