From high-maintenance extravagance to cheap beer and pool, there's a bar for every duo to toast their love this V-Day
Couple No. 1: "It's Valentine's Day. We deserve the best!"
Bar Seine Simultaneously elegant and comfortable, this lavish bar housed within the equally lavish Hôtel Plaza Athénée is known for its eclectic, somewhat feral ambience -- animal-print fabric; leather floors; African, European and Asian artwork; deep red walls. Offering a unique bar menu and home to the "crystal cosmopolitan," Bar Seine combines classic New York sophistication with the intimacy of a private home. Granted, this elegance doesn't come cheap, but this is one spot where you're getting what you pay for in the way of liberally poured cocktails, plenty of intimate alcoves, top-notch service and other little touches that let you know you're definitely uptown tonight. (37 E. 64th St. at Madison Ave., 212-734-9100)
Rise Perched on the 14th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, this award-winning bar draws consistent crowds with its stunning panoramic views of the harbor, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. On Feb. 14, guests can alternate between gazing out the window and at each other while sipping whimsical cocktails from the house menu like the signature Libertini (Stolii Razberi, Midori, Blue Curacao, pineapple and citrus juices) and snacking on appealing small plates like mini-burgers, seared beef, lobster kebabs and artisanal cheese plates. (2 West St., 14th floor, at Battery Place, 917-790-2626)
Bar Masa Owned and helmed by Masa Takayama, whose notoriously expensive and slightly controversial neighboring sushi spot has been the subject of much debate ($350 a person?), this more casual and (slightly) less costly outpost offers an exotic, Asian-tinged house cocktail menu whose concoctions run the gamut from the $22 Pomegranate Sour (fresh pomegranate juice, Ketel One, lemon and lime) to the $26 Yuzu Champagne Cocktail (muddled yuzu zest, rosewater and Champagne). Also on hand is a small but solid wine list with glasses starting at around $16, an extensive sake list and (again, slightly) scaled-down sushi prices. (10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor, at 60th St., 212-823-9800)
Couple No. 2: "It's Valentine's Day. We definitely want to celebrate"
Temple Bar While typically schmaltzy when used in describing a bar, the word "seductive" actually makes perfect sense when it comes to this consistent spot. The vibe--sultry and slightly secretive--embodies the classic feel of a modern-day speakeasy, though not in the contrived manner of so many of its recent counterparts. Dark wood, red plush furniture, legendary crooners overhead and a noticeable absence of light add to the romantic equation, while a long list of both classic and innovative cocktails complete it (think Kir Royales, Pisco Sours and the charming Sgroppino--Prosecco, vodka and lemon sorbet). For those looking for something more traditional, the international vodka selection is staggering, to say the least. Also on hand is an impressive selection of gin, wine, beer and basic bar snacks with a twist.(332 Lafayette St. at Bleecker St., 212-925-4242)
The Bubble Lounge Considered the monarch of New York champagne culture, this salon--located on a quiet and unassuming corner in Tribeca--was created over 10 years ago in an attempt to demystify the concept that Champagne is strictly for the upper crust or for special occasions (although in this case, we suppose it is). It serves more than 300 varieties of Champagne and sparkling wines, a host of specialty cocktails like the perfect Kir Royal (Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 1999 and Crème de Cassis), and a pleasing selection of small plates. (228 W. Broadway between Franklin and White Sts., 212-431-3433)
Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel For those of us who never thought we'd live to see the Bowery become home for an opulent hotel, it's a bit of a shock. Also a bit of a shock is how lovely the lobby actually bar is, with it's drawing-room appeal providing an ideal setting for couples looking to get comfy and spend a little time together. The décor combines towering potted palms, taxidermy, plush Persian rugs, dark wood paneling and collection of velvet furniture. Interestingly, there isn't any music, a fact that easily gives way to hushed conversation and a focus of your companion. Cocktails are expectedly pricey, and snacks are on hand from in-house Italian eatery Gemma. (335 Bowery between 2nd and 3rd Sts., 212-505-1300)
Couple No. 3: "It's Valentine's Day. Not such a big deal but we'd like to do something..."
