Cocktails + Eats North of 96th Street

by Lu Daley

Downtown used to be the only option for “going out” with friends.  In the mid to early 2000’s if a friend invited me to “party uptown” I knew that we were going to a house party. No longer. I’ve been out a few times in the past month, and I don’t usually venture below 96th street. It’s a new day in upper Manhattan.  
Uptown eateries have increased in number so dramatically that Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th Avenue) between 112th and 120th streets has been dubbed ‘Restaurant Row’. Now when I party uptown, I could be heading anywhere from Camaradas in East Harlem, Mess Hall or Silvana in Central Harlem, or Heights Tavern in Washington Heights.
Spoiled for choice in a new world of options, how do you know where to go for an outstanding cocktail? Here are a few of my favorites uptown locations and the cocktail experiences you deserve.

Mess Hall
2194 Frederick Douglass Blvd (118th Street on Restaurant Row)
You can’t limit Mess Hall to the “Bourbon Bar” title. They feature creative and artisan crafted seasonal cocktails. They also host their own “Mess Hall’s Annual Cocktail Throwdown”. Stop in for a past season cocktail, or your bartender
Make sure to try:
  • Campfire Manhattan – Maple Infused Bourbon, hickory smoke with a house made beef Jerky Garnish.
  • Mess Hall Mash – Bourbon shaken with fresh lemon, simple syrup and orange with a red wine floater.
  • Garden Party – Mess Hall Infused Citrus Vodka muddled with fresh lime and basil.
  • The Ginger Pearl – Olmeca Altos Tequila, Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur, Triple Sec, Fresh Lemon and Lime, Agave Nectar and tiki bitters served with a cayenne salt rim. (created by Mess Hall Bartender Cheryl Mullings).  According to co-owner Shanna Sharp, “It’s like the freshest ginger margarita with a kick you’ve ever had.”
They have outdoor space.
Bartender Lana Vesselova just won the 2016 Uptown Battle of the Bars (a multi-bar cocktail making competition and all around great time).

“Life is Too Short to Drink Bad Bourbon” -Mess Hall Harlem instagram.

300 West 114th street (114th Street on Restaurant Row)
This Harlem restaurant, legendary for its southern comfort food, is actually expanding its current location. The emphasis is usually placed on cuisine here, but the drinks are more than a worthy sidekick.
Make sure to try:
  • Melba’s HIT – Harlem Iced Tea – Sweet Tea Vodka, Rum, Tequila, Gin, Triple Sec, Sour Mix, Coke
  • Rose in Harlem Alizé Rosé, Tequila, Triple Sec, Sour mix
  • Mango Martini – Vodka, Mango juice

Notable: Thumbs up to the Sangria + Chicken N’ Waffles.
                  Short ribs + Mac n Cheese is an automatic win for your stomach.
                  Bartender Champ works weekends and he makes a mean Rose in Harlem.

Maison Harlem
341 St Nicholas Ave (Between 127th and 128th Streets)
Word has it that Owner Samuel Thiam wanted to create a blend between Harlem and Paris. Word also has it that this dude knows what he’s doing.
There’s are a wide selection of great food but let’s get to the drinks.
Make sure to try their:
(summer list)

  • Mango Martini – Vodka, Mango juice

There you go. The M’s Have it.
Melba’s, Mess Hall and Maison Harlem are 3 of Manhattan’s best spots for cocktails above 96th street.
Have a boozy brunch. Sip outside while listening to live music. Try a new drink with friends. Enjoy it all uptown. The added bonus is that if you live close to any one of these three, then you can walk home. I like that.
Honorable mentions:
Sylvia’s, The Cecil, Silvana, Londell’s, Harlem Food Bar, Lido, L Lounge, The Grange, Red Rooster/ Ginny’s Supper Club, Angel of Harlem,67 Orange, Camarada’s El barrio, Mini’s supper club, Harlem Tavern and Heights Tavern. And last but certainly not least Bier International. They’re next door to my office.

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