New York’s best rooftop bars


By BarChick for British Airways High Life magazine

Photography by Alexander Spatar/Getty Images

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February 2016

A trip to New York isn't complete without a visit to one of its rooftop bars. Whether you're in it for the killer cocktails or just want to drink in the city views, the experts at BarChick have the inside track on the best places for both.

1. Refinery Hotel: the roof that has everything

Some rooftops are just about the view, but not this one. Leather sofas? Sure. A view of the Empire State Building? Obviously. Fireplace? Fairy Lights? Fountain? Check, check, check. Part street bistro in the sky (with an optional glass roof), part garden in the sky (decking, pergolas, lanterns), these guys really have thought of everything. With a drinks list based on biochemistry, where every sip is designed to create a trip down memory lane, come for sunset and stay 'til late for the party.

63 West 38th Street; refineryhotelnewyork.com

Nearest subways: B, D, F, M and 7 trains to Bryant Park-42nd Street; or N, Q and R to Herald Square-34th Street

When super chef April Bloomfield does tacos – and serves them up on a suntrap roof, under lit up brick arches, striped awnings, and a killer view – you must go there

2. Roof at Park South: the roof with Beantown charm and award-winning food

Boston husband-and-wife team Tim and Nancy Cushman are at it again with this copper sided roof paradise, riding high atop the Park South hotel. Booze master Ted Kilpatrick is behind the cocktail list (also responsible for killer drinks at Boston's No. 9 Park) and award-winning chef Tim Cushman is on the food, so you're in safe hands. But it's the view you're up here for, so perch up on a high table and look out over the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Hello, New York.

125 East 27th Street

Nearest subway: 6 to 28th Street

  • Sip cocktails and enjoy cinematic views of the Empire State Building at the Refinery Hotel

    For more views to thrill

    It’s worth heading up the Empire State Building – on a clear day, visitors can see 80 miles into New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts from its observation decks. Open daily, 8am to 2am.

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  • A mixologist shakes up killer cocktails at Roof at Park South © Park South Hotel

    Top tip…

    Bag a table near the fireplace to keep you toasty on a cool night. You can also warm up with the Count and Countess, a white Negroni fortified with fruity grappa and oat whiskey.

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  • Head down to Brooklyn and up to the rooftop of The Ides © Matthew Williams

    Bright lights, big city

    Look out for the 50-foot ‘Hotel’ sign on the façade. Created by Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin from salvaged tin signage, it’s best seen after dark, when it’s neon-lit.

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3. The Ides: the one on top of a Brooklyn factory

Down the street from the Brooklyn Brewery, there's a converted factory with an old-school neon 'Hotel' sign on the corner and a huge glowing box perched at the top. That glowing box is where you want to be. Head to the sixth floor, where you'll have to get your jaw off the floor when the lift doors open and you see that view of Manhattan over the river. There's also a bar that makes awesome drinks if you can tear your eyes away from the huge windows. Then there's the terrace, which even on the hottest day somehow manages to have a breeze. With DJs spinning at the weekend, it draws in a mixed crowd, with bar queues that can snake out to the lobby — but you won't care, because it's one of the best places to be.

80 Wythe Avenue; wythehotel.com

Nearest subways: L to Bedford Avenue; or G to Nassau Avenue

4. Bar Hugo at Hotel Hugo: the roof with effortless Italian Art Deco

On the edge of Soho, this leather and wood number has one of the most all-encompassing epic views of the city. Catch a hint of a breeze (and a killer view out) over the Hudson River, Empire State Building, Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty… you can even see all the way out to New Jersey from up here. Can't get right out on the terrace itself? The huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows open all the way out, so get hold of a superbly mixed cocktail, feel like you're flying and take it all in.

BarChick tip: Happy Hour is when you'll catch us up here, with $5 beer and $6 wine specials.

525 Greenwich Street

Nearest subways: C and E to Spring Street; or 1 to Houston Street

5. Gallow Green: the one that’s like an intimate secret garden theatre set

When you want to experience a bit of Sleep No More, but aren't up for the whole shebang, head for a drinking session where Lady Macbeth hangs out. It’s an overgrown rooftop paradise filled with greenery and garden furniture – and did we mention a funerary brass band? Specializing in sharing punches, this is a great spot to impress a date. But not for the spontaneous – you have to book a time spot, but it's totally worth it.

The McKittrick Hotel, 542 West 27th Street; m.mckittrickhotel.com

Nearest subways: C and E to 23rd Street; or 1 to 28th Street

6. Rooftop Lounge at the Pod 39 Hotel: best rooftop tacos

If Mexicans taught us anything, it’s that when the weather heats up, eating spicy food is the way forward. So when super chef April Bloomfield does tacos – and serves them up on a suntrap roof, under lit up brick arches, striped awnings, and a killer view – you must go there. Wash them down with some Mexican styled booze, such as Abuelos Horchata with Abuelo Anejo rum, Ancho Reyes, house made horchata, coconut, and angostura. Simple.

145 East 39th Street; thepodhotel.com

Nearest subways: 4, 5, 6 or 7 to Grand Central-42nd Street

  • Impress your date at the secret rooftop garden at Gallow Green © The McKittrick Hotel

    Top tip…

    For a truly theatrical experience, order the signature Sleep Bowmore Punch ($50) – the single-malt Scotch, Madeira wine, orange shrub and demerara sugar concoction is poured at your table out of pitcher over ice in a copper bowl, and garnished with lemon slices and freshly grated nutmeg.

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  • See the city's skyline dramatically framed by arches at Pod 39 Hotel's rooftop © www.sheilagriffin.org

    Fiesta time

    Order a side of gourmet tacos courtesy of chef April Bloomfield with your drinks – pick anything from Moroccan lamb on naan to skirt steak with smoky pecan and chipotle salsa.

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  • Night of Joy: graffiti, garden furniture and great cocktails

    Get happy

    At Night of Joy, Happy Hour is everyday from 5pm until 8pm – expect $6 cocktails and frozen margaritas.

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7. Night of Joy: the chilled-out Brooklyn rooftop

Not to be confused with Disney World's Christian-rock festival of the same name, this is like your great-aunt's parlor, with better drinks and a much better soundtrack. Sister to the Dove Parlour in Greenwich Village, drinks are heavy on the botanical side and change seasonally, so get ready to be pleasantly surprised. Head to the rooftop, snag a little metal table under the classic Lorimer Street graffiti, and work your way through their list. This is much easier to do during their pretty spectacular happy hour where drinks will only set you back $6. May as well get two (or five).

667 Lorimer Street. Brooklyn; nightofjoybar.com

Nearest subway: L to Lorimer Street