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Five Astoria Bars to Get Your Boozy Frozen Fix

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.


Ninos AQ

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.


The Highwater

34-20 Broadway
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.


Sek’end Sun

32-11 Broadway
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

Las Catrinas has eight slush machines featuring unique and tasty frozen drinks.

32-02 Broadway
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.

Diamond Dogs

34-04 31st Ave.
Opens everyday at 4 p.m.

Diamond Dogs has joined the bandwagon of out-of-the-box frozen drinks, like their Paper Plane.

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.

Fans return to local sports bars despite COVID flare-up

Pandemic-related restrictions on indoor gatherings and hours of operation were lifted on bars across New York State at the end of May, and since then staff at local sports pubs say fans have resumed watching games and matches in social settings. Proprietors are hoping they won’t be forced into another shutdown.
“People are starting to come out more, but who knows how long it’s going to last? I have a feeling we’re going to be put in the hole again,” said James Munson, co-owner of The Village Saloon on Eliot Avenue in Middle Village. “You definitely noticed the difference when the restrictions were on. People didn’t want to go out.”
As the NBA and NHL playoffs were pushed later into the summer to accommodate their modified regular season schedules, fans were getting a reprieve from the capacity rules and curfews that made it nearly impossible for fans to gather.
“We packed the place for the Euro Cup, but the NBA Finals wasn’t as big for us this year, I think because of the two smaller market teams,” said Carlo Fortunato, co-owner of Emblem, a sports bar and beer garden with nearly 20 televisions in Williamsburg. “If the Knicks and the Lakers were in it, I think it would have been different,”
The common trend seen at sports bars is that fans have returned to watch big games, such as the NBA playoffs and major international soccer tournaments, but the after-work ritual of stopping to have a beer and watch a few innings of a baseball game appears to be paused due to the increase of people working from home.
“Baseball is not drawing a big crowd,” said Carmine Gangone, owner of Carmine & Sons, a pizzeria and sports bar in Williamsburg. “People are really not packing my bar unless it’s a big game. I’m hoping football season brings them in.”
Despite a disinterest in the national pastime, bar owners say they have also tried to diversify or tweak little elements of their establishments. Emblem is hosting multiple comedy nights in order to boost traffic on weeknights. Carmine & Sons is featuring a weekly jazz trio on the sidewalk outside their restaurant’s entrance.
The Village Saloon, under new management since May 5, focused on improving their menu when they reopened in the space formerly occupied by Mooney’s Public House. Still, several sports bar owners say the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions coincided with the time of year when many people are away on vacation.
“The summertime is a tough time to own a bar in Middle Village,” Munson said. “A lot of people go away on vacation or for the weekend, and probably more so this year.”
Sports bars with a history of showing a particular sport or team, such as New York Islanders hockey or the Ultimate Fighting Championship, saw crowds return as soon as they could.
“My crowd for MMA is back strong, but during the entire pandemic people called us to ask if we were going to show the UFC fight that weekend,” Fortunato said. “I had to tell them I wasn’t because I had to close by 11 p.m. and pay $1,000 for the fight when I was only allowed half-capacity. It wasn’t worth it for me.”
While the size of the crowds returning to sports bars has been promising, what’s concerning ownership and staff is what happens if the COVID-19 infection rate increases to the point that restrictions on bars and restaurants are reinstated.
Rosann McSorley, whose family owns Katch Astoria, a gastropub and beer garden with 64 televisions and 50 beer taps, is worried she and her staff may be required to ask patrons to wear masks. Katch drew strong crowds for the Islanders run to the NHL semifinals, but has still not returned to its pre-pandemic foot traffic or closing times.
“The mask coming back will be an issue for the bars that do not have outdoor capacity, because people will be concerned,” McSorley said. “I think our business is going to drop for sure. If we are asked to check that people have been vaccinated, that will be another issue.”

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