The Spirits of Spring

Have a toast to the new season with a cocktail as refreshing as the weather

During the winter months, it’s all too easy to stay indoors and cozy up with a bottle of wine. But with the city thawing out and the weather on the up and up, it’s time to celebrate and cheers with a cocktail that captures the flavors of the season.

An art deco–styled speakeasy nestled in the West Village, Employees Only is one of those bars that furthers New York’s reputation as the city that never sleeps. Busy on weeknights and packed on weekends, the bar is a magnet for drinkers in search of a bit of the unusual. Master mixologist Dushan Zaric is behind the menu here, which won EO recognition as 2014’s fifth best bar in the world on Forbes’ annual list. The slinky, backlit countertop is stocked with house-made syrups and infused spirits that go into drinks like the light and aromatic Provençal, made of lavender-infused Plymouth gin stirred with Cointreau and French vermouth infused with herbs de Provence. (Hudson St. nr. Christopher St.)

Midtown’s fine-Mexican spot of choice Pampano may have had a jump start on gaining fame due to its ownership in part by opera tenor Placido Domingo, but the restaurant gained even more popularity when it converted its street level into Pampano Botaneria, a casual kitchen for South Mexican tapas and cocktails, a happy foil to the fancier second-level dining room. All white walls and blue-and-white tiles, it’s all too easy to feel like you’ve been whisked out of the city and onto an old colonial estate near the coast. Nothing is quite as fun and fresh as an evening of shared small plates and a pitcher or two of sangria, which here comes as traditional, mango peach, and sparkling strawberry mint. (49th St. nr. Second Ave.)

The LCL: Bar & Kitchen is everything that a hotel restaurant—that of Midtown’s Westin, in this case—should do well. Its service is outstanding, its menu offers standard fare made with local ingredients and creative details, and sidled up next to Grand Central, it’s an all-too-convenient porthole to pass through on your way out of town on some weekend spring travels. A lounge atmosphere hovers around the bar area with high wood tables lit by candlelight and cocktail menu full of seasonal specialties and house favorites, the latter including the Trouble Maker, a refreshing, bubbly mix of Belvedere vodka, Bonal, strawberries, cucumber, and soda. (42nd St. nr. Third Ave.)

Since it opened in Little Italy in 2011, the Mulberry Project has been one of downtown’s hottest watering holes. Don’t expect to be handed a cocktail menu here; in order to ensure that guests are paired with their most compatible cocktail match, the bartenders prefer to talk to each person individually about what flavors they prefer and concoct something specifically for them. But for those who like to pick their poison, there’s the Mulberry’s specialty: the Famous Bespoke Cocktail. Pick your liquor, flavor profile (shaken or stirred, spicy or bitter, sweet or sour, light or potent), and ingredients, and the result is a drink uniquely your own. The subterranean, dimly lit cocktail lounge is certainly a swanky place to sit and sip, but when the weather is nice, the better option is to snag a seat on the art-filled outdoor patio. (Mulberry St. nr. Grand St.)