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An NYC-Inspired Cocktail for Every Borough

Everyone knows the Manhattan, the granddaddy of classic cocktails—but that’s just the beginning. The five boroughs of New York City and the people who live in them offer ample cocktail inspiration.

As you’ll see, these borough namesakes, past and present, have a specific vibe: strong, no nonsense. Some are a little bitter, while others are sassy, offering a knowing wink. These drinks walk fast, talk fast and know how to navigate the subway. Stand clear of the closing doors.


The classic Queen’s Cocktail (yes, with an apostrophe; originally the “Queen’s Borough” was named for Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II and queen of England, Scotland and Ireland) is a sunny mix of gin and dry and sweet vermouths, brightened with crushed pineapple.

The dark and brooding cocktail below, with a caffeinated kick, is unrelated to the Queen’s Cocktail. Rather, bar pro Doug Brickel devised it for a trio of bars he previously ran in Long Island. True Noo Yawkers know that Queens and Long Island are the same land mass, often traversed by the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), along which the station in Jamaica, Queens is a major hub.

“When you take the LIRR into the city, you often have to ‘Change at Jamaica,’ or switch trains at Jamaica Station,” Brickel explains. Fall asleep and miss that stop, “and you’ll need to get up in the middle of Queens and wait for another train to get you all the way back home.”

Classic Queens Cocktail
Photography by Robert Bredvad, Styling Mallory Lance

Change at Jamaica

Courtesy Doug Brickel, beverage director, Cambridge Street Hospitality Group, Cambridge, Massachusetts


  • ¾ ounce Smith & Cross rum
  • ¾ ounce Espresso Bourbon*
  • ½ ounce Montenegro amaro
  • ½ ounce Velvet Falernum
  • Grapefruit peel, for garnish


In a mixing glass, stir all ingredients with ice. Strain over a large cube of ice. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

*How to Make Espresso Bourbon

Combine 100 grams (²/3 cup) crushed (not ground) coffee beans and 1 liter bourbon (Brickel recommends Evan Williams). Cover and let sit for 2-3 weeks in a cool, dry place. Strain through a coffee filter. Keeps for several months.

Classic Queen’s Cocktail

Shake with ice 1 ounce London dry gin and ½ ounce each dry and sweet vermouths and crushed pineapple. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Try it at: Diamond Dogs, 34-04 31st Avenue Queens


All of the borough-named classics are descended from the Manhattan; the earliest known Brooklyn dates to 1908, found in a book by J.A. Grohusko. It “improves” the drink with dashes of bitter Amer Picon and cherry-based maraschino liqueur. (Another version, credited to Jacques Straub, circa 1914, uses dry vermouth.)

But what’s fascinating about the Brooklyn is how modern-day variations have completely lapped the classic. At the now-closed legendary NYC bar Milk & Honey, bartender Vincenzo Errico created a drink called the Red Hook, featuring bittersweet Punt e Mes vermouth. That set off a trend throughout the aughts and beyond, spawning multiple variations named for Brooklyn neighborhoods.

One of the best is The Greenpoint, created in 2005, also at Milk & Honey; a small amount of yellow Chartreuse adds pleasing herbaceous and honey tones.

Classic Brooklyn Cocktail
Photography by Robert Bredvad, Styling Mallory Lance

The Greenpoint

Courtesy Michael McIlroy, proprietor, Attaboy NYC


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • ½ ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish


Stir in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Classic Brooklyn

Stir with ice, 1 ½ ounce each rye whiskey and dry vermouth and ¼ ounce Amer Picon and maraschino liqueur. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist lemon peel over the top.

Try it at: Leyenda, 221 Smith Street Brooklyn

The Bronx

Before Prohibition, this shaken drink was so popular, it was “the Cosmopolitan of its day,” says Frank Caiafa, writing in The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book. While the drink’s exact origins are unknown, the Waldorf-Astoria is among those that lay claim to the drink.

