I’ve lived in this city for so long that truly nothing phases me anymore, and that’s a personal achievement of which I’m very proud. However, there is one exception to my inability to experience awe, and that is when Gingerbread Lane comes to town, when Bloomingdale’s is decked in twinkly lights and, of course, when drinking spiked eggnog and hot chocolate is not only acceptable, but encouraged. I’m talking about the most wonderful time of the year, people! The motherf*ckin’ holidays! Am I getting too excited? Whatever. One more thing this New Yorker loves about the holidays in this godforsaken city is the festive decor that takes over my favorite watering holes, hotels, and restaurants. If you, too, have no shame in your game and want to sip spiked eggnog under mistletoe, but don’t know where to go, I got you. These are the most festive holiday spots that you don’t already know about.
This is the type of place I usually avoid because lots of people and staying out past 10pm aren’t really my vibe, but I think I may just move in here between the months of December and March for the holiday themed pop-up. The Lobby Bar will be transforming into what the Dream is calling The Winter Rose Garden and what I call What Dreams Are Made Of. This particular pop-up is exciting because it’s the downtown hotel’s first foray into holiday festivities, and rest assured, they’re pulling out all the damn stops. I’m talking oversized rose walls (made with 15,000 red roses), red furniture, and more candles than Anthropologie. And obviously, they have a special menu of holiday-inspired cocktails. The Primrose Cider is my personal fave because it’s made with classics like sparkling rosé, Barking Irons Applejack, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, and a rose ice cube. I mean, yum?
This is the only place in Midtown I’ll go without complaining about all the finance bros Juuling everywhere I look. For this holiday pop-up, which they’re calling Midwinter Nights’ Dream, they are seriously going all out, and I’m not mad about it. As much as I love holiday-themed alcohol, the actual reason I love this time of year is because of the genuinely cheerful atmosphere, and this place understands that. Obviously, they’re doing the red and gold ribbons, the hanging lights, and the gorgeous garland, but most importantly, they’re having a tunnel of light, because if you go to a holiday pop-up and didn’t post an Instagram of it, did you even go? As for the holiday menu, def opt for a Peppermint Mojito, which is a normal mojito, but served in an ornament! Is that festive af or what?
If you don’t remember from my last article where Magic Hour got a mention re: where to drink enormous drinks, let me just say that I love this place. For the holidays this year, it will turn into what I can only imagine is Nicki Minaj’s wet dream. It’s called Pink Holiday Playground and will boast ceilings covered in hot pink twinkly lights, oversized disco balls, and human-sized festive bears. Oh, and there’s also a carousel, because why not? Not that it’s a competition, but Magic Hour is playing to win and they got my vote. Also, my general policy at bars is to not eat the food, but I’ll make an exception for the Pink Dough Pie, which is not only meant for 12 people, but it’s also a delish boozy apple cider doughnut-pie hybrid (sold) filled with Honeycrisp apples and drizzled with a maple bourbon glaze, topped with pink sprinkles and pink chocolate balls. My love language is officially sweet pizza that will get me drunk. How do people even come up with this stuff?
Though technically neither a bar nor a restaurant, Club Wyndham earned its spot on this list because it is committed to spreading holiday cheer, like, for real. Don’t believe me? Check out the aggressively Instagrammable holiday suite inspired by, you guessed it, Buddy the f*ckin’ Elf. By the way, that movie was released in 2003, so if you don’t already feel old af, how about now? Just from looking at the photos of this suite, I can say with confidence that there were no cotton-headed ninny-muggins on this hotel’s design team, and that I am blown away. Because you are absolutely playing yourself if you think you aren’t already dead-set on booking this suite, I’ll let you know what’s included, starting with the full kitchen that’s stocked with the ingredients to recreate Buddy’s famous spaghetti and syrup dish. Honestly, I don’t really know if that’s a selling point, but I do love a hotel suite with a full kitchen. My personal favorite element of this suite, though, is the enormous living room that’s fully decked out in holiday garb (including an oversized Christmas tree). If that’s not festive, tell me what is. I’ll wait.
