Explore New York City

10 New York Bars With a Beat

Would you like a soundtrack with that drink? Head to one of these NYC bars for live music or a set by a top DJ.

There are a multitude of spots around town to catch live music and listen to curated tunes selected by top DJs, places where you plunk down a cover charge or pay Ticketmaster to gain entrance. Most of the time, these experiences require at least some advance planning, and you tend to be there more for the music than the food and drink. Sometimes, though, you’re in the mood for a quick one after dinner, and also want the ambience of a solid soundtrack. That’s when you seek the ideal spot with the right atmosphere, a killer cocktail menu and, oh yeah, great music in the background.

Toshi’s Living Room (1141 Broadway, 212.679.8002) “No Cover, Just Love” greets guests in red neon as they enter this modernist bar and restaurant which hosts local and national jazz, pop and cover acts. The night begins with jazz and standards, perfect for sipping The Toshi (gin, lemon juice, champagne and fresh berries). From 10 p.m. on, the professional, mixed-age crowd jams to rock, funk and “wedding band”-style covers, while singers glide through the audience encouraging dancing.

DRAM (177 S. 4th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718.486.3726) Bartender Tonia Guffey says playlists are curated monthly to match specific moods and crowd experiences at this whiskey-heavy craft cocktail lounge. Films are also shown, with an atmospheric musical backdrop. Pair indie, alt and punk rock music with an eye-opening  Red Morning Light (named for a Kings of Leon tune and made with tequila, Vida mezcal, Cocchi Americano Rosa aperitif, sweet vermouth and Borghetti coffee liqueur).

Half & Half (356 W. 58th St., 212.554.6217) This new bar is true to its name: half video arcade, half dance hall and all retro 1980s. Art installations celebrate the music and style of the early part of the era, and DJs spin 1980s and 1990s pop, rock and old-school hip-hop. Sip canned beers (mainstream and craft) or sweet cocktails like the Lava Flow (Grey Goose Le Melon, crème de banana, coconut, pineapple and lime).

Half & Half
Half & Half (©Justin Bridges)

Rum House (228 W. 47th St., 646.490.6924) A haven from all that is Times Square, the vintage vibe at the Rum House is complemented by craft cocktails, a mixed-age crowd and live jazz. Catch Terry Waldo most Monday nights, when he jams with Broadway musicians. Rum cocktails are, of course, highlighted here. Try the refreshing Starr Cup (Starr Rum, Pimm’s No 1, ginger, cucumber and lemon). 

151 (151 Rivington St., 646.490.4338) The beloved, scruffy semisubterranean (unmarked) bar has great drinks. Sip a Classy F*ing Piña Colada (cognac, rum, pineapple, Coco Lopez, cinnamon and bitters) while listening to 1980s rock, indie, Motown and hip-hop.

Pinks (242 E. 10th St., 917.902.6809) The East Village has lost a lot of great hangouts, many of which blasted punk music throughout the night. Fortunately, Pinks fills the air with punk and rock music again, when live funkadelic blues or throwback tributes don’t take over the tiny corner stage. Enjoy drinks with car-themed monikers, like the El Camino (tequila, housemade grenadine, fresh lime juice, Tabasco and bitters). 


Seeking even more ear candy? Enter “Jukebox Bars” into NightOwl, a new (free) nightlife app that allows you to search New York City bars by neighborhood, style, crowdsourced keywords or your own custom list. Here are some results:

The Magician (118 Rivington St.,212.673.7851) Light and airy tavern with an actual jukebox cranking out 1980s/1990s indie rock and an awesome happy hour.

The Rusty Knot (425 West St., 212.645.5668) Pace yourself on the massive Scorpion Bowl cocktails at this raucous, nautically themed bar in the Far West Village. House DJs on weekends.

Daddy’s Bar (437 Graham Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718.609.6388) A semicircular bar, cozy fireplace and, yes, a high-tech jukebox greet trendy Williamsburg regulars at this laid-back social spot.

Mona’s (224 Ave. B, 212.353.3780) Absolutely nothing precocious about this old-school neighborhood bar, where you’ll get beer, low-key mixed drinks and a stellar jukebox stuffed with classic punk rock, along with a live Hot Jazz Night, offered weekly.