“Where are we drinking tonight?”

In New York City, the question can be paralyzing, and sometimes it can feel like you need a few drinks in you to even make a decision about where you’re really going to go to get some drinks. New boozing destinations pop up every day with ever-more ambitious offerings, while classics cling to their slivers of real estate, counting on the loyalty of their regulars to save them from the chopping block.

With that in mind, we decided to take a step back from the fray and come up with a list of standard-bearing bars—both new and old—that are operating at the peak of their game right now. To whittle down the options, we sought to balance the main lynchpins of today’s drinking scene in NYC: Cocktail joints, tackled by booze writer and Edible Queens editor Alia Akkam; craft-beer bars, covered by Craft Beer New York author Joshua M. Bernstein; new-school wine bars, explored by vino evangelist Jonathan Cristaldi of the Noble Rot; and the no-frills dives where you still go with $20 in your pocket and have a great night.

These aren’t just the brand-new hot spots (though some of them are certainly new and hot), nor places that might have been important at one time but have let themselves slide. Instead, they’re the places where we’d be excited to bend an elbow on any given night, and the ones we’re proud to show off to out-of-town guests looking for a night on the town.

See you out there.

Written by Alia Akkam (@theqnote), Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein), Jonathan Cristaldi (@NobleRotNYC), Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger), and Erin Mosbaugh (@JayBlague)

Updated 11/26/14