When summer rolls around in the Big Apple, New Yorkers and visitors alike love spending time outdoors, preferably with a cool, refreshing cocktail in hand. Fortunately, every year brings a spate of new rooftop bars to the city. From Midtown to SoHo to Williamsburg, there’s no shortage of “wow”-inducing views to enjoy. Check out these open-air urban retreats and indulge in the city’s splendor.
by Kate Donnelly
Kate Donnelly is a freelance writer based in New York. She's the founder of the creative collaborative, From Your Desks. She's a Contributing Editor at Fathom and her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Forbes, The Huffington Post and Refinery 29. She travels for the food. Follow Kate on Twitter: @k8bdonnelly.
Billed as the highest rooftop in New York, Bar 54, on the 54th floor of the Hyatt Times Square, looks onto the bright lights and bustling action of Times Square. There's a welcoming lounge of warm wood and glass with 122 seats, outdoor fireplaces, and an illuminated ceiling. Splurge on a fancy crafted drink made with seasonal produce from well-known mixologist Julie Reiner (Clover Club). Share an appetizer plate as the sun sets over the Hudson and watch the city light up.
Part lounge, part outdoor terrace, The Roof, situated on the 29th floor of the Viceroy New York, affords stunning views of Central Park and slick skyscrapers. The space, designed by hip duo Roman and Williams, boasts a sexy indoor lounge and a chic, nautical-inspired outdoor terrace. The menu features small-batch spirits, local beers, global wines, and the Gerber Group's mod cocktails (try the Spicy Paloma, made with Casamigos Blanco Tequila, Thai chile aperol, and grapefruit soda). Delicious nibbles are prepared by Kingside, and the soundtrack comes from in-the-know DJs.
Atop the arty, stylish citizenM is a rooftop space dubbed the Cloud Bar, designed by a Dutch firm who wanted a “pocket park” to escape the hustle of the city. Inside, a handsome wood room with 360-degree views is outfitted with green flourishes in custom sofas, cabinets filled with plants, and wood tables made from tree trunks. A narrow outdoor patio offers more sofa seating and high-top tables. For drinks, consider one of the “punches” or the Summer Rumble (Ketel One vodka, shaken with lemon and strawberries with hints of rose). For now, the roof is available only to hotel guests and for private events, but it's worth noting that you can sneak your way up if you manage to get in the elevator with anyone who has a room key.
Head over to the heart of the Garment District to experience moody stylishness on the 30th floor at The Skylark. The swanky, opulent indoor space (think tufted leather sofas and gold flourishes) is a perfect way to unwind in style, and it caters to a pre-theater and after-work crowd. The 141-seat rooftop terrace showcases expansive, panoramic views of Times Square, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and downtown Manhattan. It's easy to be wooed by the Prohibition Mint Julep, made with Templeton Rye and Le Combier peach liqueur, and a small bites menu that includes sliders, mac & cheese cupcakes, and tortilla chips dusted with cilantro-lime salt.
On the eight floor of Williamsburg's hip McCaren Hotel is the new hot spot, Sheltering Sky, named after Paul Bowles's iconic, eponymous travelogue. Chelsea Hotels and nightlife veteran Nur Khan teamed up to revamp the outdoor pool and rooftop bar with Moroccan flourishes. Here you'll find an attractive group of patrons, peppered with a few celebrity names, sipping exotic drinks like the Paul Bowles (tequila, ancho chili, lime basil). Sit pretty under the city stars while sipping a bottle of Champagne and nibbling on fish tacos and lobster rolls.
Monarch Rooftop Lounge
The chic, Scandinavian-inspired space at the Monarch Rooftop Lounge comes in at 5,000 square feet of combined indoor and outdoor space. Perched on the 18th floor, it offers a relaxed vibe, grown-up cocktails, and light summer fare, with brilliant views of the Empire State Building to boot. Inside, there's an ample mix of vintage exposed bricks, Tom Dixon pendants, mismatched chairs, comfortable sofas, and mod, white-washed wood walls. Sliding glass doors reveal an outdoor space with plush couches where patrons sip chilled Skyline Sangria.
Sonny’s Soda Shoppe
Atop the Mondrian Soho and inspired by 1950s Italian beach clubs is whimsical Sonny's Soda Shoppe, a cocktail bar and gelateria decked out in cotton-candy-striped pinks, blues, and greens. Come for the beautiful, 360-degree views of downtown Manhattan, fresh Italian-inspired cocktails, and “gelato floats” made with blood orange soda and Don Julio Anejo. Sip a light, chilled rosé in the afternoon and later in the evening, join the cool crowd enjoying Negronis, espresso gelatos, and the signature Sonny's Sicilian pizza by the slice.
The Rooftop at The Jane
Hip hoteliers Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode, along with Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman, have finally opened their intimate, sixth floor rooftop space to the public. Atop the historic Jane hotel, the faded boho décor is decidedly nautical. One portion covers an outdoor terrace with stellar Hudson River views, while the other reveals a spectacular octagonal room with invitingly worn walls, a bar with club chairs, and warm Persian rugs. Sip the light, elegant Lavender and White Peach Bellini as the sun goes down on the horizon. With only 70 coveted seats, reservations are necessary.
The clean, industrial-looking Refinery Rooftop features a breezy, year-round rooftop lounge, thanks to a retractable roof. You can't miss the knockout views of the Empire State Building on the spacious outdoor terrace, which features a signature cocktail list by Alex Ott (featuring all-natural ingredients); try the energizing Rockaway Lemonade with Absolut, fresh strawberry, and lemon juice. Small plates include airy conch fritters and rotating daily flatbreads. Should you need a place to rest your head, the Refinery Hotel is a stylish boutique.
Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar
Located on top of the Metropolitan Museum, just off the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts galleries, the spectacular fifth-floor outdoor space features unrivaled panoramic views of Central Park. Though technically not a new spot for rooftop cocktails, the space features a new look every year; this summer's splendid installation is courtesy of American artist Dan Graham, whose unique steel-and-glass pavilion mirrors the skyline. Sundown is perhaps the most magical time to sip a refreshing cocktail or glass of wine while taking in the art and the view. Fridays and Saturdays are dubbed Martini Nights.