There are plenty of people who refuse to drink in a hotel bar. Which is warranted: these bars are often catered to the luxurious guests who are staying there—where drinks like the humble gin and tonic cost $20—and are generally congregated in Midtown, full of a mix of ignorant out-of-towners and power-lunching suits.
But remember: those hotels are uptown. The hotel bars of SoHo—way downtown below Houston Street—take everything you love about the ole watering hole, give it a glitzy, cool spin, and ply everyone with strong drinks and barrels of rosemary popcorn.
You’ll have to ascend 18 stories up to JIMMY, the rooftop bar at the top of The James. Here, floor-to-ceiling windows provide an unparalleled panoramic view of Midtown, Wall Street, and the Hudson River. Guests sip $19 mint juleps and negronis while lazing on soft banquettes, fires crackling behind them. When it’s warm outside, everyone spills out onto the outdoor deck, toting long-stemmed glasses and snacks like buttermilk fried chicken skewers and buckets of caramel popcorn.
From the hospitality team behind Bowery Meat Company and Lure Fishbar, The Gordon Bar at Sixty SoHo is the kind of place you can frequent for after-work drinks or a low-key date. Other than the chic clientele—this is SoHo, after all—and the inevitable swanky interiors, it doesn’t feel like you’re drinking in a hotel. Sip house cocktails like the Siren Song (Blackwell rum, fesh espresso, lime, pineapple, demerara), or choose from a long roster of whiskey and Scotch. A small selection of bar snacks, like stout veal meatballs and rosemary popcorn, round out the menu.
Stationed in the SoHo Grand Hotel, the Grand Bar & Lounge serves as an all-day lounge from breakfast to late-night fare. Perch yourself at the bar or in the lounge itself, where cool leather banquettes reside under chandeliers inspired by The New York Public Library. Throughout the evening, mixologists spark wizardry behind the bar in the unconventional cocktails (the spicy Hell’s Hundred Acres is stirred with jalapeño-infused tequila, mezcal, lime, St-Germain, and celery shrub), plus there’s a menu of 50 rare American whiskeys. Don’t leave without ordering at least one plate of the truffle beignets: plump pockets of pecorino and truffle.
If the views of the Statue of Liberty and Hudson River 20 flights up don’t encourage you to start frequenting Bar Hugo, the Monday-Thursday happy hour extending until 8pm certainly will (beers run for $6; speciality cocktails for $10). The sleek duplex bar atop Hotel Hugo is studded with patrons lounging on camel-colored couches, cocktails slung around their pinkies. Tuesday nights mark a night of ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s music pumping from the speakers, and if you head up to Azul on the Rooftop—the outdoor, Cuban-inspired patio—you’ll be greeted with bocaditos, tacos, and a live Cuban band on Sunday nights.
It should come as no surprise that the NoMo SoHo’s Library Bar is lined with, well, books. Open every Thursday-Saturday from 6pm-1pm, the bar serves a mix of craft cocktails—the Mamie Taylor boasts Pig’s Nose Scotch, lime, ginger syrup, bitters, and soda—along with beer by the bottle and wine by the glass. There’s always a few options for contemporary cocktails, with notes explaining who created it and where; this is the Library Bar, after all, so it’s rather apt to learn a few things, cocktail in hand.
The Arlo SoHo hotel—almost as far west as the Hudson River—boasts a couple of options when it comes to bars: the Arlo Lobby Bar and the Arlo Rooftop Bar. The Lobby Bar provides a more intimate setting—one sporting bar stools and shiny armchairs which spill out into a cozy courtyard—as well as rotating cocktails and a hefty laundry list of brown liquor. But if you head upstairs to the rooftop, quietude is swapped for a melodious clinking of beer glasses. Groups pool around tables, bouncing to electronic music and munching on grilled snacks.