Nothing signals the start of summer like a toasting the town from the perch of a rooftop bar. No matter what atmosphere you’re after, be it old-fashioned glamor or poolside-posh, one of these four spots is sure to fit the bill, with drinks and views that are in every way elevated.
Twenty-two floors up atop the Archer Hotel, Spyglass was one of the best concept bars to open last year. Inspired by the elegant telescope Jimmy Stewert used to peer in on his neighbors in Rear Window, the 1950’s-New-York–styled bar is an “homage to the voyeur,” and what a glamorous homage it is, with up-close views of the Empire State Building, a backdrop best paired with an Empire State—Hendrick’s, St. Germain, basil, and ginger. Perfect for summer, many of the specialty cocktails here are fruit focused: the mescal-based Angry Mango, a lime-and-peach caipirinha, a blackberry lime rickey, a light-and-fresh watermelon mule. And as it’s headed by David Burke Group, the bar snacks aren’t to be missed. Expect shareable plates like chopped liver with matzo crackers, a bowl of warm olives spiced with cinnamon and cumin, and lobster steamed buns with aioli and candied bacon. (38th St. nr. Sixth Ave.)
The Water Club is an East River institution known primarily for being an ultra-romantic dinner spot, but if you find yourself in Midtown East in the early evening, swing by, walk upstairs to the rooftop bar The Crow’s Nest, and you’ll be surprised to find quite a different scene—young Murray Hillers laughing over beers after work, older professionals untucking their shirts and tucking into some oysters and champagne. Unfussy drinks like sours and spiked lemonades go down all too easy with snacks like seasonal salads and lobster sliders, but the best thing about The Crow’s Nest is that it’s shockingly remained something of a neighborhood secret, which means it’s easy to stake out a seat and enjoy killer views across the river to Brooklyn as music goes up and the sun goes down. (30th St. at FDR Dr.)
Long Island City hits its stride in the summer months, what with MoMA PS1’s blockbuster annual courtyard installation and daytime parties, prime weather for taking a stroll through Socrates Sculpture Park, and fantastic Polish restaurants providing pirogues as fuel along the way. But when the clock strikes sundowner-time, many visitors hop the train to Brooklyn.Here’s a tip: stay in the neighborhood and head to Vista Sky Lounge atop the Four Point by Sheraton hotel instead. And brace yourself, because the sunset-facing panoramic views of Manhattan will blow you away. Lemondrops and chocolatinis, a solid selection of Scottish whiskies, and good draft beers for under $10 keep the crowd going here until 1 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m. on weekends.
(39th Ave. at 27th St., Long Island City)
Just because Manhattan lacks backyards doesn’t mean it’s without pool parties in the summer. All across the city, hotels have strategically incorporated swimming pools into their rooftop bars to serve as watering holes in every sense of the term when the weather’s right. While some sport a Miami Beach vibe geared more toward those bottle-service occasions, La Piscine atop Chelsea’s artsy Hôtel Americano draws a calmer crowd of bathing beauties sipping carefully crafted cocktails while dipping their feet in the cerulean water. It’s favored for never getting overly crowded, minimalist design, intimate size, and impressive list of tequilas and mescals. It may well be the West Side’s most sophisticated spot to splash out. (27th St. nr Tenth Ave.)