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Le Coucou
Le Coucou
Le Coucou

Where to Find Cocktails That Won't Get You Hammered

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Le Coucou
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These days, it’s not terribly challenging to find sophisticated cocktails made from lower-proof liquors, part of a growing pursuit of a mellower buzz. Here's a collection of New York’s top haunts that dedicate entire (or partial) cocktail menus to low-abv (alcohol by volume) drinks.

Note: Restaurants are listed based on geography, starting with lower Manhattan and then down through Brooklyn.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

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Bruce and Eric Bromberg are the dudes you can thank for 3:30 a.m. oysters at their stalwart, Blue Ribbon Brasserie. Their latest effort, Blue Ribbon Federal Grill in F​idi​ — a sort of modern surf-and-turf place that weaves in global flavors — involves a cocktail menu with a graph that depicts beverage-strength. From “Low Proof” to “Full Proof” to “Over Proof” sections on the menu, there’s more than half dozen drinks which guarantee you’ll remember the night. Choose from the likes of Letter to Rio with cachaça, cava, honey, and French lime or Smoke Break, which blends mezcal, Scotch, sesame shochu, and soda.

Photo: Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

Chinese Tuxedo

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Since its debut last November, this white-hot Chinatown newcomer has only been serving beer and wine. But last week, partner Eddy Buckingham launched his low-alcohol-dedicated tipples: a selection of six fruity and herbal wine-based cocktails. But there’s no grape wine. Instead, the wines in question are either sake, plum wine, or Michiu, not the sweet Chinese wine commonly incorporated in Chinese cookery, rather a 19.5 percent neutral rice wine spirit.

Le Coucou

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While the posh Le Coucou doesn’t really offer guests a place to stand around and sip cocktails (the cozy bar area is mostly reserved for guests awaiting tables), honcho Jordan Smith does mix low-abv tipples to sip beside chef Daniel Rose’s seasonal French plates. One would be remiss not to start with an aperitif, like the Cocktail #1 with pear cider, lemon, and choice of bitter (Contratto or China-China), or the Matin Sur La Seine with white vermouth, Cointreau, pear, lemon, and tonic.

Nitecap

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Celebrated three-year-old LES cocktail den Nitecap — the experimental bar from Dave Kaplan and Alex Day of The Walker Inn (the World’s 37th Best Bar) from LA — offers various low-abv libations, including aperitifs and spritzes. But don’t expect average European libations. Instead, the forward-thinking bar mixes and muddles curious combinations like the Beta Angle, which calls for Pimm’s, along with root beer-infused gin, ginger, carrot, lemon, and mint.

Photo: Nitecap
Read Review |

Intimate East Village Euro-Asian number Tuome, with a menu that spans the gamut — from wagyu tartare with lemongrass, to snow crab with dashi butter — devised its full cocktail program in an ode to wine-based intoxicants. Of course, Asian flavors continue in the name of Fire in the Sky which calls for sake, Thai chili, and yuzu; and Tuome City Lights, a mix of sherry, kina, and Chinese five spice.

Ladybird

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Death & Co founder Ravi DeRossi operates more bars that one can count on two hands. At his West Village lounge, Ladybird, which debuted last summer, beverage director Ariel Arce is responsible for the beer, wine, and liqueur-based beverages to pair with assorted vegan tapas. Expect a medley of hot and cool libations, from warm white wine with cardamom, to mint and cinnamon.

Chao Chao

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Cocktails here are entirely low-booze, built from a combination of Asian and European ingredients for an overall exotic mix. Developed by Tom Richter (Dear Irving), one will find contemporary Asian riffs off classics, like the negroni reimagination, NahToi, using sake, Cappelletti, Cardamaro, and byrrh. Totally new constructions like the Amie Zing incorporate nigori, fermented coconut water, pineapple sambal, and lime.

We know what you need on a gorgeous #Friday like today!!! #Cocktails and good #food! Come in!

A post shared by Chao Chao (@chaochao_nyc) on

Le Coq Rico

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Flatiron’s chicken cooker, Le Coq Rico — the French bird-bent boîte helmed by three Michelin-starred chef Antoine Westermann — organized a sizable section of its intoxicants under the title “Frenchies,” connoting wine-based beverages, half of which are sparkling. Look for the slightly less-classic Bellini with lavender or peach puree, as well as Spiced Liesel, which is almost like a spiced sangria, with red wine, Cointreau, orange peel, cinnamon, and anise.

Photo: Le Coq Rico

Sauvage

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The sophomore effort from those behind (the World’s 20th Best Bar) Maison Premiere, Sauvage chimes in with a fresh, almost tropical feel, reminiscent of what a bar for well-heeled Parisians might have felt like circa 1930. As for cocktails, Will Elliott’s program celebrates, rather appropriately, the aperitif, so all drinks on the menu are low-abv. Take a gander at the trophy shelves of booze behind the bar and don’t be surprised if many look unfamiliar. Elliott filled the place with rare European bottles, plus ample product from super-tiny producers.

Fresh Kills Bar

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Year-old Williamsburg addition, Fresh Kills from the Dutch Kills folks, serves carefully crafted cocktails of all proofs, but a section of the menu here is carved out for low-booze drinks. These low-octane libations calls for a slurry of alt-spirits in place of the full-proof stuff, which includes sherry, vermouth and amari.

