The Upper West Side is not necessarily a far and distant land as many New Yorkers deem it to be. In fact, there are big pluses to this mystical neighborhood. For one, tourists have no idea it exists. If they aren’t visiting the Beacon Theatre or Central Park chances are they’ve never wandered the neighborhoods beautiful brownstone streets.
To make it really simple, if you are looking to get drinks there are pretty good strips of bars and restaurants from 79th to 85th Streets on Columbus and Amsterdam. But it’s cold outside and since you are already getting out of your comfort zone by coming this far north, let’s get specific and show you the good stuff. Pick your poison from the diverse list below to see the top five drinking spots on the Upper West Side from North to South to suit any mood.
Where to Drink on the Upper West Side of NYC
This may not be what you would expect to start with, but it’s somewhat of a hidden gem. If you like Jazz and want to enjoy it in an unpretentious setting this place will tickle your pickle. Its stoic bartenders will be serving martinis and wine to a very eclectic clientele at the horseshoe shaped bar with scattered tables surrounding it. The strange settings are part of the spectacle, but the surprisingly good live Jazz being emitted from the back right part of the bar is the real draw. I’ve seen everything from tap dancers to drum masters at this spot and have never been disappointed. PS: There’s Greek food. 2485 Broadway, 212-769-6969, www.cleopatrasneedleny.com
The best bar in the upper west side period. It’s a rock bar that’s not trashy and the veteran bartenders whip up seasonal cocktails as well as make the classics. A new cocktail menu is launching mid-January and will potentially feature ingredients such as Bay Leaf infused simple syrup. In addition to being a great place to frequent, there’s a jukebox, board games, and a menu serving well-prepared bar food. There is a whiskey selection as well and the staff dress code is a rock & roll t-shirt with jeans, which pretty much sums it up. 511 Amsterdam Ave, 212-877-0961, www.e-barnyc.com
This brand new spot brought to you by the Jacob’s Pickle ownership is the classier choice on this list. Bartenders adorn ties and aprons and they have a deep, thought out, cocktail menu with originals as well as twists on classics like the Julep. This space has a high level of NYChic with floating light bulbs a fancier feel. Like Jacob’s Pickle this venue is as much restaurant (they are all about the French Dip) as it is a bar and offers a lot of seating. Yes, you can get pickles, but please don’t order them on your inevitable Tinder date here in this neighborhood. 2315 Broadway, 212-496-9100
The patient and well-trained staff at Joe’s serve up a plethora of cocktails with names like Flash Gordon’s Breakfast which is a personal favorite. I say, patient because E’s closes at 2 am and there is the occasional influx on the weekends towards the latter part of the evening. A big step above any regular dive bar, but without feeling douchey, Joe’s is a good bet if you’re looking for a place that has some breathing room and good drinks. Joe’s is “all about classic American 70’s retro living.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but this is a great bar. 480 Amsterdam Ave., 646-918-6510, www.joesbarnyc.com
Even if you don’t like beer, you will find something that pleasantly pet’s your palate at Beer Shop. With a wide and heavily curated selection of beer and some cider flavors abound. Don’t be scared by the high level of specialty, the knowledgeable and friendly staff will guide you to something that suits you. The industrial style space consists primarily of one big table, beer fridges, hanging lights, and a black electric guitar on the wall. They have a selection of beers on tap, or you can make a purchase from one of the fridges and have it to stay or to go. 422 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-2337, www.beershopnyc.com
Manhattan Cricket Club
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a member of this club to get in, but you should look somewhat decent or you won’t be allowed inside. The entrance to this Upper West Side speakeasy is right inside Burke & Wills go to the back and open the green leather door. You’ll be lead upstairs to a fancy little space with luxurious seats and bespoke cocktails. Go on Mondays for live jazz. Cocktails are pricey ($12-16) but it’s just too fun to miss. 226 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024