Love Spirits? New York's Copper & Oak is Your New Favorite Bar

This cozy gem boasts one of the most extensive lists of spirits in NYC

I’m the kind of guy who likes to spend time in bars, not clubs or restaurants that serve liquor. I like an unfussy, stiff drink from a friendly bartender who knows their stuff. I want a bar with a relaxed ambiance, quality alcohol and zero frills. Call me a curmudgeon; it’s just my style.

By these simple standards, I just discovered the best spot ever. It has exactly eight seats and is the most impressively designed jewel of a bar I’ve ever seen, with stunning golden-hued lighting and a warm, comforting atmosphere. The exterior isn’t remarkable; I’ll admit I walked by at least 100 times before stepping in. But once you cross the threshold, this place is a spirit-lover’s dream.

Copper & Oak is as notable for what it doesn’t do wrong as for what it does do right. They do not make fancy cocktails (any). They do not serve ice (none). If you do shots, they will ask you to leave. They serve only spirits, neat. They will provide water on the side if you request it. Want “no frills?” This place defines the concept.

So what do they serve? A vast array of whiskies, rums, Scotches, brandies, mezcals…name the liquor and they’ve got it in spades from producers all over the world.

In addition to providing each guest an iPad with a list of all their offerings, they boast some of the best “spirit sommeliers” I’ve ever met. Tomo Matsushita is one of them; he impressed me with both his comprehensive in-depth knowledge and his unassuming demeanor. On my first visit, I happened to sit down in front of their wall of Japanese whiskies (they stock 102 varieties). I figured it was a sign, so I asked Matsushita to give me an introductory course in the various styles, distillers, ages, barrel wood choices and grains used in Japan. I enjoyed myself so much that night that I kept coming back. Over my next three visits I felt like I had a full-on Japanese whisky tour. I sampled spirits from seven different producers and even more distilleries (some producers have more than one distillery and age their whiskies for different periods of time, from two to over twenty-five years). Naturally, I liked some more than others, but each had its own unique character and was an integral part of my education.

If you love spirits and are looking for a solid drink (or a serious schooling), Copper & Oak is the place for you. And if you love appletinis? Just keep on moving.

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You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.