For those who take their spirits seriously, and their martinis stirred (never shaken), a top-notch cocktail bar is like a desert oasis: There's no way to pass it up. These five offer romance with your Rob Roy, or a cordial spot to sip cordials -- and they're attitude-free. Life's too short to put up with surly service.
1. Death & Co.
WHAT This Lower East Side speak-easy retains Prohibition-era flavor, from classics to juleps to punch. The discreet entry has a modern twist -- the guard takes your cell number and calls when tables open up. (Alas, they don't take reservations; get there before 7:30 to avoid a wait.)
INFO Cocktails $13, 212-388-0882, deathandcompany.com
2. Little Branch
INFO Cocktails $13, 212-929-4360, littlebranch.net
3. The Campbell Apartment
WHAT Metro-North commuters have long known this classy standby in Grand Central Terminal. Pricey, sumptuous and sure to impress a date -- the former salon of Jazz Age tycoon John W. Campbell boasts stunning woodwork and fireplace. Hit it on weekends or late nights to avoid the biz crowd; leave sneakers and torn jeans at home.
WHEN | WHERE Friday till 2 a.m., Saturday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 3 to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday noon to 1 a.m., 15 Vanderbilt Ave. (near 43rd Street)
INFO Cocktails $14, 212-953-0409, hospitalityholdings.com
4. Henry Public
WHAT This former TV repair shop in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill is 1850s-chic -- frosted glass, quaint booths, zinc-top bar, dim romantic lighting . . . and cash only. Try the Ether or Brooklyn Ferry (whiskey and absinthe), or frothy Eagle's Dream (gin, egg whites, crème de violette).
WHEN | WHERE Friday till 4 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., 329 Henry St., Brooklyn
INFO Cocktails $10-$11 (cash only), 718-852-8630, henrypublic.com
5. The Richardson
WHAT Come check out the galleries in Williamsburg, then chill at this spacious, unpretentious, nice-priced locals bar. Twenty cocktails to try, from classics (Old Fashioned, Manhattan, even a "Brooklyn") to house specials (Treebeard, with Austrian pine liqueur; Polish Bear, with birch juice and Zubrowka -- Polish "bison grass" vodka). And under the BQE overpass, for quick access in and out.
WHEN | WHERE Daily noon to 4 a.m. 451 Graham Ave. (at Richardson Street), Brooklyn
INFO Cocktails $9-$11, 718-389-0839, therichardsonnyc.com