Cocktails are nice, because they often taste good, and they make you better at things like darts and karaoke. But sometimes you have two or three, then turn to someone you just met at a friend’s birthday party and say, “We should get drinks sometime!” Why? Because you’re human. The good news is, we’re also human - and we’ve written this guide to make all of our lives easier.
Here are 12 spots interesting enough to get you out of the house, but also easy enough to leave after a drink or two.
Congratulations, you had a negroni at a work function and then told someone that you don’t hang out often enough and should really do something about that. Now you need to a find a place where you can get some good drinks, eat something, and leave before you both run out of things to say. Try Vini E Fritti. It’s a wine and cocktail spot in Nomad with Italian small plates that will cheer you up about the fact that you aren’t currently changing into your sweatpants. Get the pork ribs and some squares of pizza dough topped with prosciutto.
There are a lot of bars on the Lower East Side where you can drink several vodka sodas and then dance to a song featuring Pitbull. Mr. Fong’s is not one of them. That’s not to say this is a boring place - it’s a just a little more low-key than most other spots in the neighborhood. It’s a little room near the Manhattan Bridge with a jukebox and some paintings on the walls, and it’s not too close to any subway stations, so there’s a decent chance whoever you’re meeting up with will cancel.
Ten times out of ten, Donna will impress people. So even though you probably don’t know a lot about the person you’re meeting up with, this place is a good bet. It’s a cocktail bar near the Williamsburg Bridge with high ceilings, white walls, and the hardwood floors of the prewar apartment you don’t own - plus excellent cocktails. There’s also a Happy Hour that goes until 8pm, and some tacos if you get hungry.
When you can’t remember if you suggested drinks or coffee, and you’re too embarrassed to ask, try Sunrise/Sunset. It’s a cross between a cafe and a wine bar, and it’s the ideal spot to meet up after work, drink a glass of something (iced tea, rosé, etc.), and maybe eat a grilled cheese. If you want to split a bottle of wine, there are even a bunch of good options in the $25 to $35 range.
In the course of making plans with this person, it may occur to you that you’d rather just hang out in your living room. So go for a compromise, and choose Black Mountain Wine House. It’s a tiny wine bar in Gowanus with some bookshelves and a functional fireplace, and it feels like a tiny cabin in the woods. There’s also a lot of wine that isn’t insanely expensive, and you can get some meat and cheese if you run out of conversation topics and need something to do with your mouth.
Katana Kitten is a great bar you’ve been meaning to check out - that’s what you can tell yourself as you tie your shoes and wonder what possessed you to make this plan in the first place. This two-story West Village spot is Japanese-inspired, and it serves some truly excellent cocktails (like the Panda Fizz, with pear and lava salt), as well as great bar food. Worst case scenario, you eat a good burger and say a bunch of things like “work is going well” and “I’m so glad we did this.”
If you’re getting a casual drink with someone you know in a professional capacity, and you need a place that’s equal parts generically nice and somewhat cool, go to Sel Rrose. You won’t be the only ones there having a conversation that’s only borderline personal. This attractive Nolita spot has an oyster Happy Hour from 4-7pm every day, which will hopefully provide a little extra motivation not to send that “I’m so sorry, I think I’m coming down with something and I wouldn’t want to get you sick” text you’ve had cued up all day.
Banter is a coffee shop by day and a restaurant by night, and it’s the sort of place where you can either sit and have a quick glass of wine or hang out for an hour and eat some burrata and roast chicken. This is an ideal option for a low-key hang in Greenwich Village, and you won’t need a reservation.
This little spot in Prospect Heights looks almost exactly like a living room that happens to have a bar in the corner, and it’s perfect for when you just need a relatively quiet place to drink with an almost-friend. It’s one of our favorite bars in the area, and there will be absolutely zero people here taking shots and singing along to Toto’s “Africa.”
The Upper East Side is full of sports bars and pubs where you can watch the Rangers play some other team that also participates in professional hockey - but you’re probably looking for something a little nicer. Bondurants is your best option. It’s still pretty casual, but there’s a great selection of beer and whiskey, and it’s essentially a very classy neighborhood pub. Sit at the little U-shaped bar and have a chicken sandwich while you talk.
You ran into a high school classmate a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out you both live in the same neighborhood, a fact which for some reason inspired you to declare, “We should totally get together!” Try this little Australian cafe on the Lower East Side. It opens at 8am every day, and the food is pretty good - especially the kimchi scrambled eggs that come piled on a piece of sourdough (add bacon). There’s even a Happy Hour that starts at 2pm, which means you can get your meet-up out of the way early and move on with your day.
We like Vanguard Wine Bar for several reasons. First off, you order at the bar, which means you never have to wait for a server. There are also plenty of stools in the long, dark room, so you won’t have to stand while you make painful small talk about your last vacation and the things you do at work every day. Meet up here, have a glass of wine, then make up a story about your dog being sick. The great thing about not knowing this person very well is that they’ll have no idea you don’t have a dog at all.