Best Hotel Bars In New York City

March 11, 2011 4:15 PM

Those of you who frequent haunts of all sorts are no doubt familiar with the old saw: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” The nice thing about hotel bars, however, is in knowing that you can (if you have the means), essentially stay as long as you want. That in mind, here’s a quick list of some classic (and classy) NYC establishments where both worldly travelers and local tourists can enjoy a drink (or perhaps a prolonged stay). Oh, and a word of advice for all you un-tucked, unkempt male & female bon vivant wannabes: slovenly and stupid may be the preferred look at your neighborhood dive, but it’s no way to roll in the rarified air of these fine settings, where you’ll want to be dressed to impress. So, think Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn, not “The Situation” and Snooki, before strolling into any of these swanky establishments.
— By Kevin Byrne

See Also: NYC’s Notorious Hotels | Where Not To Stay In The Big Apple

The King Cole bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City

The King Cole bar at the St. Regis Hotel. (credit:

King Cole Bar
2 East 55th Street
New York, N.Y.

Long hailed as the birthplace of its signature cocktail, the now-immortal Bloody Mary, this low-lit and lavish landmark inside the world-famous St. Regis Hotel is a virtual paradise for both bartenders and drinkers who are particular about setting, style and smart conversation. So if you’re fortunate enough to have both the time and money, stop off for a top-shelf cocktail (all drinks get served large but, at $20 and up, are expensive) and their incredible wasabi-crusted beer nuts. Then, while you’re basking in that classic amber lighting, take a moment to gaze at the bar’s gorgeous back wall, which is adorned with an original Maxfield Parrish mural of old King Cole himself. It’ll give you a sense of what it’s like to live large. Oh, and a firm reminder, gentlemen: please … no hats, no sneakers and no shorts.

The Ace bar at the Ace Hotel in New York City

The Ace bar at the Ace Hotel. (credit:

The Ace Bar
20 W. 29th Street
New York, N.Y.

Based in the back lobby of a rock-themed hotel of the same name, The Lobby Bar is one of the best-kept secrets in NYC’s Flatiron district. Run by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman of Spotted Pig fame, it’s a cool and airy den populated with club chairs and red suede couches, where one can easily settle in for a comforting after-work drink. There’s a shortlist of great and tasty beers (average $8 per) to choose from, with Breslin Aberdeen (brewed out of Red Hook, and easily the most recommended) and the bar’s compendium of tasty rock ‘n roll themed cocktails (all $12) reference everyone from Iggy Pop and The Police to the Clash and Coldplay. But if you’re in the mood, do try the Breslin Bloody Mary (flavored with tangy fresh horseradish and smoked okra) – hangover or not, you won’t forget it.

Bemelman’s Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in New York City

Bemelman’s Bar
35 E. 76th Street
New York, N.Y.

Everything old is new again, and that includes this classy cabaret and cocktail club at the city’s famously elegant Carlyle Hotel. Long hailed as one of the finest hotel bars in NYC, it is cozy and secluded, and its gold leaf ceiling gives even the palest complexion a healthy glow. And, just as the King Cole Bar got its name from Parrish’s famous mural, the walls here are painted with artwork by Ludwig Bemelman, the man behind the now-classic children’s book “Madeline.” Though it does tend to draw a somewhat older crowd, Bemelman’s – which boasts one of the priciest yet best martinis ($15) in Manhattan – has undergone a bit of a revival, thanks to its re-discovery by a younger crowd. Only downside: you could get hit with $20 cover if any piano-based entertainment starts while you’re there.

The Oak Room bar at the Algonquin hotel in New York City

The Oak Room bar at the Algonquin hotel in New York City. (credit:

The Oak Room
59 W. 44th St.
New York, N.Y.

Forget what you heard about that restored version over at The Plaza. This historic dark-paneled number at the Algonquin is the real deal, where tart-tongued wags and literary wits like Dorothy Parker and Harold Ross once held court at their famous roundtable. Originally incarnated as a cabaret in 1938, the Oak wasn’t resurrected as such until 1981, where piano-playing torch singers like Diana Krall breathed new life into the club. If you get the chance to visit the Algonquin, you can access The Oak through a very sly entryway off the main dining area, then settle in for the night. However, it isn’t cheap: there is a $50 cover for most shows, and on weekends a pre-fixe dinner is a prerequisite on Fridays, Saturdays and some Thursdays. But if you like a stiff drink and a beautiful song, it’s well worth the price.

The Plunge bar at the Hotel Gansevoort in New York City

The Plunge bar at the Hotel Gansevoort in New York City. (credit;

18 Ninth Avenue
New York, N.Y.

See Also: Growing Pains: The New Gansevoort Park Ave

If you ever wanted to feel like an extra in a rooftop pool scene on the HBO series ‘Entourage’ (only without the banal and annoying hangers-on), the heady vistas seen from the uber-chic greenhouse lounge high atop the Hotel Gansevoort in NYC’s Meatpacking district will definitely put you in the mindset of a trendy young Hollywood mover/shaker. There are some caveats: when night falls, it gets crowded (especially in warm weather) and the cocktails are absurdly overpriced (a basic mixer like Jack & ginger ale will run you $14). Still, you can’t beat Plunge’s sunset views of the Hudson on a hot summer night, and if it’s cool and clear you can see for miles in every direction. Ironically, you won’t be allowed anywhere near the pool, which is for registered guests only. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.

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