In New York City, there’s no shortage of great places to get your drink on. But there’s something special about a good hotel bar—the exquisite cocktails, sure, but also the mix of people: well-heeled travelers mingling with in-the-know locals. There’s the feeling of luxury and sophistication, and the comfort of being coddled by a hotel’s indulgent staff. Here are a dozen of our favorites.
The Bar Downstairs
The sprawling subterranean space of The Bar Downstairs, at the Andaz 5th Avenue, is a popular after-work choice with the finance types whose offices have moved to Midtown in recent years. Try the house-smoked sazerac, in which you can call your favorite brand of rye.
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The Bar Room at Temple Court
One of the most sumptuous spaces to open in NYC in the past year or so, the Bar Room at Temple Court, at the Beekman Hotel, blends eclectic vintage styles with a library-like feel, under a nine-story Victorian atrium. It’s open all day, so settle in on a green leather bar stool or a jewel-toned velvet sofa for a coffee or a cocktail or a light bite, courtesy of celeb chef Tom Colicchio.
Adjacent to Café Boulud in The Surrey Hotel, Bar Pleiades is a great choice for a supremely elegant evening. Sitting within its quilted leather walls feels like you’re nestled inside a Chanel handbag. Our favorite cocktail here is the Last Caress, grapefruit-Chartreuse snow with Champagne and juniper berries.
Sipping martinis at Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle is a quintessentially New York experience. The sophistication of the white-jacketed waiters and 24-karat gold ceiling is offset by the whimsical murals painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, who also wrote and illustrated the Madeleine children’s books.
In an intimate space in The Smyth, Evening Bar mixes Danish Modern and art deco-style decor along with imaginative cocktails. Bar nibbles are courtesy of chef-owner Andrew Carmellini, who also helms the hotel’s restaurant, Little Park, as well as several other NYC favorites.
Until recent times, Lantern’s Keep, tucked away in the back of the Iroquois Hotel, was Midtown’s best-kept secret. Word’s out, so you may have to fight for a table in this romantic space, with a fireplace and Degas prints on the walls. Many of its staff have pedigrees that include working with Sasha Petraske, a pioneer of the modern cocktail movement.
The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel New York
This high-ceilinged space is filled throughout the day and well into the night by writers clacking away at their laptops. The Ace Hotels, of course, are the quintessential hipster lodgings, and the New York City Ace’s Lobby Bar sports a cooler-than-thou vibe through a late-aughts lens, with plaid-upholstered armchairs, long, library-style tables, and taxidermied animal heads. It’s a decent place for people-watching over low-key drinks.
The Ludlow Lobby Lounge
This spot in the Lower East Side’s Ludlow Hotel is scenester central, attracting a beautiful and very social crowd who look even more glamorous among the bar’s dark woods, rich fabrics, and softly glowing chandeliers. The food and excellent cocktails are from Major Food Group, the team behind many of the city’s hottest restaurants (including Dirty French, also in the hotel).
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The Elephant Bar
The elegant NoMad Hotel has a number of bars and restaurants, all overseen by the same team as Eleven Madison Park. Our favorite is the Elephant Bar, a small, cosy space tucked behind the hotel’s namesake restaurant and named for the duo of elephant carvings that watch over the 24-foot mahogany bar. The cocktails are created by startender Leo Robitschek, who’s won more drinks-world awards than we can count.
The Rum House
The old piano bar at the rather down-at-the-heels Hotel Edison received a major renovation a few years ago, with the team from Ward III taking over the drinks program. Now, The Rum House has become a Midtown go-to, the type of place where Bill Murray and Emma Stone might drop by to sing some tunes.
At the Mandarin Oriental, skip the brand-new, flashy, over-the-top Aviary in favor of its lower-key sister space, The Office. In its dim, wood-paneled room with cushy leather chesterfield sofas and cow-print bar chairs, you’ll find excellent bar food (the menu is overseen by chef Grant Achatz) and thought-provoking (if pricey) cocktails, as well as a spectacular collection of vintage spirits.
Top of the Standard
Top of the Standard, the penthouse lounge at The Standard High Line, continues to draw a flashy crowd and is home to frequent celeb-studded parties. Aspiring entrants still fret about how to get past the picky doorman, so dress to impress.