'Disiac This Moroccan-style retreat, hidden in the unassuming throes of Hell's kitchen, is full of eclectic, sultry charm. A brightly lit, multicolored bartop adds a kicky splash of color to the otherwise muted atmosphere filled with raised red velvet seating, exposed brick walls and flickering candles. The menu -- a pleasing mix of Middle Eastern tinged small plates, cheese platters and fresh salads -- pairs nicely with the extensive list of martinis, margaritas, sangrias and specialty cocktails. Also on hand is a small but substantial wine list, an international beer selection and $7 Champagne by the glass. To finish things off, expect a decadent array of desserts like chocolate fondue, hot chocolate milk and sweet liqueur concoctions. In warmer weather, grab a seat in the stunning outdoor space decked with pillow-strewn couches, velvet ottomans and wrought-iron tables. (402 W. 54th St. between 9th and 10th Aves., 917-306-8958)
D.O.C. Wine Bar There's nothing contrived about this Sardinia-by way-of Williamsburg rustic Italian wine bar, where a dim lighting scheme, rough wooden tables and a helpful, down-to-earth staff encourage intimacy -- planned or not. Impress your date with your mastery of Italian wine or simply ask for help when it comes to choosing one of several reasonably-priced offerings (bottles, on average, run around $25). The menu is chock full of expected yet pleasing pairings--assorted cheeses, flatbreads, cured meats and antipasti. (83 N. Seventh St. at Wythe Ave., 718-963-1925)
Clandestino Offering much-needed respite from the throngs of partiers cramming the streets of what's fast becoming a raucous, over-commercialized nightlife neighborhood, this low-key Lower East Side bar offers patrons a place to enjoy quiet conversation, good music, a small but solid selection of tap beer (including Sixpoint's Sweet Action) and an impressive wine list whose varietals span Germany, France, Spain and California. The ambience--a simple mix of plywood walls, low tin ceilings and dim lighting--is warm and inviting, and the staff is helpful, especially when it comes to recommending vino to accommodate patrons' palates. In fine weather, a walled-in petite patio offers additional space. (35 Canal St. between Essex and Ludlow Sts., 212.475.5505)
Couple No. 4: "It's Valentine's Day. Get us drunk. Cheaply. "
Barcelona Bar If ambience means little to you on the 14th, head to this this long, narrow, undeniably gimmicky Hell's Kitchen hang modeled after the "shot Bars" of Spain and known for its 100-plus shot list, several of which come with rules, required actions, costumes and props. Try the "Return of the King," which requires patrons to don a crown and shoot from a goblet, or the " Jose Canseco," which comes, naturally, in a syringe. There's little romance to be found but your ultimate mission will be swiftly--and cheaply--accomplished. (923 Eighth Ave. between 54th and 55th Sts., 212-245-3212)
Toad Hall Cheap drinks, a no-frills vibe and a hard-drinking crowd aren't typical Soho staples, yet this neighborhood pub boasts those things and more for folks looking to unwind without the fanfare typically associated with the neighborhood. With its low ceilings, elevated billiards table and scuffed wood furnishings, it's an ideal under-the-radar joint to swill a Guinness or two to the tune of Sam Cooke or Hank Williams crooning from the classic jukebox. (57 Grand St. between W. Broadway and Wooster St. 212-431-8145)
Tracks OK, we don't exactly know anyone who'd go out of their way on Valentine's Day to seek out this bizarre pub deep within Penn Station, but it's got our vote as the go-to spot for the person who's part of a couple...yet no longer wants to be. Despite the (shockingly) decent raw bar, chatty bartenders and cheap drinks, it's a pretty safe bet your mate will be less than thrilled with your choice of V-Day venue. For added hilarity, swing by around 5 p.m., when the joint gets so packed with working stiffs putting away a few before heading home to Jersey or the Island that's it's a literal challenge to move about. (Penn Station, LIRR level, 212-244-6350)
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