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Amy Douglas' Favorite Whisky Bars, Cocktails & Drinks In New York City

Explore the best whisky in New York City with Amy Douglas who breaks down her favorite whisky cocktails, bars and places to drink it straight up.
Hard Feelings Amy Douglas & Joe Goddard

Amy Douglas & Joe Goddard

Finding a place to drink like New York City is about as easy as finding a slice of pizza. It is everywhere from overpriced bro bars to bodegas, cocktail bars and dives. But finding a place that makes great cocktails or serves up some very top of the line whisky requires a little more endeavor. Good things we have someone to guide us to some great whisky in New York.

Amy Douglas is a singer, songwriter and musician who may be best known as a vocalist for a variety of house and disco tracks over the years with the likes of Soul Clap, Horse Meat Disco, channeling her love for hard rock, funk and jazz into those tracks. She has teamed up with Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, the god of remixes, to form a new duo, Hard Feelings, which has released its new album on Friday. They combine disco with house for a flourish of the good life and good times. Get your copy of the project here.

Now with the good times rolling, Douglas takes us on a tour of the best whisky, whisky cocktails and whisky bars in New York City. Mondays suck, so let the good times roll and treat yourself with some good whisky.

Intro:

It goes without saying that in New York City; we've got the best of the best of the best of the best places to drink...anything. There are also a lot of great places to get ripped off and misled by hype. The great thing these days for me personally is watching people who threw their hats into the whiskey games roughly a decade ago, make the real sizzle now, and we have producers and distilleries here in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. My choices are stocked and stacked with the best drinks and drams whether they are in dimes or dives, so you won't have to win the Powerball or mortgage your house to enjoy yourself there. Unless, you want to of course.

I should also mention that to suggest I've really had the best is always a terrible bet to take here. Soon as this goes up? I may as well have sealed my fate, but sure enough, everyone's going to throw in their two cents, and frankly? I love that! I need more whiskey experiences, always, so no shame in that game ever.

My top whiskey based cocktails (at present) in New York City:

1. The "Giant Steps" At Angels Share:

If there was one trend I was only ever so-so on with the cocktail game it was "washed" bourbons or whiskies. Usually you'd see bacon and/or pork belly washed whiskies, and I never was completely sold on it. I hated the finish it gave a lot of cocktails, I hated how it masked the taste of the spirit and the high fat content of the cocktail ensured that my cold drink wouldn't stay that way long. However, this beauty is a perfect study in "umami" (another one of those words you side eye at), except, well, it is. It's just enough of everything, and the butter wash as opposed to other washed bourbon cocktails I've had is really decadent and special.

2. The "Paper Plane" Cocktail At Attoboy

There should be no surprise to see the current and always winning offering from the team of Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy here. I am almost ashamed to tell you just how much time I spent at their landmark watering hole Milk and Honey which was; IMO the MECCA of the craft cocktail movement. 

Since 2013, Attoboy has been every bit the place, but without all the dross and velvet rope culture that took over, well...everything! I'm all for elevated, so long as it's democratic, and you just want the ability to "just a fucking drink, man." Attoboy has no menu, but Ross is responsible for two of the best whiskey drinks ever, The Penicillin and The Paper Plane. I picked the latter, cause it's just that perfect blend for anytime, and is a prime example of a bourbon bitters cocktail that isn't a Sazerac or a Manhattan, and it's perfectly balanced and amazing.

3. The "S'mores Old Fashioned" At Clover Club:

I'll wax poetic about Clover Club soon to come in this piece but for now? Considering that Clover Club does, just about the best whiskey focused cocktails, ever? This has to be like liquid sex, and it is, despite reading almost like a horribly termed "girl drink," but this incredibly nuanced Graham Cracker infused Westward Whiskey has cacao-infused Copalli Rum, a Vanilla Demerera Rum and Toasted Marshmallows? This drink is the most sophisticated deconstructed S'mores-plated dessert in a glass.

4. The "Too Old To Die Young" At Jupiter Disco:

Jupiter Disco isn't a place you think of to go have a great whiskey cocktail, despite the fact that it is one of my favorite places on Earth let alone NYC. It's always hidden gems time at their bar, their cocktail program sets them apart from almost any other place in Bushwick. This cauldron of Peanut Butter Infused Bourbon and Rum, Cocchi Torino Vermouth, Creme De Cacao and Yellow Chartreuse (are you keeling over yet?) should be just wrong; cloyingly sweet, could even be a hot mess, but instead it's like the smoothest, most well balanced PB+J. Drink eight and hit the floor. Preferably when Duane Harriott is behind the decks.

