Executive summary by Darmansjah
Lights at the summit of the Empire State Building regularly change colour to mark key dates and events.
Retro cocktail lounges peddling a Depression-era vibe, stadium-size discos that vibrate to DJ beats and after-parties on the roof as sun rises; NYC’s nightlife is hugely varied and welcomes visitors just as much as locals in the know.
Best Retro Haunts
This corner bar in Williamsburg is a faux ‘70s recreation room, complete with free vintage arcade games, and a few big booths to spread out in. the kitsch cocktails are good (try a mint julep or pina colada), the atmosphere is easy and they do a mean line in bar food – the fried chicken and burger are legendary (366 Metropolitan Ave, at Havenmeyer St; 4pm-4am; cocktails from US$8, mains from US$8).
Speakeasies are all the rage, but no one does it as well as this West Village hideout. If it weren’t for the casual bouncer dressed in slacks and braces, you’d never guess that a bar lurked behind the brown door on this intersection. Inside, you’ll find a low-ceilinged basement bar that is a kickback to Prohibition days. Sip old-time cocktails to the live jazz sessions around the bar’s piano (20 7th Ave S at Leroy St; 7pm-3am; cocktails from US$13, no credit cards).
Amid NYC’s serious obsession with speakeasy-styled hangouts, Bathtub Gin in Chelsea manages to poke its head above the crowd with its super-secret front door, which doubles as a wall for an unassuming café. Inside, yes, there’s a bathtub, but also comfy seating, soft background beats and kind staff, which make it a great place to sling back bespoke cocktails (bathtubinnyc.com; 132 9th Ave; 6pm-1.30am; cocktails fro mUS$16.20).
Best forCocktailsWard III
This bar in Tribeca channels old school jauntiness, with elegant cocktails, a vintage vibe and gentlemanly house rules (No 2: ‘Don’t be creepy’). Reminisce over a Moroccan martini or the house cocktail, Ward III – bourbon, lime, strawberry, egg white, angostura bitters and nutmeg. Line your stomach with the good bar grub (ward3tribeca.com; 111 Reade St; 5pm-4am; cocktails from US$16.20).
An unmarked flight of stairs in Little Italy leads down to the red doorway of the Mulberry Project, a veritable cocktail laboratory. Lip-smacking beverages – the product of wisdom and whimsy in equal measure – are best enjoyed with a selection of small plates, such as Korean BBQ pork sliders or grilled squid. In summer, the courtyard out back fills with a scatter of tables, graffiti art and DJ beats (projectgroupnychttp://www.projectgroupnyc.com.com; 149 Mulberry St; 5pm-4am; cocktails from US$16.20, food from US$6.50).
This venue inside the former Hecia Iron Works Company combines bowling, microbrews, food and live music. In addition to the live bands that regularly tear up the stage, there are NFL game days, karaoke and DJ nights – Dj? Uestolve can be found at the turntables most Thursday nights (brooklynbowl.com; 61 Wythe Ave; 6pm-2am; show tickets from US$5.70, bowling lane from US$21).
The seeping rooftop venue at the trendy Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District, Le Bain sees a garish parade of party promoters doing their thing. Brace yourself for artificially turfed balconies, jet-black bathrooms, a giant, steamy Jacuzzi built into the dance floor, vending machines selling swimmer and an aspirational New York crowd (standardculture.com; 848 Washington St; often no cover charge, cocktails from US$16.20).
As megaclubs come and go, this staple (found near Chelsea’s eastern border with the Flatiron District) has become hotter than ever. It’s a multilevel club that balances a lounge and dance-club vibe, thanks to a mix of hang-out spaces, an unrivalled line-up of DJs, great special events and some of the most smokin’ bartenders around (splashbar.com; 50 W 17th St; 5pm-4am; cover charge from US$8, beer fro mUS$5.70).
New York Essentials
Shake it Up
New York’s heritage cocktails :
Legend has it the Manhaatan (whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters) originated at the Manhattan club at a 1874 party hosted by Jennie Jerome, Winston churchill’s mother.
That same year, Tom Collins (dry gin, sugar, lemon juice and club soda) was born. Its name stems from a hoax in which New Yorkers were told a certain Tom Collins had been sullying their good names – when they stormed into bars looking for the fictitious troublemaker they were served this cooling drink.
Today, NY’s cocktails scene is big on rediscovered recipes. Ingredients such as crème de violette an Old Tom gin are back in vogue, as are single-spirit establishments such as Midtown’s The rum House and the tequila-focused Mayahuei in the East Village.
Take cash out with you at night as many bars and clubs refuse credit cards, and in-house ATMs charge a fortune in fees. Expect to pay around US$2 for happy hour beers, US$6.50 for a regular draft, US$8 for a glass of wine and from US$13 for a cocktail.
Lonely Planet’s New York city (US$24.40) and Pocket New York city (US$13) are useful guides, with the latter ideal for short trips. Chapters are also available to download at lonelyplanet.com (US$4.90). visit urbandaddy.com, nymag.com and villagevoice.com for full nightlife listings traversing New York can feel like one big déjà vu thanks to its presence on screen – from Woody Allen’s annie Hall to When Harry Met Sally, Sex and the City and Spider-Man.
Three major airports serve NYC: JFK, 15 miles from Midtown in Queens, La Guardia, mostly for domestic flights, and Newark Liberty in New Jersey (though it’s just as close to Midtown as JFK). One-stop flights on Singapore Airlines, Air France and Emirates are available from Singapore (from US$5,803; singaporeair.com). (Most visitors need to get an ESTA before travelling to the States (esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta). Although you can explore Manhattan on foot, New York’s subway is a cheap and reliable way to get around (single from US$2.90; mta.info), while hailing a cab is a rite of passage (base fare Us$2.60).
Where to Stay
Sugar Hill Harlem Inn is a three-storey townhouse restored to its turn-of-the-century splendor, with suites named after African American jazz greats. Rooms feature antique-style furnishings and most have big bay windows (sugarhillharleminn.com; 460 W 141 St; form US$138).
Ace Hotel is a retro outfit in Midtown NYC. Rooms have tartan blankets and leather furniture; some have tumtables, Gibson guitars and Smeg fridges. The vibe is upbeat and fun, and the hotel has two great restaurants (acehotel.com 20 W 29th St; from US$244).