New York City is home to some of the best bars in the world, and when it comes to the classic Martini, the city has no shortage of great options. Whether you prefer your Martini shaken or stirred, with gin or vodka, or with a twist or an olive (or in my case, a pickled onion!), there is a bar in NYC that can make it just to your liking. Here are some of the best Martini bars that I’ve found in New York City.
The Martini is an iconic cocktail that is synonymous with elegance, sophistication, and class. It is a drink that has been enjoyed since its inception and has remained a favorite in bars and restaurants around the world. The history of the Martini is a fascinating tale that spans more than 150 years. The Martini has a simple recipe: gin or vodka and dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. But its origins are somewhat murky. There are several stories about how the Martini came to be, and no one knows for sure which one is true.
One popular theory is that the Martini was created in the late 1800s at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. The story goes that a miner who had just struck it rich walked into the bar and ordered a drink to celebrate. The bartender mixed gin with vermouth and added a lemon twist, and the Martini was born. Another theory suggests that the Martini was created in New York City in the late 1800s or early 1900s. A bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia was said to have mixed gin and vermouth for a customer and named the drink after himself. Yet another theory claims that the Martini was created in the late 1800s by a bartender named Julio Richelieu at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. The story goes that a customer named John D. Rockefeller ordered a drink, but Richelieu was out of the customer’s favorite gin. Instead, he mixed dry vermouth with another brand of gin and added an olive as a garnish. Rockefeller loved the drink and told Richelieu to name it after him.
Regardless of which theory is true, the Martini quickly became a popular drink among the upper class and was a staple at high-end bars and restaurants. During Prohibition in the 1920s, the Martini became even more popular because it was easy to make with readily available ingredients. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Martini underwent a transformation. Bartenders began experimenting with different garnishes and adding other ingredients to the mix, such as bitters, fruit juices, and liqueurs. The classic Martini, which had been made with gin and dry vermouth, was now being made with vodka and a variety of other ingredients. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Martini became a symbol of the “Mad Men” era. The TV show of the same name featured characters drinking Martinis during business meetings and after work. This helped cement the Martini’s reputation as a sophisticated and stylish drink.
Today, the Martini remains a popular cocktail and is enjoyed by people all over the world. It has been immortalized in movies, literature, and pop culture, and its timeless appeal shows no signs of fading. Whether you prefer your Martini shaken or stirred, with gin or vodka, or with an olive or a twist, one thing is for sure: the Martini is a classic cocktail that will never go out of style.
Best NYC martini bars:
- *Temple Bar (Noho) – Retro, wood-paneled bar offering stellar martinis and cocktails. This is my favorite and go-to martini because they’re excellent and cold and the atmosphere is always dimly lit and swanky!
- Cafe Cluny (West Village) – If Nancy Meyers was enjoying a martini, this is where she’d be. This bright neighborhood bistro offers Franco-American cuisine in a classy yet casual atmosphere.
- *Bar Pisellino (West Village) – All-day Italian venue for espresso & aperitif, with sidewalk seating & standing room at the bar. This is one of my favorite afternoon martini spots with its corner patio! We also love when the martini comes with a sidecar on ice!
- *Dante (West Village) – Legendary circa-1915 Italian cafe serving small plates & delicious cocktails in an updated historic setting. Their dirty martini has an olive oil floater that adds such a subtle but complex layer of flavor! They also have a mini-martini, if you’re not feeling like having a whole one to yourself! They have “Martini Hour” featuring $10 martinis from 3-5 pm every day!
- King Cole Bar (Midtown) – In the St. Regis New York is this stately, historic hotel bar serving classic cocktails beneath a famed Maxfield Parrish mural.
- The Campbell (Midtown) – This historic bar is located inside Grand Central Terminal and was once the private office of a wealthy financier named John W. Campbell. The bar has been beautifully restored and features original wood-paneled walls, a stunning ceiling, and a fireplace. The bartenders here are experts at making classic cocktails, including a fantastic Martini.
