Empire Views: New York’s Rooftop Bars
by Marla Norman, TCO Publisher
Views of Manhattan’s skyline are incomparable – especially at night with endlessly dazzling lights and skyscrapers stacked up across the horizon. It’s dramatic. Even cinematic. And no surprise that Hollywood glitterati have incorporated the Gotham skyline into films as varied and expansive as the city itself. From King Kong, Spiderman, Batman and assorted Supermen – along with Midnight Cowboys, Ghostbusters, Wall Street tycoons and gum shoe detectives.
But we think the Manhattan night sky lends itself better to a little romance. After all, who can forget Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meeting at the Top of the Rock in the final scene from Sleepless in Seattle. Or Cary Grant waiting for Deborah Kerr at the Empire State Building Observatory — all 86 stories high — in the classic film an Affair to Remember.
Here, a few recommendations for rooftop bars, in case you’d like to create some movie magic of your own during your next visit to New York.
REFINERY ROOFTOP BAR
63 West 38th Street
The Refinery Rooftop Bar is the crown jewel of the Refinery Hotel, a turn-of-the-century hat factory turned luxury hotel located in New York’s historic Garment District. No matter what the weather, the outdoor terrace at the Refinery Rooftop Bar is always a picture-perfect place to enjoy the Manhattan skyline.
In addition to breathtaking Empire State views, the Refinery Rooftop offers cocktails to match every personality. A few of the imaginative selections include Disco Piñata, fueled by Mezcal, or Rooftop Mojito with Brugal Dry Rum.
Get in the pink with the Refinery Rosé All Dé menu: Rosé Sangría, Rosé Sparkler, or Rosérita — a blend using a French Provençal Rosé, Cointreau, berries & lemon. A Mini-Frosé is $5 and Mocktails – non-alcoholic drinks – are $9. An extensive wine list with choices for single glasses and bottles is available as well.
A full menu offers sandwiches, burgers and flatbreads for lunch. Dinner standouts include sliders, fish tacos and Main Lobster Mac n’ Cheese.
SPYGLASS ROOFTOP BAR
47 West 36th Street
Perched at 22 stories atop the Archer Hotel, Spyglass Rooftop Bar is a contemporary interpretation of the classic of 1940’s and 1950’s glamour in New York. And, tying in beautifully with our own cinematic theme, this rooftop bar was inspired by the iconic Hitchcock thriller, Rear Window. A telescope is even provided to encourage patrons to play voyeur and spy on the cityscapes surrounding them.
An attentive staff offers impeccably prepared classic cocktails and a few house specialties: Empire in the Evening, with Bourbon, Aperol, Amaretto & ginger; Oaxacan Love Affair blends Mezcal, Chartreuse, Luxardo and lime. The wine list is small, but well chosen.
The all day menu includes Fritto Misto tuna tartare, a fried chicken sandwich and the house burger with aged beef.
200 West 39th Street
Set 30 stories high in the Garment District, The Skylark delivers expansive panoramic views of the Hudson River, the Empire State Building and Midtown Manhattan. In cooler months, guests can enjoy breathtaking city skylines from the main lounge’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Creative small bites to accompany the extensive cocktail and wine list include: Mac & Cheese Cupcakes, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Seared Scallop & Watermelon Skewers, Lobster Rolls and Beef Sliders.
71 West 35th Street
With its spectacular views of the Empire State Building, the Monarch is constantly scouted by Hollywood production teams. The impressively large, 5,000 square foot lounge is situated in an 18th floor penthouse.
The walls are composed of vintage bricks, white painted wood panels and teak and grey custom Terrazzo tiles. Deep-seated upholstered sofas ensure that guests relax, while the delicious Monarch Skyline Sangria seals the deal.
Hyatt Times Square
135 West 45th Street
Bar 54 looks over Times Square on the 54th floor of the Hyatt. Outdoor fireplaces help warm up cooler evenings. The ample menu of specialty cocktails matches the 360 skyline. Fine wines and gourmet small plates also compliment the views.
Share an appetizer plate as the sun sets over the Hudson and watch the city light up. A few options: Edamame Dumplings, Brooklyn Meatballs and Crab Cake Slider. The Sirloin Steak Skewer also includes baby roasted potatoes, spring vegetable has and Chimichurri.
Aliz Hotel Times Square
310 W 40th Street
A bi-level cocktail bar that takes up the 40th and 41st floors of the Aliz Hotel in Times Square, Dear Irving calls itself an “Ode to the Empire State.” And appropriately, many of the spirits incorporated in the cocktails are made in New York. For $18 you can try a sampling of New York-made spirits. Our favorite, in keeping with the movie theme, is the 007 Mission, also $18. Cocktail prices seem to be in keeping with the sky-high views.
Dear Irving also provides weekly 90-minute cocktail classes, during which a Master Bartender demonstrates classic recipes and house favorites. Cheers indeed!
124 West 57th Street
At the top of Le Meridien, The Roof affords views of Central Park and Midtown. Managed by the Gerber Group (The same Rande Gerber who partnered with George Clooney to sell their Casamigos Tequila to Diageo for over $700 million!) the property serves up small-batch spirits and regionally brewed craft beers. Try the Cucumber Margarita or Grand Spritz with Grey Goose vodka, fresh lime juice, mint and Domaine Chandon Champagne.
If, like us, you’d rather drink your Champagne without lime juice, there’s a nice selection of sparklers ranging from Veuve Clicquot, to Dom Perignon and Krug. Snacks include La Quercia Berkshire Prosciutto, Sourdough Grilled Cheese, Tuna Crispy Rice and Warm Pretzels.
3 Mitchell Place
49th & 1st Avenue
On the 26th floor of one of Manhattan’s loveliest art deco towers, Ophelia is a rare treasure. Built in 1928 by New York architect John Mead, this venue sits atop the original Panhellenic Tower. In 1934, the building was rebranded as the Beekman Tower. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby became regulars back then.
But while the architecture is definitely vintage, the cocktails are thoroughly contemporary and complex — for example the Far East Side includes Shiso-infused Mizu Shochu, Tanqueray Gin, Yuzu and Yellow Chartreuse. Another example, Purple Tuxedo combines Empress 1908 Gin, Brennivan Aquavit, Montanaro Bianco, Velvet Falernum, and Absinthe topped off by Plum Bitters. Frank never drank one of these!
Small plates are solid, if less dazzling, including Deviled Eggs with spicy honey, Avocado Toast, Truffle Potato Wedges and French Onion Sliders. Kakigōri – Japanese shaved ice with “passion, blackberry and crémeux” adds extra pizazz.
So, enjoy the views. Bottoms up, up, up up…….!