NYC’s Best Bars, from Cocktail Maven Ana Jovancicevic

Ana Jovancicevic

One of New York City’s leading cocktail ladies, Ana Jovancicevic has been on the forefront of the city’s drinks renaissance for nearly two decades. After starting out as an investment banker, Ana transitioned to the wine and spirits world, first working as an assistant sommelier at Windows on the World, later running the NYC chapter of Slow Food, and eventually founding the public relations firm, Handcrafted PR, in 2005. Today, Ana works with several Manhattan cocktail lounges and restaurants, as well as local and international spirits brands. Here, Ana shares her insider picks for the best places in the city to imbibe.

Q: Where do you like to go for date night?

A: I love starting off a date night with a Martini.   There’s just something classic and glamorous about the drink that starts your night off right.  My husband and I love going to Minetta Tavern for our dates and start off with a Martini followed by dinner.  Another great spot we like to frequent is The Library at The Nomad Hotel for a great drink or two.

Q: For a night out with the girls, what do you recommend?

A: Employees Only, hands down. The energy there is always upbeat and the crowds sexy.  In addition, most of the bartenders there are from my home country (Serbia) and heighten the experience by making me always feel a part of the EO family. Another top choice is GoldBar for it’s Tiki Mondays. Not only is the space super sexy but Brian Miller makes potent tropical libations some of which are served in over-the-top tiki bowls…great for sharing with friends. What’s not to love about that? For something more laid-back, I also like Mother’s Ruin. It’s casual and upbeat and easy to get a quality cocktail quickly.

Q: Where would you go for a classic cocktail?

A: PDT. It’s small, cozy and subdued—you basically feel like you’re hanging out in someone’s kitchen or living room. And the drinks are always excellent and crafted to perfection.

Q: What are a few of your favorite restaurants that also have great cocktails?

A: Do or Dine in Bedford-Stuyvesant is casual and quirky. Both their food and drinks are creative—they offer drinks such as a pickleback (pickle chaser for whiskey) that is actually made from jelly so after you shoot the whiskey you shoot the jelly which burst with pickle flavor in your mouth. Another great spot is the JakeWalk, also in Brooklyn. Feels like family there and they showcase over 100 whiskeys, a great selection of both charcuterie and cheeses from their sister store Stinky as well as a nice menu of classic cocktails.  In my opinion, I couldn’t ask for anything more than a nice plate of charcuterie or cheese and a drink in hand. In the West Village, Chez Sardine is my new go-to. The food is fantastic. The cocktails are great. The staff is knowledgeable and engaging. I went there recently, ordered a nice selection of food and wanted to share a bunch of different wines with my friend to pair with all the items we ordered….they were kind enough to accommodate us and served half-glasses of each wine we wanted so that we could try everything without over consuming.

Q: What trends are you seeing at the forefront of the bar scene?

A: Classic cocktails are still popular, but we’re seeing that people want more of a fun party environment than a quiet drinking temple. So new places are more casual and upbeat, making sure to serve quality drinks faster so people don’t have to wait for a great cocktail. I’m also seeing a lot of drinking vinegars and homemade sodas being used. These tools are a good way for bartenders to show their creativity, mixing up flavors that are unique and really palatable. I’m also seeing more vegetables (celery, carrots, beets, etc.) and meats infused into cocktails. At Goldbar, Tim Cooper does a guanciale-infused Campari to make a really complex riff on a Negroni. Vegetables that stick out are used to infuse new flavors into cocktails.  Finally, the next big thing is bottled cocktails.  My current favorite spot to enjoy one of these is at the newly opened and magnificent Dead Rabbit in the Financial District.