One Flight Up at Pouring Ribbons ($14)
From the all-star bar team of Toby Maloney, Joaquín Simó (Death & Company, Tales of the Cocktail 2012 Bartender of the Year), Troy Sidle (The Violet Hour), and Jason Cott, Pouring Ribbons is a formidable cocktail bar that still wants to be approachable, their drinks ranging from the colorful and bright to the dark, stirred, and brooding. The One Flight Up is one of the former, a riff on a pisco sour, with Campari and soda mingling in the bottom, and a faint whiff of orange flower water. Its flavors shift constantly as you sip, the Campari bleeding up through the base, as separate or as stirred-together as you choose to play it.
Cold Buttered Rum at Booker & Dax ($14)
Trust Dave Arnold and his team of creatively minded cocktail engineers to give this beloved winter warmer a decidedly cool makeover. With a thick, foamy cap that just won’t quit (seriously, baristas would be jealous), the cocktail drinks like some sort of boozy lemon meringue pie. Heavy though it may sound, the drink is remarkably fresh—the tart acidity of the lemon cutting the richness of the dark rum and creamy vanilla-chai notes.
Cape Town Cup at The Beagle ($13)
There’s something to be said for enjoying a bright, juicy cocktail in the dead of winter. Let The Beagle’s Cape Town Cup be that drink. A combination of Bual Madeira, Byrrh Quinquina, sparkling wine, orgeat syrup, and Darjeeling tea, the mixture is fruity and sweet without approaching cloying. There’s a touch of prickly effervescent texture there too, and it's devastatingly easy to drink. (If you’d rather something on the darker side, opt for the Four to the Flor, a Scotch-based sipper mixed with honey and salty-savory fino sherry.)
Shark at PDT ($15)
There’s something irresistible about the tacky kitsch of a tiki cocktail—especially when it’s being served in one of the country’s most celebrated temples of mixology. The Shark makes for an odd-sounding mixture—butter-infused silver rum, Wray and Nephew overproof rum, Frangelico, blue curaçao, lemon and pineapple juices, cream, and Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters—but the combination works seamlessly. Served over crushed ice, the frothy blue-green concoction is a smartly balanced match of creamy and tart.
Slight Detour at Mayahuel ($14)
Mezcal is more or less a must when you visit this sexy spirits den. Here, it stars in a boozy trio with reposado tequila and an intensely fiery jalapeño-infused tequila. Tempered only slightly with agave nectar and xocolatl mole bitters, it has that kind of in-your-face heat that somehow only makes you want to drink it faster.
The John Lee Hooker at Summit Bar ($12)
While it would be difficult to go wrong with any of the spirited options here, the John Lee Hooker comes highly recommended. Smoky Peet Monster Scotch and caramel-like Buffalo Trace Bourbon make perfect partners in crime—a strong base for the zesty mix of lemon juice, aromatic orange and sasparilla bitters, and punchy Hop Stoopid beer.
Casualty at Amor y Amargo ($12)
Considering the joint is devoted to bitters, this variation on that classic bitter cocktail—the Negroni—seems an appropriate choice. Contributed to the menu by Chris Elford, this combination of blended Scotch, Montenegro Amaro, Byrrh Quinquina, and Bittermens xocolatl mole bitters is smooth and fragrant with a bite of spice and citrus.
Neverland Ranch at Evelyn Drinkery ($11)
One of a handful of phosphate based drinks on the cocktail menu at Evelyn Drinkery on Avenue C, the Neverland Ranch consists of Bombay Sapphire gin, Marie Brizard White Creme de Cacao, a house-made beet shrub, orange, lemon, and phosphate. You taste the shrub and citrus first, with a sharp carbonation, then the creme de cacao hits you at the end, turning the drink into something reminiscent of a raspberry truffle, though there's no raspberry here. The tart shrub and juice keeps the drink in balance.
A huge selling point for The Evelyn is the something-for-everyone vibe; there are thoughtful cocktails, yes, but also a good looking wine list and beer on tap, and a casual atmosphere that won't make you hesitate to go non-cocktail if you prefer.
Jack With One Eye at Gin Palace ($11)
At least here your choice of spirit should come easily. In this creation, gin is offered as a double-act in combination with housemade pumpkin syrup, a splash of absinthe, and bitters. Served over a gorgeous block of ice, the resulting cocktail is wonderfully aromatic—piney-fresh with just the slightest hint of sweetness to balance it out.
Harry Lime at The Third Man ($12)
As a variation on a Last Word, the Harry Lime is lovely—unabashedly smoky, and deliciously tart from the combination of El Buho mezcal, Green Chartreuse, fresh lime, and maraschino. But don't disregard the charm of this drink's supporting star: a shot of sparkling wine. Add a little at the beginning to lighten the mood, slam it back at the end, float it on top of the electric-green elixir, sip it as you go—how you choose to attack it is player’s choice. Fortunately for you it’s a win-win game.