The 10 Best Places to Drink Whiskey in NYC, From Intimate Bars to Old-School Steakhouses
There’s no shortage of great places to enjoy a good dram in New York City. There are bars across the five boroughs dedicated entirely to showcasing deep and varied whiskey collections, as well as restaurants that just happen to have endless lists of scotch, bourbon, Japanese whisky and every other category. Some of these have been around for decades and are well-known whiskey haunts, others are newer to the city and are just making a name for themselves. If you live in NYC or are just visiting and are looking for a dram or two, it can be hard to navigate through the hundreds of options out there. So we’ve put together a list of ten of the best whiskey bars in New York City that are worth checking out.
You come to Keens for the steak, or perhaps the mutton chop that looks like something from The Flintstones, but if you’re not checking out the incredible whiskey list as well you’re missing out. This steakhouse has been around since 1885, and the pipes that line the ceiling are a relic of the era when you could keep your own there to smoke after a delicious meal of red meat and side dishes. The whiskey list has a little bit of everything, but it’s the single malt scotch collection that really stands out. There are more than 300 bottles to choose from, ranging from high-priced expressions like Highland Park 30 to a more affordable but rare vintage from Littlemill.
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The Flatiron Room
The Flatiron Room isn’t just a place to enjoy a few drams of fantastic whiskey. You can also join the Bottle Keep program—you purchase a bottle and keep it there to enjoy the next time you return. You can even issue Entitlement Cards to others with whom you’d like to share a bottle. Start with a cocktail like the Smoking Old Fashioned, then move onto the whiskey list. Sample a flight of world whiskey or perhaps bourbons you’ve never tried before, or dive into a single malt scotch collection including entries from every region and independent bottler releases. Or check out the “new and limited” menu for a style of whiskey you may not have ever tasted before.
Down & Out
This East Village bar is new on the scene, having just opened its doors in December. The inspiration behind Down & Out is said to be cocktail culture, old-school oyster bars and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. In addition to a range of cocktails with names that reference that book, there is an impressive whiskey list of more than 400 bottles. And, most intriguingly, there’s an antique collection that includes over 200 American, Canadian and scotch expressions, some of which date back to pre-Prohibition times—1911 Canadian Club, 1970s Ancient Age Bourbon and a 1990s Weller Antique “Gold Vein” bottling are a few currently on offer.
Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue
While a barbecue joint might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering the NYC bar scene, this Brooklyn smoked meat slinger deserves a mention. Beverage director Jono Moratis has put together an admirable collection of more than 70 American whiskeys, including bourbon from states including Kentucky, Tennessee, and New York as well as less conventional whiskeys from other parts of the country like Pennsylvania. There are a few whiskey flights on offer as well highlighting different distilleries like Michter’s, High West and George Dickel. And if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, try the barrel aged Vieux Carre which is aged for a few weeks in a small cask at the bar.
The Brandy Library
The Brandy Library has been around for nearly 20 years, so this beautifully low-lit Tribeca whiskey oasis has reached NYC institution status. And for good reason, because this is a menu you’ll have to take your time with. Single malt scotch is extremely well represented, with an alphabetical list that goes from region to region highlighting just about every distillery you can think of. The American whiskey section includes a few bourbons that are hard to find outside of Bardstown, Kentucky, and the Japanese list allows you to sample some of the best in the category like Hakushu 18. And if you can’t decide on a bottle, there are some tasting flights to try like the high-end “100 Years of Dalmore” ($1,200) served in Baccarat crystal flutes.
Nakaji is a small 10-seat sushi bar in Chinatown, with an omakase experience that will last about 2.5 hours. That’s more than enough time to enjoy some selections from the elevated whisky list, which features Japanese blends and single malts from familiar and unfamiliar brands and distilleries. If you’re looking for a cocktail, there are four different highballs to sample (including one made with the coveted Hakushu 12), and a variety of others that are based around Japanese spirits as their main ingredient. And be sure to check out some rare expressions on the back bar, like the Karuizawa Ruby Geishas (34 and 38-year-old whiskies), Karuizawa Carpe Koi Series and Suntory Noblesse Oblige from 1989.
This unassuming bar is located in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn, and is a destination any Manhattan-centric whiskey fan should venture out to (come on, your driver will be able to find it easily enough). The whiskey list is deep, varied and ranges from unicorn bottles to more affordable and dependable pours. Plus, there’s always something new being added to the shelves, including whiskey from around the world that you may have not had a chance to sample before. The bourbon is plentiful, of course, with everything from Pinhook to Barrell to Willett Family Estate. Or go for a dram of Taiwanese, Australian or Israeli single malt if you’re in the mood for something from farther afield. And give the cocktails, barrel-aged or otherwise, a try as well.
Copper & Oak
This intimate space is owned by the same team that runs The Brandy Library, so expect a similar vibe and plenty of whiskey and whisky from around the globe. It’s smaller than its sibling bar, but the walls lining this gold and amber-lit room are full of single malts, bourbon, Japanese whisky and more. There are flights to choose from here as well, focusing on different regions. Choose a bottle from one of the upper shelves, and watch as the bartender scrambles up a ladder to grab it. Copper & Oak would be a good date spot for a pair of whiskey-loving lovers.
The Dead Rabbit
If you’re looking for Irish whiskey, there’s no better bar to head to than The Dead Rabbit on the southern tip of Manhattan. In fact, it’s one of the best bars overall, with a range of cocktails and food that will satisfy anyone. But the Irish whiskey selection here is more than admirable, with everything from reliable blends to rarified single malts like Bushmills 29, single pot stills like Redbreast 27 and the much vaunted Midleton Very Rare.
The Richardson is another Brooklyn bar located in the Greenpoint neighborhood. The focus is on cocktails and natural wine, with a whiskey list of bottles that will make any serious aficionado take notice. There are a few highlights to peruse here, like the single barrel collection of Russell’s Reserve and Elmer T. Lee that were selected and bottled exclusively for The Richardson (and reasonable priced, it should be noted). If you’re a Pappy Van fan, you can find the entirely lineup from 10 to 23 years old. Finally, the “Far & Few Between” menu has select expressions from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Wild Turkey Master’s Keep and even an older bottling of High West’s A Midwinter Nights Dram.
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