By ET Rodriguez
It’s getting hot out there and, in some cases, unseasonably so. June 2 saw a high of 87 degrees – the hottest it has ever been on that day in 10 years – and people are desperate to find ways to chill out.
Some opt for the beach, others for a pool and if you’re like me, you reach for a cold drink, press it against your sweating forehead, take a sip and let the frigidness cool you from the inside out.
In that spirit, here are five funky bars in Astoria to walk, skip and hop to so that you can indulge in the inebriation of summer.
35-01 Ditmars Blvd.
Opens at 5pm p.m. during the week, 11:30 a.m. on weekends.
Family owned and operated Italian Restaurant, Ninos AQ, has become one of the most popular restaurants in Astoria over the last few years.
Their Craft Cocktail Program is curated by brother Michael Vendome, and includes fun and unique cocktails such as the Spicy Watermelon Margarita, Agave Old Fashioned, Double Rum Negroni, Passionfruit Martini, Spicy Espresso Martini, Junglebird, and many more…
For the Summer, Ninos AQ has brought back their Frose and Frozen Aperol Spritz, and you can enjoy both under palm trees at Ninos AQ’s tropical outdoor dining experience.
Reservations are suggested.
Opens at 4:30 p.m. during the week, 10 a.m. on weekends, closed Mondays.
Awash with shades of teal and aquatic themes, The Highwater is the only tiki bar in Astoria, according to general manager, Emily Coffin. Their drinks are carefully crafted using house-made juices and syrups, curated by their beverage director.
On Memorial Day, they unveiled their brand-new, wooden outdoor dining area that feels like a piece of a tropical resort right in the concrete jungle. Not one for beverages of the alcoholic persuasion? That’s ok because The Highwater also offers a tasty variety of dry cocktails, like The Rose of Sharon – a hibiscus tea Arnold Palmer sweetened with orgeat or the Not Your Baby – pomegranate juice, cinnamon syrup and muddled jalapeño, a riff on a spicy Margarita.
The tiki theme also permeates the food menu with coconut and mango flavor profiles. They even serve Loco Moco – a staple dish of Hawaii.
“Tiki is about escapism, whatever that means to you,” said Coffin. “It’s always summer here, it’s always a vacation.” Come grab a piña colada, drop in, drop out and sail away.
Open at 5 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. on weekends.
The name Sek’end Sun is a phonetic spelling of the word “second” which is a nod to the first bar of owners Derek Vernon and Jay Zimmerman, Basik in Williamsburg opened in 2011. After the success of Basik, they opened Sek’end Sun in Astoria almost 10 years ago and by the looks of the crowd on a late afternoon, they seem to be doing well.
With exposed brick and wood everywhere, the feel is rustic and warm – not to be unmatched by Kat, the bartender. She has a sweet smile and a kind disposition that will make anyone want to spend their money and rightfully so. Their frozen daiquiri is not tainted by artificial syrups, but instead, is a refreshingly tart and balanced frozen take on the traditional Cuban cocktail topped with a few dashes of angostura bitters like it’s served on the small Caribbean island.
Keep in mind that the frozen cocktails rotate and the daiquiri may not be available when you visit, but whatever is on is sure to be good. And if you’re counting your pennies, be sure to stop in on a Wednesday when Happy Hour is from open to close. All day they offer discounted drinks, $2 off all food items, $9 cocktails and $25 bottles of wine.
“Sek’end sun is the place where you can foster local roots,” said bar regular Monica between sips of their slushy daiquiri.
Las Catrinas Mexican Bar & Eatery
Opens 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Mon-Thurs., 4 p.m. on Fridays and 1 p.m. on weekends.
This Tulum-inspired restaurant is small but makes up for it with big flavor. The open kitchen doles out some of the best birria tacos with a consommé so clean and savory, you can drink it to the last drop.
The tortillas are hand-made in house and exude a rich corny flavor with a great chew. The tacos lean a little pricier than most, but once you take a bite, you’ll know it’s worth it.
The real attraction however, are the incredibly unique frozen treats – frozen whiskey with charcoal and hibiscus renders a black concoction; frozen mezcal with horchata adds a punch to a classic flavor profile; a frozen espresso martini has deep toasted, chocolatey notes and can replace any dessert or after-dinner drink and the “Sangrita” is a layering of lime margarita and frozen sangria resulting in a striped pattern that is as fun to look at as it is to drink.
34-04 31st Ave.
Opens everyday at 4 p.m.
There is no website and no signage on the outside of Diamond Dogs, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from filling the bar and the backyard space. Looking around, the feel is rugged outdoors meets NYC hipster – the walls are a mix of exposed brick and pink-flowered wallpaper, a deer head hangs on the wall above the bar, guns replace tap handles and old liquor bottles serve as vases for fresh flowers. The bar is cocktail forward with a house barrel-aged Negroni and classic cocktails become frozen. In May, they had a Penicillin, the first week of June, it was a Paper Plane. The Aperol lends a color that is incomparable and the flavor, paired with amaro Nonnino, gives a hint of bubblegum at first, that is then balanced by the bitter flavors of the Italian amaros and makes for a surprisingly perfect drink on a hot summer day.
The bar celebrated their eight-year anniversary in April and if you’re lucky, you can find Astoria- renowned bartender, Patricia Ahn, who has been slinging drinks around the city for a decade.