A little treat goes a long way, especially in a gloomy economy. For a different kind of night out, try enjoying a cocktail while relaxing in a lovely lounge. Whether you're on a first date, looking to entertain a client or simply spend some quality time with your spouse, here are some of Long Island's more memorable places to meet for a drink.
From the brick alleyway entrance to the warm, woodsy decor, the atmosphere inside this new Babylon wine bar is remarkably European. Amid a pleasant patter of conversation, patrons can select from an extensive wine list - almost 150 varieties. Servings come in 3-ounce tastings (about $5) or full 6-ounce glass (most $8 or less).
With its high ceiling and fancy fixtures, the regal cocktail area at Limani is bound to impress. You'll pay about $30 to $50 for dinner entrees in the main restaurant, but you can soak in the atmosphere with a glass of wine ($10-$14) or specialty cocktail ($14-$16), such as the Lady Godiva, with Stoli vanilla and Bailey's mint chocolate liqueur.
ENJOY THE VIEW
Although many beachfront establishments scale back during the colder months, L'Onda offers a year-round view of the ocean and the Long Beach boardwalk. Take a seat beside big windows for a seaside gander or cozy up on white couches beside the fireplace with a smart cocktail - try the Huckleberry Cosmo ($12), made with 44 North Huckleberry vodka.
A more casual spot that's a lot to look at, with two-story windows and old-fashioned twinkling gas lamps at the entrance. Inside, a long wooden bar gives patrons a front seat to a mirrored wall with liquor bottles shelved to the rafters (bartenders climb built-in ladders to retrieve them). The drink menu takes a literary turn, too, with choices such as "Dante's Inferno" and "Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October."
JOIN THE CROWD
This Belgian bistro hosts a steady happy-hour crowd that starts arriving at 5 p.m. to imbibe exotic beers and ales ($6-$16) in the bar area as the pleasing aroma of frites and cheese fondues wafts in from the kitchen.
Easily spotted on Route 110 with its signature blue-lit trees, Four Food Studio is an always-busy spot that's driven by a well-dressed crowd that fills the Art Deco lounge seating, talking over loud dance music. Cocktails (about $14) veer toward the creative, such as the "Candy Shop," a watermelon martini garnished with Pop Rocks and a lollipop. An oversized screen behind the bar plays oddly intriguing video art.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
In the market for something different? This three-story upscale restaurant has a four-sided bar and lounge on its second level that serves wine by the glass ($9-$13) and imaginative cocktails ($10-$12), ranging from the Rhubarb Bellini (Prosecco and rhubarb puree) to the Moscow Mule (Stoli vodka, ginger beer and lime juice).