We’re in love with New York City, but even its biggest admirers can admit that with so many places to go and people to meet, the Big Apple can make choosing just one restaurant or bar to go to rather difficult. Luckily, when it comes to bars in the city that never sleeps, our Olivia Ritt gives us a little push in the right direction. She gravitates towards bars that are trendy with a retro feel, and after living in New York City for over five years, she’s not afraid to experiment with new drinks and flavor combinations. This penchant for imaginative cocktails and food has helped her discover some of the best spots – for whatever the occasion may be.
Gemma – NoHo, New York
Images courtesy of, from left: Marissa Webb, The Infatuation, Marissa Webb
Olivia: No brainer – their spicy margheritas are awesome! I only started going to Gemma on a regular basis when I started working at Marissa Webb. I’m definitely not the only member of the MW team who heads over to the Bowery Hotel restaurant for happy hour! The décor (old time-y Italian) and atmosphere (serious, but not stuffy) instantly makes the restaurant feel inviting, despite the crowd being enviably cool (hi Alexa Chung!). Gemma is great for dinner, but it’s also a nice place to simply get a few drinks and feel the city energy. Any drink off their cocktail list is a winner, but I always get the Spicy Margherita for a kick! Definitely be sure to get some polenta fries too!
Best snack while hanging out: Polenta Fries
Must-have drink: Spicy Margherita
Up & Up – Greenwich Village, New York
Images courtesy of, from left: Up&Up, Up&Up, Virginia Miller
Olivia: Despite having a very zealous doorman for a surprisingly empty bar, Up & Up’s cocktails are top notch. Another bar with a slightly retro feel, their mixologists can make you anything if you describe what flavors you like. My favorite is a cocktail made with Cholula sauce. Spicy and tangy – definitely worth the strict entrance policy.
Must-have drink: Anything with Cholula!
Bond St – NoHo, New York
Images courtesy of Bond St
Olivia: Possibly the most New York-y restaurant on this list, Bond St. epitomizes downtown cool. Also one of the best sushi restaurants in the city – nothing on their menu is bad. Another bar with a great spicy margherita (there is a trend!). Just don’t take too many dates here or else it’ll become their date night spot too!
Brinkley’s – SoHo, New York
Images courtesy of Brinkley’s
Olivia: I am definitely not a frequenter of sports bars, but this downtown gastro-pub walks the line between charmingly rugged and meticulously curated, perfectly. Great for brunch or a slightly more casual, relaxed night out.
Must-have food: Duck fat fries
Must-have drink: White Trash Grape Julep
Archer – Jersey City, New Jersey
Images courtesy of The Archer Bar
Olivia: Yes, this bar is in New Jersey! As a proud New Yorker going on 6 years in the city, I scoffed at my friend when he suggested we try this Jersey City bar. One step inside and I knew I was wrong. Hipster-meets-lumberjack best describes The Archer, with antlers on the wall, a working fireplace, and a color scheme of green, brown, and red. Antlers aside, the menu, which features biscuits and butter, venison corndogs, and wild boar sloppy joes, was definitely worth the trek out to Jersey (but maybe not for vegetarians). To be honest, the food was so good I can’t remember what drink I ordered, but with the kind of complicated flavor combinations the drink menu boasts, the bartenders at the Archer must know what they’re doing. I definitely wasn’t mad at whatever I ordered.
Must-have eats: Biscuits and butter
Nurse Bettie’s – East Village, New York
Images courtesy of Nurse Bettie Bar
Olivia: For more adventurous guys and gals, Nurse Bettie’s is a retro bar with a burlesque show on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 10pm. Some of the best dancers in New York take it off in homemade costumes to 1940s and 1950s music. Not for the faint of heart, the MC has been known to call people on stage. By the end of the night you might end up on stage dancing in front of a crowd!
Must-have drink: The Green Lady (jalapeno tequila + absinthe)!