5. The "Pan Am Old Fashioned" At Strangeways:

Strangeways has become a real favorite of mine for so many reasons, one being that when the world was closed, they created a beautiful bucolic paradise where you'd eat outside, no matter what. It was the ultimate Fuck You Covid creation and the food is sublime there, but the cocktails, are lethal and really interesting. The truth is, just when I thought I was over Old Fashions (it can happen!!!), I had one of these with their backyard burger and proceeded to say I wasn't going home, I was moving in, took off my shoes, etc. 

They upped ante with the addition of El Dorado 8 Year Rum and wonderful Tiki Bitters, so you get this sort of Tropical Tinge to a drink that is definitely not what you think of when you think "toes in the sand" drinks. This is the old fashioned for being in a hammock with a breeze and a sunset, and....hate to say it? A fine smoke. In my case? A lovely Hybrid like Blue Dream.

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6. The "Deacon Blues"- At Dear Irving:

Now, if you know anything bout me (and my partner Tim Wagner) Steely Dan is religion to me, so I'd have likely ordered this based on the name alone. It just so happens to be the most delicious riff on an Old Fashioned, and it's really peppery, smoky; it's just sweet enough, kind of like the Becker/Fagen creation. Perfect winter cocktail.

7. Special Mention - The Irish Coffee At The Dead Rabbit

The Dead Rabbit is one of the best whisky bars in NYC with a focus is on Irish Whiskies and you will not, outside of San Francisco where this cocktail was created, find a better, more brain melting, tongue loosening Irish Coffee ever! Just, don't drink these, if you are trying to keep anything under your hat. Pretty sure this one has caused a lot of divorces.

My Top Places To Drink Whisky In All Forms:

1. Bemelmans Bar At The Carlyle Hotel:

When all is said and done, this is the greatest cocktail bar in all of New York City. Do not argue with me! There is no other place like this on earth, it's a slice of heaven, and you should thank your lucky stars it's still here. This is the "old New York" that is gone from our world today. When I tell people of the top five things they must do in NYC period? I tell them, catch a show at The Carlyle, if you can, but if you can't see a show, just get a drink at the bar! Whether it is a cocktail or a neat pour, you can't go wrong here, and it's the most gorgeous place you'll ever be. The walls are covered in the illustrations from the Madeleine series by the great Ludwig Bemelmans for whom the bar is named. It's the only place I get tears in my eyes walking in before I ever order a pour.

A note? It's also the bar where the late Anthony Bourdain got completely emotional on TV when he thought of his recently born daughter, and those books, and the same nostalgic wave that takes me under each time.

2. Clover Club

If Bemelmans is the number 1a, here is 1b. Dave Wondrich can't be wrong and he never is, and he's not here. This is a temple of cocktails and does right what everyone else does wrong. The end. You'll also never see so many cocktails apart from the Bible at Death and Co, and honestly, there is a purity of spirit (pardon the pun) here that just sends me. Also, this is the only bar to make both this list and the favorite cocktails list. This bar does everything to Olympian levels, but they sure do love their whiskies, and whether it is selections to drink neat and/or the cocktails? Perfection. Every. Single. Time. This is the ultimate first date.

3. Dear Irving

I have this really special place in my heart for Dear Irving, firstly because you just feel like a million bucks being in there. It's gorgeous and the layout is perfectly spaced. It's a really sexy spot, with cocktails to match. They even got a drink called The Wildest Redhead made with Cherry Heering liqueur and Scotch and it's really amazing! It's also the only other spot other than Clover Club with multiple entries.

4. The Wayland:

I mean this as a compliment when I say that The Wayland make it easy. No matter when you go, no matter what you need, or want, they have it, and it's right. It is a bar with amazing food and the Sazeracs are perfect as is their whiskey selection. Get oysters with them.

My Top Places To Drink Straight Whiskey

1. On The Rocks:

This is my place. You can keep your libraries and all of that noise; this place is fully fitted and has amazing selection. It’s dark and while I know they do make cocktails here, I've never had one here.

2. Fraunces Tavern:

I cannot say enough about this place. Not only is the selection outrageous, but the prices are fair! So here is a great place to take advantage fully of whiskies you've been curious about, and you can feel good about knowing that they didn't mark things up unlike so many other places in town.

3. Hudson Bar And Books:

What if some of the places that claim to have the biggest selections really did? Then much like Fraunces kept prices fair and also gave you a truly underground library eccentric experience to match? This is the place. Amazing selection!

4. Keens Steakhouse

Interesting right? Not once have you seen their "Bible" (faints). Oh, and the steaks are the best in all of NYC. Yup, you heard it here first folks. 

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