Check In to New York's Hottest Hotel Bars
By Emily Saladino
New York Local Expert
Sure, traveling can be exciting. Occasionally, it's even glamorous. But there are times when travel also verges on lonely, what with all the hurry-up-and-wait and countless hours passed in strange cities of foreign lands.
Enter the hotel bar. The perfect meeting place for those seeking a little socialization far from home, hotels' public spaces provide patrons a necessary port in the storm. And New York has no shortage of ports. With hundreds of hotels across these city streets, the Big Apple is a veritable variety pack of swank sleeps, budget brands and uber-chic boutiques. Naturally, each come equipped with bars to match. At Andre Balazs' Meatpacking mainstay The Standard, Hollywood-style hedonism comes to the West Village via enormous steins of German beer and Kurt Gutenbrunner's Austrian cuisine. The Upper East Side's Carlyle Hotel has hosted generations of glamour in its jazzy cabaret bar, named for Madaleine author Ludwig Bemelman. And, most recently, Brooklyn's Williamsburg has got in the act, opening a year-round rooftop lounge with killer cocktails and Instagram-worthy views of the Manhattan skyline. With all these hip watering holes, travelers and locals alike are sure to find at least one to suit their fancy. And, hey, we'd say that is awfully exciting.
10 The Lobby Bar
A 21st Century hotel haunt, the hipster chic Ace Hotel's Lobby Bar is an immensely popular gathering place for hotel guests, most of whom work in creative industries and have titles like "Director of Media Strategy and Ideation," as well as the local skinny jeans set. Expect to fight for laptop space amongst countless twentysomethings with internet startups, all seeking creative inspiration and free wifi on the cavernous space's low-slung sofas and long wooden tables. In addition to cocktails, many Lobby Bar-goers sip to-go cups from the Ace Hotel's feverishly popular coffee shop, the New York debut of Portland, OR's Stumptown brand. (212-679-2222)
9 The Rose Bar and Jade Bar
Owned by artist Julian Schnabel and hotelier-to-the-stars Ian Schrager, Manhattan's swank Gramercy Park Hotel has an unparalleled location next to tony Gramercy Park, celebrity chef Danny Meyer's Italian restaurant Maialino, and not one but two bars beloved by the city's boldfaced names. The dimly lit spaces have red and white tiled flooring, an impeccably stocked oak bar, plush velvet chairs and no shortage of upper-echelon international travelers, New York Times Style section editors, wannabe models slash actors, and music executives with multiple smartphones. The incredible art collection includes a 15-foot original by Andy Warhol, and, of course, several pieces by Schnabel himself. (212-475-4320)
8 Upper Elm
Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, already home to countless designer boutiques and upscale eateries, got a dose of Manhattan-style luxury with the opening of the hip King & Grove hotel near McCarren Park. The 64-key hotel has one of the largest swimming pools in New York City, a phenomenally well-reviewed restaurant, The Elm, and an all-seasons rooftop bar with knockout views of the Manhattan skyline. Upper Elm is a breezy-open-air space with a retractable roof, vaguely tropical decor (why yes, those ARE lime green porch cushions), and an impressive drinks menu by Johnny Swet, most recently of the West Houston cocktail den Rogue & Canon. (718-218-7500)
7 Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel
The Algonquin Hotel, which first opened in Midtown West in 1902, has so much lore within its walls, it has been designated a New York City Historic Landmark. A favorite of Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman and Franklin P. Adams, its street-facing Blue Bar has decades of literary prestige. In the 1920s, it hosted the appropriately named Algonquin Round Table, a group of local journalists and writers dedicated to redefining American literary prose (and, of course, the occasional boozy lunch). Now, the Blue Bar is filled with hotel guests, Midtown executives and literary-minded locals who sip surprisingly expensive cocktails (expect to pay at least $20 per glass) beneath Al Hirschfield drawings and glittering blue lights. (2128406800)