I am a Manhattan snob and generally don’t acknowledge the other boroughs, but Sunday in Brooklyn is the one exception. Running through the end of December, this beautiful restaurant that makes a case for minimalist design is doing SNOWday in Brooklyn. Yes, their holiday pop-up has arrived and I’m already on the L. I’ll get to the menu in a minute, but first I want to talk about the vibe of the place during this magical time. Some of these pop-ups go a little overboard (do a bar crawl one weekend and lmk which ones you think those are), but Sunday in Brooklyn is classy af. It’s how I imagine Aidan and Carrie would decorate his Suffern house for the holidays if they had stayed together. The place generally has kind of a rustic feel, but with the garlands hanging from the wooden beams on the ceiling and the wreaths in every window, it’s hard to stay away. I ordered the Scroogin’ For A Bruisin’ because I love a good Grease reference, but also because it’s delicious with scotch, baijiu, China-China Amer, pineapple, cinnamon, sesame oil, and brown rice. Those last two ingredients threw me too, but they’re only there to give the drink a little bit of texture, not to give it a salad dressing flavor.
Before this past Sunday, the only time I’ve ever been to The NoMad Bar was on a horrible date that ended with him telling me how much he misses his ex girlfriend. Awesome. Anyway, after hearing about this place’s new Holiday Spectacular cocktail popup, I decided to start positively associating it with two things I love: Christmas and alcohol. Honestly, they didn’t have to do much beyond the bar’s typical decor because it’s already pretty festive in a very chic way. Dark leather tufted booths, glossy wooden tables, the kind of lighting that only seems to exist in Woody Allen movies…etc. The one thing they’re doing differently for their Holiday Spectacular is the charming cocktail menu that’s separated by Naughty and Nice cocktails. Lol. I had one from each column and let my reaction determine which I am and, to everyone’s surprise, I’m nice! The Winter Wonderland, which is a milky punch—that tastes like pumpkin pie in cocktail form—is served in a snow globe. I can’t resist a snow globe. This is also a fun bar to hit up because the NoMad Hotel is a cool place to walk around afterwards, especially when you’re a little tipsy.
Images: Winter Rose photo by Edward Menashy; Midwinter Nights’ Dream photo Courtesy of Michael Kleinberg; Magic Hour photo by Sarah Kelley; Club Wyndham photo courtesy of Club Wyndham; Sunday in Brooklyn photo by Eric Medsker; The NoMad Bar photo courtesy of The NoMad Bar
Spring is finally here, which means New Yorkers will actually start to enjoy
paying an exorbitant amount of money to survive living in this city. Unlike most places, spring in New York occurs for approximately two weeks between a disgustingly freezing winter à la March of the Penguins and a summer that is essentially just one giant heatwave. Fun times! New Yorkers generally don’t enjoy nature (at least I don’t), but that doesn’t mean we don’t like being outside when the arctic conditions have finally peaced the f*ck out. And because I refuse to pretend that I want to take advantage of the nice weather in Central Park, I will always be the first to propose the plan in the group chat before anyone else has the chance: rooftop bars.
Seriously, name one thing better than drinking against the backdrop of a beautiful skyline in pristine weather conditions. I’ll wait. Here’s the thing, as much as this city makes me question my will to live, there are times when I am happy to exist in a place where I can have a sit-down dinner at 11pm or run into Karlie Kloss every now and then. One of the most amazing qualities of this city is its ungodly amount of bars serving generous pours. So, while I couldn’t tell you where the f*ck to eat in the Theater District for a 6:30 show (which is what most people want to know), I can tell you where to knock a few back as the weather warms up. You’re welcome, darlings.
If you can’t picture where Gallow Green is on a map, would West 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues help? I know what you’re thinking, “Wait. Isn’t that where Marquee is?” Why, yes it is, but if you’re not in college anymore, you have absolutely no reason to be at Marquee, so just keep walking west and you’ll find yourself at the door of the McKittrick Hotel. Now, if you’re a cultured New Yorker, you’ll know that the McKittrick Hotel is home to the only reason any of us know what Shakespeare’s Macbeth is about aka Sleep No More. So far, so good! Just above the steamiest play of all time is a seriously chic cocktail-slinging garden-vibes rooftop bar called Gallow Green. To paint a picture for you, it’s the Garden of Eden with a bar in the back. It’s named after a Scottish field where accused witches were hanged (neat!), so the bar has kind of an old-timey feel complete with string lights, greenery and tattered white flags hanging from the ceiling. Most importantly, the cocktails are to-die-for and the food is actually pretty amazing, too. I’ll take a Sleep No More cocktail with a side of assorted pizzas, please.
