There are a lot of places to drink in this city.
If you want to drink liquor, there are plenty of bars with cheap, watery whiskey gingers, and almost as many where you can get $18 cocktails made with things like saffron-infused bourbon and obscure berries you think you remember from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If it’s beer you’re after, you won’t have any trouble finding a spot with $3 PBRs, or a place to drink the latest microbrews from Stockholm.
And then there are wine bars. When you think of wine bars, maybe you think of places with red brick walls that advertise their free hummus appetizer on Groupon, right below the laser hair removal. Or maybe you think of the place you went on a date with someone who lectured you about grape varietals.
Fortunately, wine bars don’t have to be sad, pretentious, scary places. There’s a whole crop of places with great wine, friendly service, and often, food options worth getting excited about. Whether you’re meeting a date for drinks, hanging out at the bar solo, or looking for a place to grab a glass of wine before dinner, here are some of our favorite wine bars in the city.
No matter how much you know about wine, you’ll have a good time at Ruffian. This 19-seat East Village wine bar has over 250 natural wines, mostly from small producers in Southern and Eastern Europe, and the knowledgeable staff is always happy to go into detail while pouring tastes of obscure orange wines from Greece or oxidized options from the Jura. You could also have a great time just sitting at the bar with a date, eating some excellent Mediterranean food, listening to loud hip-hop coming from the speakers, and drinking rosés from the “Beach Sipping” or “Stoop Sipping” sections of the menu.
When you want to drink wine at a rooftop bar with great views, but you don’t want to spend $16 for a glass of mass-produced pinot grigio, go to City Vineyard. This restaurant and wine bar is off the Hudson River running path in Tribeca, and the huge roof is a great spot to get affordable, quality wine - much of which is made at City Winery a couple blocks away - on tap.
They serve pasta at Have and Meyer, and it’s pretty good. But that isn’t why you come here. You come because there are over 100 wines available by the glass, including more than 30 different orange ones. So if you want to try something obscure that the majority of the Earth’s population has never heard of, this little Williamsburg spot is a good place to do it. There are only a few tables inside, but there’s a long bar where you can hang out, and it’s a great option for date night. It feels kind of like an old Italian bookstore, but with wine bottles on the walls instead of books.
Maybe you’re a fan of natural wines and you order funky pet-nats whenever you see them on a menu - or maybe you’re just tired of drinking the same four bottles from the sale rack at your corner wine store. Either way, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Terre in Park Slope. They have over 100 natural wines, all of which are available by the glass. Tell the friendly staff what looks interesting to you, and they’ll bring you tastes of a few different options to help you decide. They also have a huge charcuterie selection and some bar seating. For all these reasons, this is one of the best casual date spots in the neighborhood.
Another bar specializing in natural wines is June, a truly excellent neighborhood spot in Cobble Hill. This isn’t the kind of place you meet your friend of a friend who wants to network, or your clingy ex-roommate you’ve been putting off. This is the kind of place you come with people you really like (or for a first date), on a night when you don’t need to rush. It’s comfortable, it’s charming, and it’s reasonably priced enough that you won’t be horrified by your three-hour bill.
Some wine bars go into more detail than others about how they source their wines, but Rooftop Reds is the only one where you can see the grapes for yourself. This rooftop wine bar in the Brooklyn Navy Yard grows its own grapes on-site, and you can explore the rows of vines in between games of cornhole and naps in hammocks overlooking Manhattan. They take reservations and have a BYO food policy, so keep it in mind for birthdays and big group hangs. The all-outdoor space is open April through November.
St Tropez is a good place for an early-in-the-game date, no matter who you’re with - it’s dimly lit and crowded, with plenty of tables and bar seats where you can share Mediterranean small plates. But it’s especially ideal if you’re with someone who’s into wine. Almost everything on the all-French wine list at this West Village spot is available by the glass, half-bottle, or full bottle, so you can try a bunch of different things, then compare notes once you run out of Netflix suggestions and embarrassing stories about your college roommate.
There’s no shortage of bars in NYC that have Happy Hour wine deals, but most offer a choice between oaky chardonnays and malbec that’s been open for three days and now tastes like lukewarm grape juice. If you want more options than a house white and house red, head to Amelie in Greenwich Village. During Happy Hour, $12 gets you half glasses of any three wines on the menu. If you don’t want to go through the long, international wine list yourself, the servers are always happy to recommend flights as well.
Petra is from the same people who own Sunrise/Sunset, and it’s more of a straightforward wine bar. It’s only open at night, they serve a few Mediterranean dishes like sabich and lamb kofta, and the wine list here is consistently interesting. Stop by for a quick drink and you might wind up trying something from Slovenia, Mallorca, or the Czech Republic. And the place itself isn’t the least bit pretentious - it’s dimly lit, with pink wallpaper, and it feels like someone’s open-layout apartment that was converted into a bar. Bring a date when you need a Bushwick spot that’s low-key impressive.
If you want a fun night out that’s still pretty relaxed, you should know about Brooklyn Winery. This big, industrial wine bar in Williamsburg has communal tables that are good for meeting new people or drinking a lot of discounted wine during Happy Hour. They make their own wines on site, and it never gets too rowdy, since people looking to turn things up will just go to Union Pool or The Commodore a few blocks away.
