Best Cocktails of the Upper West Side

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Tasty drinks for a night on the town By Megan Bungeroth, Annie Denes, Jon Lentz When the mood to imbibe strikes, you can grab a beer or a gin and tonic at any old bar in the neighborhood. But when you're craving a delicious, expertly crafted cocktail, the likes of which can only be invented by a true mixologist, where do you go on the Upper West Side? We picked out a half-dozen top spots for specialty drinks and sipped them all in the name of research to bring you the best cocktail options uptown. Check them out, then go to to vote on the ultimate adult beverages. The Dead Poet 450 Amsterdam Ave. 212-595-5670 Jack Kerouac, $12 Flavor 3 Inventiveness 2 Intensity 3 Presentation 3 Value 4 This standard Irish pub features a long list of cocktails named after-you guessed it-dead poets, and fun literary touches around the bar to maintain the theme. The drinks are mostly classic cocktails matched up thematically with their deceased-author counterparts: e.g., Oscar Wilde is a sour apple martini; Walt Whitman gets his own version of the Long Island iced tea. The idea is cute, but it doesn't necessarily translate into cocktail heaven. The Jack Kerouac, a tall combo of Don Julio Silver tequila, blue curaçao, fresh lemon and lime, and a dash of maraschino (the friendly bartender's recommendation for a sour drink), tasted fine but is basically a blue margarita. Not that that's a bad thing; just come here for the solid staples rather than creative genius. ('s Pickles 509 Amsterdam Ave. 212-470-5566 Pink Picket Fence, $11 Flavor 5 Inventiveness 5 Intensity 4 Presentation 4 Value 4 Jacob doesn't just do pickles, although their inclusion in the cocktail menu is inspired. Here, you can indulge in Southern comforts like big fluffy biscuits with jam, honey and organic butter or munch on an array of homemade pickled veggies, all complemented by creative drinks that go well with brunch or dinner. The Pink Picket Fence is a simple concoction of Farmer's Organic Gin, fresh-squeezed lemonade and a dribble of Chambord, blowing past your standard raspberry lemonade. Other standouts are the Lavender Gin Fizz, made with their own lavender-infused simple syrup, and the spicy brine margarita, which tops the house-infused jalapeño Espolón tequila with pickle brine for a savory/salty combo that packs a punch. Shalel Lounge 65 W. 70th St. 212-873-2300 Moroccan Fizz, $13 Flavor 3 Inventiveness 2 Intensity 3 Presentation 2 Value 2 At first, this hard-to-find Moroccan-inspired downstairs lounge seems like a welcome change of pace on the Upper West Side. It's broken up into many small rooms with comfortable couches and low lighting, but the drinks don't measure up. The Moroccan Fizz, a vodka-based drink, was uninspired and tasted like spiked orange juice or a sad mimosa. Despite its appealing name, the Honeymoon in Greece, a concoction including champagne, pomegranate liqueur and a splash of orange juice, was overly sweet and was reminiscent of a Jolly Rancher. Overall, the theme was promising, but this lounge-and its menu-missed the mark. ( Oliver 511 Amsterdam Ave. 212-362-1098 Orchard Peach Smash, $10 Flavor 5 Inventiveness 4 Intensity 3 Presentation 5 Value 5 This British gastropub elevates food-inspired cocktails beyond gimmicks to sheer liquid deliciousness. The drink menu changes seasonally, a good reflection of how carefully they are crafted, and also includes traditional-style punches and old standbys. The Orchard Peach Smash, with house barrel-aged rum, white and yellow peach, and ginger mint, is a simple yet sophisticated take on a summer favorite. It's also pretty to behold, the color of a sunset and served with a single large cube of ice, keeping the fruit juice from getting watered down. The drink avoids the pitfall of oversweetness and is a great opener or closer to a night out. ( Lobby Bar at the Empire Hotel 44 W. 63rd St. 212-265-7400 The "S" Gossip Girl cocktail, $15 Flavor 5 Inventiveness 4 Intensity 4 Presentation 4 Value 3 The recently revamped cocktail menu at the chic yet welcoming hotel bar may be a tourist-trap PR gimmick-they're all named after characters from the TV show Gossip Girl-but at least they're tasty gimmicks. The "S" cocktail is served in a chilled flute, topping Grey Goose vodka with honey water, champagne and fresh lemon juice, garnished with a sliver of lemon peel. The drink is strong but goes down smooth, and the honey water takes the edge off the vodka without adding too overpowering of an element. A popular choice-among the mostly young ladies who order these drinks, according to the bartender-is the Nate Bait, a piña colada-type combo of Bacardi coconut rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice and simple syrup served icy and up in a martini glass. It's delectable enough to forgive the gimmick.

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