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Ask the Critic: Where Do You Actually Like to Drink?

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[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email carey@seriouseats.com with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

Where Do You Actually Like To Drink?

Hey there Carey. You do a lot of cocktail writing on the site. I love those articles and all the cocktail porn, I definitely have a cocktail geek side, but to me, there's a big difference between a bar with good drinks and a bar I actually want to drink at, ya know? I'll pay for a good cocktail but not if there are lines and snotty bartenders. Where are the bars you go to hang out at?

You couldn't be more correct: There's a huge distinction between bars with great cocktails and bars I really want to hang out at.

For instance: Unless I'm writing about it, I never go to Death + Co. It's not about their cocktails, which are beautifully crafted, or their prices, which aren't anything unusual these days. It's that I don't like waiting in line. I don't like going down the block for a pre-drink drink and constantly watching my phone for a "You're allowed in!" phone call. I don't like sitting at a tiny table in a dark room. I don't feel like I can get drunk there! I feel like I'm supposed to whisper and gaze deeply into my whiskey and think important thoughts.

That said, I'm not in the camp that believes only grimy dives can allow a good time. The Tippler, below Chelsea Market, is an invitingly dark cavern with excellent cocktails, highbrow frozen cocktails (!), and a generally relaxed vibe. Ward III in Tribeca has a great energy whether it's packed to the gills or just a few at the bar, and the drinks are the equal of any better-known bar in town. Even Employees Only, which is often mentioned as one of New York's best cocktail bars in the same breath as Death + Co., has always struck me as much more relaxed.

*Disclosure: I'm friends with the owners, but like the bar just as much when I don't know anyone behind the bar or on the floor.

But I don't only drink at craft cocktail bars, either. I like the $20 caipirinha pitchers at Beco in Williamsburg and $6 cucumber margaritas at Ofrenda. I like frozen Dark and Stormys and big outdoor tables at Battery Harris under the BQE. I like the $5 beer + shot special at Pork Slope and the beer-whiskey-patio triad at Hot Bird. I like long afternoons drinking in the light-filled Radegast or the friendly Pacific Standard or the backyard at St. Anselm. I love Sharlene's on Flatbush Avenue, which I consider the perfect neighborhood bar (and considered my second living room for four years).

I like finding out-of-the-way wine bars where people know their shit, like Owl's Head in Bay Ridge. And I like late-night weeknights at Wilfie & Nell or Daddy-O's (and weeknights only; Wilfie is great at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, crazy-sloppy at 3 a.m. on Saturday).

And I love the awesomely grimy, exquisitely old-school Montero's on far west Atlantic Avenue, with karaoke on the weekends where people sing "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" with no irony whatsoever.

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About the author: Carey Jones is the former managing editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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