New York City Cocktail Tour and Tasting

From Prohibition to the present day, enjoy the complicated story of the American cocktail
From US$610 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • St. Regis King Cole Bar
  • PJ Clarkes
  • St Patrick's Cathedral
  • Rockefeller Center
Photos & Highlights
  • You'll learn about America's unique cocktail culture, with a drink or two in hand
  • Led by an acclaimed spirits journalist or historian, we'll spend time in the city's most famous bars
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Tour Description
Before, after—and notably, during—Prohibition, New York City’s bartenders have been the heart of American cocktail culture. During this 3-hour New York cocktail tour, we’ll trace the history of the American cocktail and visit some of the most historic bars located in Midtown Manhattan. While looking at the larger social themes that have shaped drinking in America, we’ll also consider the aesthetics of the cocktail – including the bars where certain drinks were invented, the barware, and boutique ingredients that created the idea of cocktail culture. 

Midtown Manhattan's Best Bars & Local Legends

Our adventure begins with an old school bar, P. J. Clarke’s, referred to by the New York Times as "the Vatican of saloons," where we'll get an immediate feel for old New York and its drinking culture and enjoy either a local beer or an American whiskey.  From there, we'll proceed to an iconic hotel bar, where we'll discuss the rise of the great American hotel bars in the early 20th century, which served as incubators for some of the world’s most famous cocktails. We'll learn quickly that fact and fiction frequently collide in cocktail history. The St. Regis’s King Cole Bar, for instance, claims that their French bartender Fernand Petiot invented the Red Snapper, known today as the Bloody Mary, in 1934. But Harry’s New York Bar in Paris also claims to have invented the drink. Over a classic Bloody Mary, we'll look at how these claims and counterclaims build the idea of the cocktail over time.

Prohibition and the Cocktail Craft

Our walk will continue down Fifth Avenue and will stop outside one or two of New York's most famous and upscale speakeasies, including one that dates from the 1920s but is named for the 1890s, a brilliant illustration of how nostalgia and a sense of history have informed cocktail-making and -consuming at critical junctures of the story. We'll talk about the rise and development of these illicit drinking establishments during Prohibition and how they negatively impact the high art of the American cocktail.

Enjoy A Nightcap

Finally, with the story of the cocktail firmly laid out, we'll retire to a standout craft cocktail bar and enjoy an expertly made drink that reflects the current cocktail renaissance that the U.S. and the rest of the world have been experiencing for the past 20 years. It will be the experiential cap to a very rich exploration of the American cocktail through history.

Recommended reading: Dry Manhattan by Michael A. Lerner

For more history-filled eats and drinks, take a look at our Food Tours available in New York City’s Chinatown and Little Italy.


Where do we meet? Where does the walk end?
Our tour begins near the intersection of 52nd St and 3rd Ave. It will conclude in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center.

Why isn't this tour available on weekends?
Because these famous bars become so crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings, we do not operate this tour at those times. Additionally, several of the bars we visit on this itinerary are closed on Sundays.

What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine. But in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the itinerary, so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.

Is this a walking intensive tour?
We do cover extensive territory on this walk. Please contact our team with any mobility concerns; we can advise if this tour will be appropriate for you.

Does this tour involve any venues besides the bars?
Yes, while they will be viewed from their exteriors, your expert will share with you the ties between the New York cocktail narrative with the history connected to various landmarks throughout your tour, such as St. Patricks's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center.

What does the tasting fee include?
This can vary depending on your expert, typically you'll have some half-pours as well as a full cocktail to finish the tour. We recommend you have something to eat prior to your tour to ensure you can enjoy the tastings throughout the 3-hour cocktail tour experience.

Is this tour good for kids or teenagers?
Due to the subject matter, we are not able to offer this tour to anyone under the legal drinking age.
Where You'll Start
(4.8) 16 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

It was a great tour, we learned so much about the history of cocktails and alcohol in New York. Loved hanging out with Diana and seeing some of the key spots in the midtown area. Thanks!
Diana was exceptional. Her knowledge and smooth flow of the day created a comfortable and truly informative tour. She was the perfect guide to take us through the story of New York City.
Diana was fabulous. She’s so knowledgeable and personable.

Crafting the Perfect Cocktail

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