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This place has a spring break in Cancun vibe, but for adults, and I am not mad about it. It’s right in Midtown, so you can head straight here after you’re done pretending to make the world a better place at your finance job. Vida Verde isn’t like, revolutionary, but there are two things about it that make me want to go here over every other Midtown rooftop. First, there are more tables than I’ve ever seen in one place, which is ideal because I have a standing desk at work and now associate standing up with Excel and calendar invites. If there is a drink in my hand and nachos in the vicinity, I need to be sitting, mmkay? Second, there are 10 flavors of margarita. Lastly, a drinking establishment is only as good as its vibe, and Vida Verde clearly knows that, which is why the roof is literally covered in murals and every chair is a different color. I know the menu is prob the most important, but you’re playing yourself if you think you’re not going to take any Instagrams up here, honey. Take a seat, sip one of your 10 margs and enjoy the beautiful weather up here.
Ophelia is set in midtown East, but like, all the way east to the point that you are almost walking into the East River. But once you get inside, you’ll realize it’s well worth the trek. Perched 26 stories above the city, the Gatsby-reminiscent bar offers 360-degree views of the East River and Manhattan skyline in both its indoor and outdoor sections, so checking out this rooftop is not weather-dependent. The cocktails are delicious (and will sneak up on you—buyer beware). I had the appropriately named Flapper drink, which came in a glass dusted in sugar, and was prettier than I can ever hope to be (and tasted as good as it looked).
I avoid the Garment District harder than I do making eye contact with my ex in the Trader Joe’s line on a Sunday morning. But I’ll gladly step foot in New York’s equivalent of District 12 for Refinery Rooftop. If you’ve ever experienced the nightmare that is a fashion internship, you’ll know that those four miserable blocks between 6th and 9th Avenues are the bane of human existence during the summer months, but Refinery Rooftop is a game changer, I promise. I don’t even get PTSD-induced flashbacks from my trips to Mood anymore! Anyway, Refinery is not a massive frat house like so many rooftop bars. It actually kind of feels like you got lost in someone’s enormous house and just stumbled around until you ended up on her outdoor deck. I mean that in the best way possible: it’s quaint, it’s chic and it’s surprisingly homey! The roof has a giant skylight and the walls are exposed brick, which is chic af. The cocktails are pretty decent, but be sure to order the bar’s signature sips because for each one sold, one dollar will be donated to GrowNYC! According to Refinery Rooftop, GrowNYC “improve New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities and empower all New Yorkers.” It’d be cool if they could improve New York City’s quality of life by fixing the f*cked up subway system, but I guess environmental programs are cool, too.
The Crown Rooftop at 50 Bowery Hotel
When it comes to sweeping views, this Chinatown gem truly has them all: Brooklyn, Manhattan, maybe even Queens! Don’t get me wrong, Chinatown can def be disgusting what with the constant stench of freshly dead fish and enormous crowds that insist on taking up 110% of the sidewalks, but honestly, this is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan thanks to the mom in Broad City. Ok, back to The Crown. This summer, The Crown is rolling out all the stops with its new theme, Royal Summer. I’m into it. TBH, one of the things I love most about this place, aside from its bougie theme, is the fact that there are indoor and outdoor sections. As much as I love breathing in the polluted-beyond-reason New York air, sometimes I just want to sit on a plush sofa in an air-conditioned space with a drink in my hand. Is that too much to ask? The Crown doesn’t think so! This season’s new menu items include a lobster roll with North Fork chips and a “backyard” burger (among other items) and, for the drinks, Rose-Colored Glasses. My friends tell me I wear these on dates with attractive guys, fully knowing they will ruin my life for a few months, but whatever. To each her own, right?
Pod 39 Rooftop
Truth be told, I went on a horrendous date here when I first moved to New York, but the date was bad only because the guy absolutely sucked. The location was amazing and I have since been back many times. This bar is the perfect size, too: it’s not too big and not too small, but more importantly, they let only a certain amount of people up at a time, so you will never have to take baby steps with your arms bent and pressed against your body like chicken wings as you try to squeeze through a crowd. I’m not sure if there’s a theme, per se, but I have gotten chips and guac and a spicy marg more than once, so I’m going to go ahead and say Mexican is a safe bet? Like The Crown, there are indoor and outdoor sections, but the outdoor part is significantly better than the indoor one, which has exactly one sofa and one table. Feels like they are setting us up to fail here, but whatever. The outdoor part is also just really cute. There’s no roof, so obv plan to go on a day/night when it’s not monsooning, and enjoy the best views of Manhattan. The lack of roof also means the whole space looks and feels really open, so it doesn’t get so loud to the point where you’re scream-talking with your date/friends.