- The Bar Room at The Modern (Midtown) – This upscale bar is located inside the Museum of Modern Art and offers stunning views of the museum’s sculpture garden. The bar serves classic cocktails with a modern twist, and the Martini is no exception. The bartenders here are masters at creating the perfect Martini, and they can make it just the way you like it.
- *Bemelmans Bar (Upper East Side) – The Carlyle Hotel’s sophisticated, upscale piano bar, adorned with Ludwig Bemelmans’ famed murals is the perfect place to be sipping a martini!
- Minetta Tavern (West Village) – Celeb-magnet hot-ticket tavern with upper-end French bistro fare & reimagined vintage decor. Martinis pair nicely with french fries here!
- Saint Theos (West Village) – Upmarket restaurant with retro-style decor offering Italian-inspired cuisine, plus cocktails.
- *The 9s (Noho) – Romantic, old-school piano lounge with cheetah rug, fancy bites like caviar, and exquisite cocktails and martinis!
- *Polo Bar (Midtown) – This exclusive bar is located in the heart of Midtown and is owned by fashion designer Ralph Lauren. The bar is designed to look like a classic New York City club and serves classic cocktails, including a delicious Martini made with your choice of gin or vodka and vermouth. Must have a reservation to dine to enjoy the bar here!
- American Bar (West Village) – A menu of classic American bistro dishes & cocktails in a traditional dining room, fit for groups. They are serving great martinis at this joint!
- Balthazar (Soho) – Iconic French brasserie with steak frites, brunch & pastries in a classy space with red banquettes.
- Lucien (East Village) – Longtime East Village eatery showcasing classic French bistro cooking in a Parisian-style room. Careful carrying your martini around in this establishment as it’s a tight one!
- Jolene (Noho) – Revamped neighborhood hangout serving seafood & vegetable-focused plates in a bright, cozy space. Their “Dirty Jolene” is infused with olive oil for a smooth and salty finish!
- The lobby Bar at the Chelsea Hotel Bar (Chelsea) – A classic European-style Lobby Bar with a focus on cocktails and small plates. They’re serving up a whole section of inspired martinis – including 007’s famous order from The Duke in London!
- Wall Street Hotel Bar (Financial District) – Their all-day lobby lounge and bar is the perfect spot for a casual coffee, after-hours cocktail, light bite to eat, or calming destination when trying to wind down!
- Harry’s (Financial District) – Harry’s is a classic steakhouse and cocktail bar with a modern twist! Just a block from Wall Street, this swanky spot is perfect for an after-work martini or steak dinner!
- The Django (Tribeca) – Cavelike, Paris-inspired jazz venue & cocktail bar under the Roxy Hotel!
- Deux Chat (Williamsburg) – this Brooklyn neighborhood bar is serving perfect martinis and French fare including seafood towers!
- *Monkey Bar (Upper East Side) – Retro murals & swanky furnishings fill this exclusive American eatery with a powerful clientele.
- Tiny’s (Tribeca) – Like it’s name, this spot it tiny. It’s housed in the cutest pink historical 1810 bi-level townhouse and it showcases new American fare in a dimly lit, rustic setting. The “Bar Upstairs” is a favorite if you and your date just want to stop in for cocktails!
- Saint Tuesday (Tribeca) – Craft cocktails & diverse nightly live music in a subterranean, industrial-chic speakeasy.
- Bowery Hotel Bar (Lower East Side) – In this dimly lit and comfortable lobby, expert bartenders serve seasonal cocktails and an extensive wine list in The Bowery Lobby
New York City has no shortage of great Martini bars. Whether you’re looking for a classic Martini or a modern twist on this iconic cocktail, you’re sure to find a bar in NYC that can make it to your liking. So, grab a friend, head to one of these great bars, and enjoy a classic Martini in the city that never sleeps.