Photo: Fresh Kills

Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

Photo: Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

Bruce and Eric Bromberg are the dudes you can thank for 3:30 a.m. oysters at their stalwart, Blue Ribbon Brasserie. Their latest effort, Blue Ribbon Federal Grill in F​idi​ — a sort of modern surf-and-turf place that weaves in global flavors — involves a cocktail menu with a graph that depicts beverage-strength. From “Low Proof” to “Full Proof” to “Over Proof” sections on the menu, there’s more than half dozen drinks which guarantee you’ll remember the night. Choose from the likes of Letter to Rio with cachaça, cava, honey, and French lime or Smoke Break, which blends mezcal, Scotch, sesame shochu, and soda.

Photo: Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

Chinese Tuxedo

Since its debut last November, this white-hot Chinatown newcomer has only been serving beer and wine. But last week, partner Eddy Buckingham launched his low-alcohol-dedicated tipples: a selection of six fruity and herbal wine-based cocktails. But there’s no grape wine. Instead, the wines in question are either sake, plum wine, or Michiu, not the sweet Chinese wine commonly incorporated in Chinese cookery, rather a 19.5 percent neutral rice wine spirit.

Le Coucou

Read Review |

While the posh Le Coucou doesn’t really offer guests a place to stand around and sip cocktails (the cozy bar area is mostly reserved for guests awaiting tables), honcho Jordan Smith does mix low-abv tipples to sip beside chef Daniel Rose’s seasonal French plates. One would be remiss not to start with an aperitif, like the Cocktail #1 with pear cider, lemon, and choice of bitter (Contratto or China-China), or the Matin Sur La Seine with white vermouth, Cointreau, pear, lemon, and tonic.

Nitecap

Photo: Nitecap

Celebrated three-year-old LES cocktail den Nitecap — the experimental bar from Dave Kaplan and Alex Day of The Walker Inn (the World’s 37th Best Bar) from LA — offers various low-abv libations, including aperitifs and spritzes. But don’t expect average European libations. Instead, the forward-thinking bar mixes and muddles curious combinations like the Beta Angle, which calls for Pimm’s, along with root beer-infused gin, ginger, carrot, lemon, and mint.

Photo: Nitecap

tuome

Read Review |

Intimate East Village Euro-Asian number Tuome, with a menu that spans the gamut — from wagyu tartare with lemongrass, to snow crab with dashi butter — devised its full cocktail program in an ode to wine-based intoxicants. Of course, Asian flavors continue in the name of Fire in the Sky which calls for sake, Thai chili, and yuzu; and Tuome City Lights, a mix of sherry, kina, and Chinese five spice.

Ladybird

Death & Co founder Ravi DeRossi operates more bars that one can count on two hands. At his West Village lounge, Ladybird, which debuted last summer, beverage director Ariel Arce is responsible for the beer, wine, and liqueur-based beverages to pair with assorted vegan tapas. Expect a medley of hot and cool libations, from warm white wine with cardamom, to mint and cinnamon.

Chao Chao

Cocktails here are entirely low-booze, built from a combination of Asian and European ingredients for an overall exotic mix. Developed by Tom Richter (Dear Irving), one will find contemporary Asian riffs off classics, like the negroni reimagination, NahToi, using sake, Cappelletti, Cardamaro, and byrrh. Totally new constructions like the Amie Zing incorporate nigori, fermented coconut water, pineapple sambal, and lime.

We know what you need on a gorgeous #Friday like today!!! #Cocktails and good #food! Come in!

A post shared by Chao Chao (@chaochao_nyc) on

Le Coq Rico

Photo: Le Coq Rico

Flatiron’s chicken cooker, Le Coq Rico — the French bird-bent boîte helmed by three Michelin-starred chef Antoine Westermann — organized a sizable section of its intoxicants under the title “Frenchies,” connoting wine-based beverages, half of which are sparkling. Look for the slightly less-classic Bellini with lavender or peach puree, as well as Spiced Liesel, which is almost like a spiced sangria, with red wine, Cointreau, orange peel, cinnamon, and anise.

Photo: Le Coq Rico

Sauvage

Read Review |

The sophomore effort from those behind (the World’s 20th Best Bar) Maison Premiere, Sauvage chimes in with a fresh, almost tropical feel, reminiscent of what a bar for well-heeled Parisians might have felt like circa 1930. As for cocktails, Will Elliott’s program celebrates, rather appropriately, the aperitif, so all drinks on the menu are low-abv. Take a gander at the trophy shelves of booze behind the bar and don’t be surprised if many look unfamiliar. Elliott filled the place with rare European bottles, plus ample product from super-tiny producers.

Fresh Kills Bar

Photo: Fresh Kills

Year-old Williamsburg addition, Fresh Kills from the Dutch Kills folks, serves carefully crafted cocktails of all proofs, but a section of the menu here is carved out for low-booze drinks. These low-octane libations calls for a slurry of alt-spirits in place of the full-proof stuff, which includes sherry, vermouth and amari.

Photo: Fresh Kills

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