The greatest movie scene featuring a New York bar opens with the debonair Nick Charles, played by William Powell, demonstrating the different rhythms required to shake the perfect cocktail.
The movie is ‘The Thin Man,’ the scene a New York speakeasy in the 1920s.
When his wife Nora, the delectable Myrna Loy, enters led by their dog, Asta, she says, “He’s dragged me into every gin mill on the block.” Then she orders five martinis to catch up with her husband.
People really knew how to drink back then, at least in the movies—their ‘gin mill’ has 30-foot ceilings and acres of furled curtains.
Still, New York boasts the greatest selection of bars in the world, so let us follow in the footsteps of Nick and Nora and listen to the rhythm of the cocktail shaker in a few of my favorite spots.
Flute Midtown positively simmers with the sweet air of seduction.
This former speakeasy boasts a low ceiling, dim lighting, Oriental carpets, plus velvet loveseats set so deeply into recessed booths they positively invite public displays of affection.
Oh, and don’t forget the 25 champagnes by the glass.
At 205 W. 54th St. Information: +1-212.265.5169; http://flutebar.com/en/
When you pour 150 different beers from around the world, 24 of them on tap, including some rare Belgian and English offerings, you don’t need to provide much in the way of amenities.
And The Half Pint gets by very nicely with bare wood floors and scrubbed pine tables, thankfully dispensing with the ersatz stein-and-bratwurst affectations of certain Teutonic bierkellers. You know the ones I mean.
At 76 W. 3rd St. at Thompson. Information: +1-212-260-1088; http://www.thehalfpint.com.
High Culture Bar
With Central Park and the classic New York skyline all around you, nothing beats the bar sitting atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art for sheer gorgeousness.
The view’s the thing, and more than makes up for cocktails in plastic glasses. Catch the Monets and mummies on the way up, and then savor a Met Martini from your perch above it all.
Open until the end of October, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82 St. Information: +1-212-535-7710; http://www.metmuseum.org.
WASPs and Wingtips
At Bemelmans Bar martinis are effectively two-for-one, making this venerable Upper East Side institution greatly beloved by the Brooks Brothers set.
As you sip on your perfect Thin Man concoction, the second half waits in a mini-carafe nestled in crushed ice. Your next see-through is ready and waiting, chilled and undiluted, just when you’re ready for it.
Such thoughtfulness does not go unappreciated by the neighborhood’s WASP regulars.
In the Carlyle Hotel, 35 E. 76th St. Information: +1-212- 744-1600; http://www.thecarlyle.com.
Despite the name, Death & Company has a mellow, friendly buzz. There’s no trace of the pretentious posturing that pervades so many bars staffed by mixologists rather than bartenders.
This cozy Lower East Side boite specializes in original cocktails — the Flor de Jerez is my favorite—served in silly little bowl-shaped glasses that would make Nick and Nora feel right at home.
At 433 E. 6th St. between 1st Ave. and Ave. A. Information: +1-212-388-0882; http://deathandcompany.com.
Admittedly, the competition’s not very stiff given New York’s tough smoking regulations, but Club Macanudo is the best of the few surviving cigar-friendly joints in the city.
It’s leathery and masculine, with a selection of 250 cigars and polished service, and as a bonus the place also boasts a “state-of-the-art ventilation system.”
At 26 E. 63rd St. between Park and Madison avenues. Information: +1-212-752-8200; http://www.clubmacanudo.com.
Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe offers the city’s best selection of high-end vintages by the glass.
Recent highlights included a Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2005, a Ramey Chardonnay 2008 and a Brunello Valdicava 2006.
There’s plenty of eminently potable vino in the $9-$14 range, and the food is outstanding too, especially for lunch or a light supper.
At 1 Rockefeller Plaza, 49th St. between 5th & 6th avenues. Information: +1-212-262-7700; http://morrellwinebar.com.
Post-Work Hidden Gem
With its dim lights, long communal tables and superb cocktails, the Bar Downstairs at the Andaz Hotel stands out from the hospitality crowd.
Knowledgeable, friendly bartenders specialize in shaking and stirring to creative perfection, with no big ego displays.
It may be in a Hyatt, but this is the most un-hotel-bar- like hotel bar I have ever had the pleasure of drinking in.
At 485 5th Ave. at 41st St. Information: +1-212-601-1234; http://newyork.5thavenue.andaz.hyatt.com.
Famed in the 1940s as a glitterati hangout, where Tennessee Williams held court and Tallulah Bankhead held men in the palm of her hand, the Monkey Bar had faded to just another dreary midtown watering hole.
A recent makeover has restored the famed Ed Sorel mural — on one wall a youthful Horowitz plays the piano next to a fur- coated Babe Ruth as monkey paparazzi record it all.
The buzzy power-scene excitement is also back.
At 60 East 54th St. Information: +1-212-288-1010; http://monkeybarnewyork.com.