Another bartender, Hugo Ensslin, published two versions of the Bronx in his 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks: one with orange juice, the other with muddled pineapple. Al Sotack’s modern-day riff, below, combines the best of both Bronxes. He had created it for now-closed Philadelphia bar Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., drawing on a historical theory that a Bronx bartender discovered the drink in Philly.

A fellow bartender (and Bronx native) tried the drink and derided it as “too elegant” to be named for the area famed as the gritty birthplace of hip-hop and graffiti, Sotack recalls. Maybe all it needs is the right setting.

Classic Bronx Cocktail
Photography by Robert Bredvad, Styling Mallory Lance

South Bronx

Courtesy Al Sotack, partner, Jupiter Disco, Brooklyn


  • 2 ounces Old Tom gin
  • ½ ounce blanc vermouth
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon pineapple juice
  • ½ teaspoon orange juice
  • 9 drops Bitter End Memphis Barbeque Bitters
  • Lemon twist, to garnish


In a mixing glass, combine all ingredients with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Classic Bronx Cocktail

Cut an orange wheel in eight pieces and muddle in cocktail shaker. Add 2 ounces London dry gin, ½ ounce each sweet and dry vermouth, and 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


The original was created in the 1870s or 1880s, notable as the first to include vermouth as part of its formula. And yes, it was likely invented in NYC; one popular origin story sets its creation at the Manhattan Club.

The iconic drink has spawned countless riffs, including the modern classic Black Manhattan (with amaro), Walnut Manhattan (with nocino), Perfect Manhattans (equal parts dry/sweet vermouth) and neighborhood-named variations like the Little Italy from Audrey Saunders (with a splash of Italian amaro Cynar).

But swap out the whiskey for rum, and you get the Palmetto, an underrated variation that’s great for warmer weather. Shannon Mustipher’s take combines the best of the Black Manhattan and the Palmetto.

Classic Manhattan cocktail
Photography by Robert Bredvad, Styling Mallory Lance

Black Palmetto

Courtesy Shannon Mustipher, cocktail consultant and spirits educator


  • 2 ounces rum (Mustipher recommends 1 ½ ounces aged Panama rum and ½ ounce Jamaica rum)
  • 1 ounce red vermouth
  • ½ oz artichoke amaro (Cynar 70 or Faccio Brutto recomended)
  • 2 drops saline (optional)
  • 2 drops orange bitters
  • Orange peel and maraschino cherry, for garnish


In a mixing glass, combine all ingredients with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass. Twist an orange peel over the top of the drink to express the essential oils, then discard the peel (Mustipher flames the peel to caramelize the oils; that step is optional).

Classic Manhattan

Stir with ice, 2 ounces rye, 1 ounce sweet vermouth and 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherry.

Try it at: Manhatta, 28 Liberty Street, 60th floor, New York

Staten Island

While there’s no classic cocktail named for NYC’s southernmost borough, that hasn’t stopped modern-day pros from paying homage. For example, Williamsburg “listening bar” Mr. Melo offers a Staten Island Iced Tea, an elevated, low-alcohol version of the super-boozy Long Island Iced Tea, made with eight Italian liqueurs plus housemade cola and lemon, and served on tap.

“It’s lovingly named the Staten Island Iced Tea after the borough with a prominent Italian American population,” bar co-owner Nikolas Vagenas explains.

While it’s not the same as the complex version served at the bar, this streamlined version offers a similar effect. No ride on the Staten Island ferry required.

Staten Island Iced Tea
Photography by Robert Bredvad, Styling Mallory Lance

Staten Island Iced Tea

Courtesy Nikolas Vagenas, food & beverage director and co-owner of Mr. Melo, Brooklyn


  • ½ ounce red bitter (Vagenas recommends Select Aperitivo)
  • ½ ounce Fernet Branca
  • ½ ounce Cynar
  • ½ ounce Luxardo Maraschino
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Lemon peel
  • Cola, to top (approx 2 ounces)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish


In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients (except cola) and ice. Shake well, and strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice cubes. Top with cola. Garnish with lemon twist.

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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