NEW YORK: There’s still a little time for fun before the fall comes and then the winter, order your drinks alfresco at one of New York’s coolest rooftop bars.
In New York, high-rises, honking traffic, and jammed subways make fresh air a luxury and rooftops a sanctuary. The best of these sun-drenched, sky-high bars provide a welcome reprieve, mixing a lively atmosphere with well-crafted drinks and expansive views of what Seinfeld’s Kramer dubbed the Nexus of the Universe.
And there’s an NYC rooftop for every taste: classic or new? Elegant or edgy? Manhattan or Brooklyn? Downtown’s cool-kid Jane Hotel attracted buzz in summer 2014 by opening its rooftop overlooking the Hudson River to the public for the first time. SoHo’s new Bar Hugo promises to be the Fashion Week party du jour come September, thanks to chic décor and restaurateur Sean Largotta’s A-list pedigree (his restaurant Lion is a celebrity magnet).
But you won’t find a higher vantage point than Bar 54, atop the Hyatt Times Square, officially the tallest cocktail lounge in town—for now. Yes, that’s the gleaming spire of One World Trade Center down there.
German booze alchemist Alex Ott develops the madcap cocktail menu atop the Refinery Hotel, drawing on a biochemistry degree and an affinity for obscure aromas. His vibrant ingredients (curry powder, seedless raspberry jam) are in sync with the savory menu of pork belly sliders and catfish po’boys by Jeffrey Forrest, winner of the Food Network’s reality show Chopped. Views of the Empire State Building make the porch swing laden terrace a hit, while the retractable glass roof and cozy fireplace keep the after-work crowd coming long after summer fades.
The Rooftop Lounge at Pod 39
Take a tacos-focused collaboration by Spotted Pig veterans April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, add a transporting brick-swathed courtyard with soaring terra cotta columns and fresh-fruit drinks, mix in an international hipster crowd, and you’ve got the antidote to Murray Hill’s fratty nightlife abyss. What to order? A trio of roasted pineapple al pastor tacos or Moroccan lamb with cucumber pico de gallo on roti—and a specialty tequila from a 70-deep bench, of course.
Grupo Habita’s designy Hotel Americano capitalized early on the neighborhood-transforming High Line, which brought a wave of new traffic to once-gritty north Chelsea. Grapefruit mojitos and a plunge pool ringed by cabanas are crowd-pleasers when the mercury dial is in a punishing mood, but the patio is nearly as popular in winter when the space is converted into a cozy haven, with spiced punches and a hot tub.
Sean Largotta, the restaurant mogul behind West Village celeb hangout The Lion, aims to bring the same A-list buzz to SoHo’s newest rooftop lounge at Hotel Hugo, launching in September 2014. The bi-level, Marcello Pozzi designed space is done in a caramel palette, with clusters of hand-blown glass orbs drifting over a concrete S-shaped bar, and leather banquettes on a wooden deck overlooking the Hudson River. While the décor exudes elegance, the drinks are more playful—opt for a Mai Tai or Brazilian Hurricane from the tropical-themed menu.
Bar 54 at Hyatt Times Square
In a city of concrete beanstalks, Bar 54, towering above the Times Square din, has claimed the loftiest perch (for now). What you’ll find at Manhattan’s highest cocktail lounge: Clover Club legend Julie Reiner’s house-made English punches along with Asian-inflected small plates (miso baby-back ribs; shishito peppers with ponzu mayo) and views that stretch to downtown’s One World Trade Center.
The Roof at the Viceroy
Roman & Williams went nautical when designing the Roof at the Viceroy. The polished brass interiors and handcrafted wooden floors recall a classic yacht cabin, and Dalton Portella’s oceanic photography adorns the walls. Outside, briefcase warriors assemble for sundown Negronis and spicy Palomas, not to mention midtown’s best rooftop view of Central Park, which will remain forever unobstructed—the hotel owns the empty airspace.
The Garment District’s nightlife resurgence continues with the launch of David Burke’s Spyglass on the 22nd floor of the new Archer Hotel. Custom, yellow-hued wallpaper by Glen Coben, purple leather-backed stools, and classic cocktails evoke 1950s glam, but the share plates are very much of-the-moment: octopus tacos, avocado panna cotta, and ratatouille and goat cheese parfait, from the ground-level restaurant Fabrick.
La Birreria at Eataly
The Eataly-ification of America is underway—the Chicago outpost recently debuted, with D.C., Philly, and L.A. on the horizon—but the Italian beer garden at the first U.S. location, launched by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, still feels special. An industrial elevator ushers visitors to a space outfitted with communal wooden tables, aluminum red chairs, and an extensive marble bar, under a retractable polycarbonate roof. The menu showcases fromage and salumi, plus suds from the homeland. Worth a few pints: one of the three cask-conditioned brews made on-site, including chestnut ale, thyme pale ale, and witbier.
Loopy Doopy, you had us at Prosecco on tap. At this teetering Battery Park sundeck on the edge of the Conrad Hotel, a glass of the bubbly stuff comes with a booze-infused People’s Pop (vodka strawberry lemongrass; Pinot Grigio apple). Just as sweet are the killer vistas of Lady Liberty and sailboats plying the Hudson River. About that cartoonish name: it comes from Sol LeWitt’s massively psychedelic art installation festooned over the hotel’s lobby.