It’s the Arlo rooftop in Soho, get it? The Hudson River provides the backdrop to this rooftop bar, so your Instas will be on point. The bar has plenty of seating (and a number of plush chaises), so you won’t be fighting anyone for a seat (or, more likely, staring daggers at that table who just. won’t. get. up). They’ve got an inventive signature cocktail list and a respectable selection of craft beer, plus snacks and small plates that I can personally attest are amazing. (Try the deviled eggs or grilled wings and thank me later.) And when the sun goes down, you can check out what’s going down at the hotel downstairs, where they host all kinds of fun events, like a CBD pop-up, Movie Night, and once, a haiku poetry slam.
Say what you will about this place, but I f*cking love it. It’s in the Meatpacking District, which like, chic, and the music here is on fire. The journey to get from the terrifying college-bar vibes of the first few levels can be a lot, but once you actually get to the roof, all feels right in the world again. It’s the perfect place to go with a small group because there is so much space up there. You can push tables together, sofas together, your two friends you’ve always wanted to date together…etc. The drinks are like, fine, but no one really goes to rooftop bars for a truly quality craft cocktail. They are open pretty much all day and night, so go whenever you feel like, but I personally prefer to spend the day here than the night here because, after midnight, this place can be a cesspool rife with body con dresses and dudes asking what sorority you were in, which just shouldn’t happen if both parties have graduated. The French Toast and anything from the Something Sparkly part of the menu is a perfect pair, so order up! Be sure to wear sunscreen because there is zero shade up here and no one wants brunch with a side of fine lines, amiright?
Images: Gallow Green; Refinery Rooftop; The Crown at Hotel 50 Bowery; Ophelia NYC; Arlo Hotel; Pod 39, Brass Monkey / Instagram
In case you haven’t seen Entourage, day drinking and living in LA go hand in hand. Because what else are you supposed to do in perfect weather when you don’t have a real job? Rooftop bars are perfect for day drinking because you can get drunk while
looking down on everyone working on your tan. In honor of Memorial Day weekend, here are the best rooftop bars in LA to make questionable decisions at.
1. The Standard Downtown
The Standard has one of the best hotel happy hours on their rooftop bar. There’s a beer garden, a cocktail bar, and a pool (duh). It’s right in the heart of downtown, which means you’ll be able to bar hop your way around once you get tired of being above everyone else.
2. EP & LP
This West Hollywood bar was very trendy when it opened a few years ago and it still is. There’s an Asian fusion restaurant downstairs, because of course there is. The sleek gray interiors and hot gay waiters and waitresses set the mood for Hollywood types to sit and spend. The convenient rooftop bar also makes it easy for you to transition from a business meal to getting wasted on the roof. It’s a good place to people watch, but don’t wear flats here or you’ll feel underdressed.
3. The Red Lion Tavern
This Echo Park bar is very hipster and chill, which is good for groups (aka co-ed groups) that might not be into a scene type of place. The Red Lion is an old school German beer garden type, so the bar maids and bartenders are slow and a little grumpy, but the good news is the beers come in boots if you want to order more and save yourself the hassle of having to get the bartender’s attention again. The roof is small but nice especially during the day when all of Silverlake and Echo Park is out. If you’re hanging out in this area, chances are you live on the East Side and you’ll probably run into at least three people you know, including someone you went to high school with.
Another downtown rooftop bar with a great view of the city. The vibe here is definitely more work crowd than struggling artist, but you’ll enjoy talking to people without them asking you to read their screenplay or worse, check out their reel.
5. Hotel Erwin
So Venice might not technically be LA, but fuck it it’s almost summer and you belong by the beach. This is a great bar to take visitors in the summer because they’ll want to (ugh) see Venice and you can pop over to Hotel Erwin after for some watermelon cocktails and amazing views of the sunset. Just don’t fall in love with the DJ here or you might never leave Venice.
6. Mama Shelter
This rooftop bar is kitschy but cute and sits on top of a hotel in Hollywood. They’re also a restaurant with food served until late night if you get drunk munchies. It’s also close to all the clubs in Hollywood, or if you want to go dance at Davey Wayne’s you’re right around the corner.
This is part of the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood, but there’s a separate secret entrance to get up to the rooftop. This is like a go-out-all-night-because-IDGAF kind of bar, so expect to get blackout or see the sun come up. Probably both simultaneously. Chances are if you’re going out with your girlfriends here, somebody is on the rebound. Nothing like going to a rooftop bar in a hotel to remind you that the fuckboy who dumped you probably couldn’t even make it past the lobby. Sorry, but I’m too far above you to care what he’s saying.
Want to read about the best outdoor bars in New York? Click here!