The Immigrant is two bars in one. On the left side they serve beer, and on the right they have wine. Why they divided it up like this, we have no idea - but at least they’re doing something different. And once you get past the unusual concept, you’ll find that this is a nice bar to spend some time in. It isn’t divey or fancy - it’s just a good, calm place to have some wine and cheese in the East Village.
Technically Jadis is on the Lower East Side, but it doesn’t really feel like it. This spot in the basement of an apartment building is quieter than your average LES bar, but it still has a laid-back, downtown feel. It’s good for a first date or some low-key drinks with friends, and if you decide you want to get a little less responsible afterward, all those other LES bars are still right there.
There are a lot of places to sit and have a drink in the West Village, and as a result, some of them are unfairly overlooked. Gottino, for example. It never gets too crazy here - maybe because they don’t serve liquor, or maybe because the space isn’t that big to begin with. All we know is that this place does some good small plates and that it’s perfect for a date night - so if you mess one up, it’s 100% your fault.
This is a French wine bar, but not the quiet/quaint kind. The layout is open, the atmosphere is lively, and it’s good for groups. Come with some friends and get your night started here. Or maybe just hang out at the bar and eat a meat & cheese plate by yourself. The next time you’re hanging out around Lincoln Center or Columbus Circle and you need a not-boring place to get a drink, keep Vanguard in mind.
Don’t worry about the fact that you can’t pronounce the name of this place, and get yourself a drink. This Soho wine bar offers about 25 wines by the glass, and can suit lots of different situations - whether you want to roll up to the bar solo, sit one-on-one at a table, or reserve a semi-private room for a larger group. Try to get here during Happy Hour (which ends at 7pm during the week and 5pm on weekends) for $5 snacks and $5 off wines by the glass.
The Ten Bells is a great Lower East Side standby. The big wine list is made up primarily of natural wines from France, with about 30 options available by the glass, and most importantly, they have a wine and oyster Happy Hour every day until 7pm. There’s a long menu of mostly Spanish small plates, but eating a full-blown meal here is unnecessary. Stick to the oysters and the wine, and you’ll be very pleased.
Whether you come to Four Horsemen for their massive natural wine list, or because of the excellent small plates, or because it’s owned by a member of LCD Soundsystem, you’re going to have a good time here. The space may be small, but the bar and tables are both excellent spots for a date or small group hang. And be sure to ask your server for recommendations - the people here know what they’re talking about.
Terroir used to have locations all over the city, but this is the only one left aside from a summer-only outdoor High Line outpost. It’s a shame, because this place is great. They offer half-glasses of most wines on the huge wine list, which is full of entertaining blurbs about varietals and tasting notes that you can repeat at a dinner party to sound like you know what you’re talking about. It tends to attract a corporate crowd due to its location, but it’s still relaxed, and the food is excellent. Order the meatballs. You won’t regret it.
The East Village has plenty of spots for two-for-one drinks, bottomless mimosas, and sports on TV. Harder to find are comfortable, laidback places for a nice glass of wine. Not that Lois is a stuffy, boring wine bar by any means. All the wines at this spot on Avenue C are served on tap, and it’s a very attractive space that’s especially good for early-in-the-game dates.
Casellula is a “cheese and wine cafe,” and the order of those words is important. There’s nice wine here, but the emphasis is on the cheese (it was started by the guy who used to run the cheese situation at The Modern). The space is a comfortable little room in Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s one of the best places for a low-key drink before or after seeing a show on Broadway a couple blocks away.
Located on the ground floor of a condo building, Ardesia is another nice place to drink wine in Hell’s Kitchen. The focus is on “mineral-driven” wines, and while that’s a strangely specific and unhelpful way to categorize a 100-bottle wine list, this spot is a good option for a date or after-work drink during Happy Hour. The food is solid, too - get some of those homemade pretzels.
In some ways, Lelabar is your standard wine bar: candles everywhere, a jazz soundtrack, and an intimidating list of over 500 wines you have to navigate. But there are a few things that make this place stand out. For one, it has an excellent daily Happy Hour (until 7:30pm), during which normally pricey bottles are $28 and glasses are $8. We’re also fans of the U-shaped bar setup - should you be feeling social, it lends itself well to chatting with your neighbors, and to getting some ordering advice from the friendly and knowledgeable sommeliers.
Black Mountain Wine House is the mountain cabin of your dreams, smack dab in the middle of Gowanus. If you can’t get away from the city for a weekend, this is an excellent alternative. Bring a date, get comfortable, and enjoy the cozy yet totally un-cheesy environment. If you’re looking to turn things up a bit, walk a couple blocks to Royal Palms or Lavender Lake afterwards.
Aldo Sohm is admittedly a bit expensive and a bit stuffy, but it is, after all, Le Bernardin’s wine bar. If you’re looking for an upscale place to meet for drinks (and some great small plates) in Midtown, this one is worth checking out.
Anfora is the wine bar right next to dell’anima, one of our favorite West Village Italian restaurants, and it’s owned by the same people. The dark space has a long bar that works well for a glass of wine after work or before dinner - but the best move here is to get one of the leather booths with a date or small group, share some cheese and charcuterie, and order from the extensive bottle list.