NYC's Best New Cocktail Bar Serves a Mole Negroni, Mango Martini, and Mushroom Margarita

Sip serious cocktails in a playful space at the best bar in the U.S.

<p>John Shyloski</p>

John Shyloski

On the corner of First Avenue and First Street in Manhattan, next to a shuttered laundromat, across the street from a funeral home, and catty-corner from a graveyard, there’s a bar that, around 7 p.m. every night, begins to glow a bright neon red.

Inside, the thrum of salsa and reggaeton is enticing, and everyone here seems to be having a great time. The walls are lined with luchador masks, stools are filled with couples on first dates, regulars, and wait — are the lights above the bar swinging like pendulums? It makes sense — Superbueno, a new Mexican-American cocktail bar from Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez, has its own rhythm, and there’s nothing else in New York City, or the United States, quite like it.

Despite the decidedly fun (but not rowdy) vibe, the drinks are serious. Most of the cocktails are inspired by food, Jimenez will tell you. There’s the crowd-pleasing, tequila-based Green Mango Martini, a drink that’s modeled after “the mango vendors in the subway,” finished with a drop of costeño chile oil that pops on the tongue like flakes of Tajín. The Mole Negroni, a favorite from Jimenez’s Ghost Donkey (a now-closed tequila and mezcal bar nearby) days, has mole fat-washed mezcal blended with cynar, amaro, sweet vermouth, and chocolate bitters to deliver a cocktail that has a different flavor in nearly every sip.

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The rest of the drinks menu is filled with heavy hitters. There’s a purple mushroom Margarita that my server aptly calls the best Margarita in town, in the form of a slushie with dehydrated pineapple skin, as well as excellent nonalcoholic offerings (get the Chamoy and Soda). The best drink is unassuming enough that it’s easy to skip over — the Vodka y Soda, a maximalist highball with a minimalist name filled with clarified “guava water,” and a chile infusion that, unlike the original, isn't clear but slightly yellow-tinted. It’s tart, sweet, salty, and dangerously refreshing.

If this all sounds playful for a serious cocktail bar, that’s because it’s supposed to be. But the food gets even more opulent. Superbueno’s ceviche comes in a halved nacho cheese Dorito bag — frito-pie style — and the fresh fish at the bottom is layered with jicama, tomatoes, onion, and plenty of hot sauce. It’s red on red on red, and if you tilt the bag into your mouth to get at the last few crumbs, no one would blame you. All of the tacos are served on heirloom corn tortillas, and if you love pork, you'll find nuggets of chiccaron nestled inside the pork tacos, adding the perfect crunch to every bite. Even the seasonal fruit platter is a psychedelic vision of chamoy, darkened under a glowing beam of red light.

But then there’s the birria grilled cheese, a showstopper that happens to be the tamest dish on the menu. There are no tricks here — Jimenez doesn’t make the sandwich or the consommé greasier, cheesier, or saltier than you’d expect it to be. He just makes an excellent version of the classic that, served on bolillo bread with a mix of cotija, satisfies a craving for the best birria taco while leaving plenty of room for you to explore the rest of the food and beverage menu.

It’s this measured restraint that makes Superbueno special. Jimenez is playing with big flavors, big feelings, and big vibes, but knows when to pull back. He understands that throwing a party is like conducting an orchestra and that every dish and drink and element of decor has its place within a larger picture. And, he is a damn good conductor.

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