The swank Standard Hotel, Andre Balazs's hedonistic playground in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, has five bars and restaurants. But it's the humble Biergarten that is a must-try. The open-air space lies right below the southernmost entrance to the High Line, and the noisy, convivial crowd spans hotel guests, chattering NYU co-eds and group office outings. Hit the bar for a stein of German lager, wheat beer or stout, then put in an order for a grilled wurst or an almost comically large soft pretzel, served with spicy German dipping mustard. The menu was created by none other than Austrian chef extraordinaire Kurt Gutenbrunner. (212-645-4100)
5 The Library
The Upper East Side's Lowes Regency hotel has specialized in a particular brand of Ye Olde New York luxury since its 1963 debut. In 2012, the hotel underwent an extensive, $100 million renovation, redesiging its 379 rooms and suites and launching a new restaurant and 10,000-square-foot Julian Farel Salon. Its well-situated bar, The Library, remains one of New York's swankiest spots for old-fashioned afternoon tea and after-work cocktails. Designed by David Rockwell, it has a bit of the old and the new, with painted murals of New York City landmarks and Michael Feinstein photography hung alongside flatscreen televisions broadcasting news, sports and hours of CNN International. (212-339-4050)
4 MO Bar
Situated on the 35th floor of the Park Avenue-facing, super luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel, this cocktail lounge is a popular place for Brooks Brothers-wearing hotel guests, couples celebrating milestone anniversaries and deep-pocketed executives from the nearby Time Warner Center, many of whom frequent the bar when wining and dining out-of-town clients. Deep, comfortable leather seating and warm red walls give the intimate space a clubby vibe, and the contemporary interiors create a trendy yet ultimately inviting atmosphere. Signature cocktails include the Full Circle, which mixes Tanqueray gin with pomegranate and pineapple juices, and the Saketini, an ode to Mandarin's Asian heritage. (212-805-8876, 212-805-8800)
The James Hotel, a sleek SoHo luxury hotel with a sister property on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, has one of the hottest rooftop bars in the city. The adorably named Jimmy (get it?) holds approximately 80 people, but it certainly feels larger than life. Revelers dress to the nines to take in its unparalleled views of lower Manhattan, the Hudson River and even the twinkling lights of Jersey City across the way. Drinks here are pricey -- the average cocktail is around $17 -- so choose your poison with care. A summertime favorite is a Grilled Pineapple Mojito, made with bracing clear rum. The Blair Witch Cocktail, made with moonshine and birch beer, is a scary good way to start your night. (212-201-9118)
2 The Library Bar
The NoMad Hotel's Library Bar is anything but bookish. Jacques Garcia, of Paris' L'Hotel fame, designed the interiors of this smart cocktail den and the adjoining NoMad restaurant. Walk through the dining room (it's a little awkward, yes, but the staff will guide you along) to reach the bar in the back. Though the leather-bound cocktail list and glamorous dark wood tables present a strong argument towards the formal, the atmosphere at The Library Bar is surprisingly relaxed and welcoming. Skilled bartenders are happy to make recommendations, and pour a variety of classics and house creations by Jessica Gonzalez, most recently of the East Village's seminal Death & Co. cocktail bar. (212-796-1500)
1 Bemelmans Bar
Time stands still at Bemelmans Bar, an Upper East Side institution and glamorous haunt made for Gershwin tunes and ladies in gloves. Located in the historic Carlyle Hotel, Bemelmans attracts a mature, decidedly well-heeled crowd. Got an inherited mink stole burning a hole in the back of your closet? This is the place to wear it. Waiters in classic white jackets carry martinis and Manhattans on silver trays, while patrons take in jazzy cabaret acts beneath a 24-carat-gold ceiling and framed line drawings of Madeleine by the titular artist Ludwig Bemelman. Naturally, drinks here cost more than your average swill, but you're paying in large part for the elegant atmosphere. And it's worth every penny. (212-744-1600)
About Emily Saladino
Emily Saladino has spent over a decade eating her way through New York City. She has collaborated on cookbooks, developed original recipes and voyaged from Philadelphia to Papua New Guinea as a food and travel writer.
Read more about Emily Saladino here.