Top 10 NYC Cocktail Bars to Open in 2011: Reader’s Choice!

Photo by John Walder.

Since starting this blog more than two years ago, I have made an end-of-year list of the top 10 cocktail bars to open in NYC each year, recognizing the best new additions to our drinking scene. See 2010’s picks here and 2009’s picks here. Since I have abstained from drinking alcohol for most of this year (yes, if you haven’t heard by now, I’m pregnant and due in January), I am looking to you, dear readers, to help me compile the 2011 list. This year is especially difficult since so many fantastic bars (and restaurants with stellar bar programs) have opened. I’m hoping you can help me narrow down the favorites! Voting will end December 15.

Dizzy Days Ahead: Trendcasting 2011

Tuthilltown's Hudson Whiskey line went global in 2010. Which microdistiller will be next?

Another year, another look into the future of the liquiverse. A good deal of my predictions for cocktail culture in 2010 were spot-on (I had no idea NYC would be getting three high-profile tiki bars when I wrote that post), so I’m feeling a little pressure this year, like I’m some kind of oracle. See Spice & Ice author Kara Newman’s projected trends here, NY Barfly’s crystal ball-gazing hereAbout.com’s list of cocktail trends from around the world, and read about predictions for a mild increase in bar sales for 2011 here. Here’s what I’m expecting from the NYC scene and beyond:

  1. Micro goes macro: In 2010, we saw Tuthilltown Distillery”s Hudson Whiskey line go worldwide with acquisition, marketing and distribution by the UK-based William Grant & Sons. The sale was considered a giant leap for the craft distilling movement as larger brands took notice. I’m guessing we’ll continue to see small batch spirits take on more of the market this year.
  2. Bartender-owned bars: Word on the street is a number of high-profile bartenders are saving their pennies to open the bars of their dreams this year. In late 2010,  The Drink, an all-punch nautical-themed bar in Williamsburg, was opened by a team including veteran bartender Frank Cisneros of Dram. Expect to see more of these rec-room-style bars serving crafty drinks–or, bartender’s bars, if you will.
  3. Cocktails on tap: We’ve seen wine on draft, and as previously mentioned, mixologists are readying for alcohol-infused libations from the soda gun. El Cobre on Avenue A is serving Dark & Stormies on tap with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, lime and CO2. In San Francisco, Fernet (which flows like water there) is on tap at a couple of bars. It’s only a matter of time before NYC gets fizzy with this trend.
  4. The punch bowl floweth: This is already old news in NYC, but I’m excited to see how other cities adopt this trend. I’m also hoping we see a wider variety of punch bowl sets on store shelves. However, I’m not too keen on the idea of drinking out of giant flamingo fountains–that just sounds unsanitary.
  5. Wood works: Whether barrel-aged cocktails are embraced beyond drink nerds or not, one thing is for sure–experimentation with various cooperage is a continuing trend. In 2010, for instance, we saw Excellia Tequila finished in Cognac casks and Maker’s 46, featuring original Maker’s Mark finished in barrels with staves of seared French Oak.
  6. Live entertainment: Expanding on 2010’s love affair with piano bars, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cocktail bars adding vintage music, vaudeville and other shenanigans to the menu, with customers sporting more sophisticated attire to match.
  7. Anyone can be a mixologist: As educational programs teaching the craft of cocktail-making and organizations such as the USBG continue to go mainstream, more and more amateurs are finding the confidence to make complicated drinks. Some “bar-tweenies” could use more training. Of course, just like anything else, only the strong will survive–but the opportunity to get schooled is there.