Cafe Dante in NYC has been around for 104 years.
It’s been on my radar for about 4.
But after over a century of serving drinks to locals in Greenwich Village, it was officially crowned the best bar in the world by World’s 50 Best.
And not only that? It was also crowned best bar in the world by Tales of the Spirit.
Now if you follow this site, you know I’m on a quest to visit all, yes all, of the top 100 bars in the world.
I’ll never get there, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.
I first visited Dante in 2016 way back when it barely cracked the top 100.
I rolled in there with a couple friends around 2pm, had one negroni, and then went on my way.
Very little excitement, and the place was empty.
But it had a cool vibe, and from what I’d remembered, the cocktail was very good.
Fast forward to November of 2019.
A month prior Dante was crowned the Grande Dame of the cocktail world, and Tate and I found ourselves back in NYC.
Naturally, we had to go back and give Dante a proper visit.
The History of Dante NYC
So you might be wondering like I was, how Dante all of a sudden became such a a global cocktail hot spot.
For the first 6 decades or so Dante was owned by the same family, in a neighborhood that was predominantly Italian.
In 1971 Mario Flotta took over the cafe, and proceeded to make it one of the best neighborhood Italian cafes in New York, until his family sold it in 2015.
A NYC based Australian family took over the cafe in 2015, and they’re the ones who are responsible for making a push to ramp up the cocktail game and get it recognized on a global level.
What’s cool is they’ve kept the neighborhood Italian vibe, and truly are building off it’s past, rather than forgetting about it.
Clearly, it’s working.
Our Second Visit to Cafe Dante NYC
We visited again, around 2pm on a casual Friday afternoon, and let’s just say our hopes of wandering in and sidling up to the bar were dashed very quickly.
Quite simply? Dante was packed.
Like really packed.
I’ve had a few friends who live in the village over the years, who have always said it was one of their favorite local spots, but they were shocked when I told them it was top 100 in the world, let alone number one.
Well, unfortunately for the locals Dante is very much now a spot.
The recent efforts to up the cocktail game and make it even more globally recognizable has been worth it – I just only hope they’d be able to live up to my now sky high expectations.
Fortunately for us, there was a couple just getting up from their outdoor table, and we were able to sneak in and grab their spot.
Being November in New York, it wasn’t exactly balmy out, but it was worth braving a slight chill to experience Dante again – especially since the sun was out.
Tate and I visited a number of bars on this trip (Aviary, Attaboy, Katana Kitten, Dante, Clover Club, Leyenda, Mace, and the Dead Rabbit just to name a few) – but unfortunately I made the ultimate blogger faux pas.
Something that in over a decade of blogging, I’ve never done and pray I never do again.
I lost the memory card to my camera after the trip – where of course I had yet to transfer the photos over to my computer.
The saving grace? I’d moved a handful of them from my camera to my phone to share on instagram before I lost the card…
The Drinks at Cafe Dante NYC
Considering the Italian heritage and the fact that the negroni is one of my favorite classic cocktails, it felt only right that I try a couple of the variations off their menu during our time here.
Also any time a bar as a negroni menu with 13 versions of drink – you know there’s gotta be some good stuff on there.
The first one I tasted was the Negroni Coffee Swizzle.
And it certainly wasn’t your traditional negroni, featuring mezcal, martini ambrato, meletti bitter, and cold brew.
I’m not gonna lie, I honestly couldn’t tell you what ambrato or meletti is.
All I know is that when you pair the two with cold brew and mezcal you’re treated to something very good.
Both the mezcal and the coffee flavors come out, and it is a solid, easy drinking, long version of a negroni.
It reminded me of a lighter version of the Coffee Negroni at Pepe Le Moko in Portland, Oregon – which is one of the best twists on the classic I’ve had anywhere.
I gave it an 8.5/10.
NOTE: Want to try the Blackjack Redux if you want a mezcal and coffee cocktail at home.
But for as good as the swizzle was, what was to come next was even better.
The Unexpected Negroni was one that sounded just weird enough, and well, unexpected enough – that I had to give it a shot.
After one sip, the first thing I said was “this is one of the most intense negronis I’ve ever had.’
And I meant that as the ultimate compliment.
As someone who really likes intense, spirit forward drinks – this was truly one of the best, if not the best, drink I had on the whole trip.
It featured a blend of Cabeza blanco, campari, banana, pineapple shrub, chili, and sesame of all things.
Reading this? It sounds like someone said “Hmmmm, let’s take the most random ingredients we can and combine them into a drink!”
And maybe that’s what they did, but damn is it tasty.
You can smell the sesame on the nose, there’s a slight burn from the chili and the shrub as you drink it, and then you get hit with a hint of banana in the aftertaste.
I love complex and layered drinks like this that give you a different experience at each stage of the cocktail, and this was complex at it’s finest.
Did Cafe Dante Live Up to Expectations?
After spending 90 minutes at Dante, we really wanted to have a few more drinks.
But on a whirlwind trip like this, there are many bars to see, and very little time to do it, so we had to move on.
But just about every single drink on the negroni menu sounded delicious to me – and that’s not even to mention the two pages of other delicious sounding cocktail on the rest of the menu.
So honestly, it’s safe to say that, yeah, Cafe Dante did live up to expectations.
While I do wish it was a bit less crowded and we could have found a spot at the bar, the service, vibe, and drinks were all worthy of being called one of the world’s best.
While as it sits I can’t say that I would have it as my favorite bar in the world, but it would certainly be in the top 20.
And now I can’t wait until my next trip to New York, so I can continue working my way through the menu.