While the vibe at Williamsburg's Huckleberry Bar may be laid back for a cocktail lounge, the cocktails are made with finesse and attention to detail. Living up to their motto, "fancy without the fussy", the casual service is welcome on a hot late-summer evening. The backyard (with smoking available if you like such things) features a smattering of wooden booths and mismatched aluminum tables where guests can enjoy ambitious cocktails, such as the Oaxacan Nutcracker made with mezcal, apricot liquor, and saline solution, or neighborhood favorites such as the God Save the Queen made with Brooklyn Gin, Sorel Hibiscus Liqueur, Cocchi Americano and fresh lemon.
Gallow Green at the McKittrick Hotel
Book a reservation online, head to the west side, and walk right past the awkwardly meandering theater-goers awaiting their fates at Sleep No More. Use the second door for the private elevator to Gallow Green, a rooftop garden atop the McKittrick Hotel. In addition to the spectacular westside view, Gallow Green offers an experience we can best describe as "Sleep No More...Light." While the space is, for the most part, a casual cocktail lounge where guests chatter away over signature cocktails, punch bowls and the occasional small plate, our visit also included a funerary brass band, a firepit, and a perplexed pair of lovers accompanied by their watchful daughter. Like all things Sleep No More, it's best to reserve the details and let you experience it on your own.
There are two main focuses to the drinks at Gallow Green. Guests can select from a quartet of Macbeth-themed signature drinks or a trio of punches; all of which were designed by David Wondrich. Our favorite was the Third Degree, a stiff, early 20th century cocktail heavy on the dry vermouth that will find favor with martini drinkers and absinthe lovers alike. For something a little more seasonal, we recommend the Out Damn Spot (pictured); a refreshing blend of whisky, ginger beer, lemon juice and bitters.
An upscale take on patio dining, with views overlooking Long Island City or the Kips Bay garden plaza, there is no bad seat to be had on the Terrace at Riverpark. Riverpark also has one of the best swank-to-dollar ratio of all the venues we visited, and we would gladly return for their $5 beers and $12 cocktails.
The drink menu features a half dozen house cocktails incorporating herbs and peppers farmed half a block away at the restaurant's Riverpark Farm. From hyssop to Fresno chilies, these are farm-to-table cocktails with a distinct Manhattan character. There's a full dining menu, but you can keep it simple with Riverpark's creative bar snacks ranging from spiced potato chips to oyster tacos. We enjoyed all the cocktails that we tried but were most excited by The Goblin, an herbaceous cooler made with honeydew and anise hyssop from their garden, served with a bit of gin, Green Chartreuse, and a splash of Prosecco for summer defined in a glass.
While dollar oysters at happy hour are a big draw at Maison Premiere, the abundance of potted plants and wrought iron tables in the backyard set the stage for their Big Easy-inspired cocktails. All the classics, from one of the best Hurricanes in the North to a modernized, cilantro-infused St. Regis Fizz, are available along with an impressive list of over two dozen absinthes by the drip.
Raines Law Room
The intimate, concrete patio behind Raines Law Room is a refreshing juxtaposition to the lounge's dark, leather interior. Here, we trade our plush armchairs for metal tables and concrete benches in a setting that lends itself to long, lively summer nights. The only real drawback we found was having to repeatedly walk inside to order our drinks and then wait for it to arrive on the patio via the waitstaff.
As far as backyard cocktails go, however, you will not find a better one than at Raines. The Mariposa Fizz is a refreshing blend of pisco and lemon, frothy with eggwhite and spiced with nutmeg. Also try the Garden Paloma, whose tequila and grapefruit practically scream sundown. Make a reservation and aim to visit Raines early in the week.