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NYC's best rooftop bars for spring cocktails

Manhattan hotspots like Ophelia, JIMMY, R17 and more offer spectacular views and inventive drinks. 

Spring is the perfect time to check out

Spring is the perfect time to check out the views and drinks at the city's best rooftop bars, like JIMMY at the James Hotel. Photo Credit: JIMMY at the James

It’s finally that time of year again. The snow has cleared, the thunderstorms are (mostly) gone, and the sunshine seems here to stay. And with the return of shorts, sunglasses and sandals comes the long-awaited reappearance of rooftop bars, where New Yorkers and visitors alike flock to with hopes of nice weather, beautiful views, and of course, delicious drinks. But whether you’re a rooftop regular or are new to drinking at such heights, you won’t want to miss these amazing spots or their spring cocktail offerings.

JIMMY at The James, SoHo

Located on the 18th floor of The James Hotel in the heart of West SoHo, JIMMY boasts 360-degree views of the skyline, an array of seating options, and some of the finest cocktails in town. The bar has a refined, modern aesthetic but remains warm and welcoming. It’s both big enough to attract a hefty crowd, especially late at night, and small enough to feel intimate, making it the ideal venue for big groups, small catch-ups, and even first dates.

Unlike most rooftops, JIMMY at the James is a hot spot year-round, with guests flocking outside and to the pool in the warmer months and getting cozy by the indoor fires on those cold winter nights. So even during the unpredictable months of April and May, when the weather can go from 70 and sunny to 45 and freezing in no time at all, JIMMY has you covered.

The SoHo bar is known for its inventive and delicious cocktails, which change seasonally, and the current spring menu is no exception. For a refreshing sip on a hot day, try the Cucumber Switchel—a mix of Ketel Cucumber Vodka, Calamansi Vinegar Elderflower, and John Henry Bitter Lemon—or the Kickin’ Back—a blend of Partida tequila, suze liqueur, grapefruit and pink peppercorn. JIMMY has all the 2019 trends covered, too, with drinks like the Matcha Mule, a twist on the traditional Moscow Mule that adds millennials’ favorite green ingredient, and the White Unicorn, a vodka-based cocktail that is topped with coconut foam and rainbow stars, making for the ideal Instagram opportunity. There will also be a special drink for Earth Day on April 22 that will utilize leftover pineapple peels and rinds and 100 percent of its proceeds will go to the New York Restoration Project. The bar’s 14 new spring cocktails, all $19, are joined by a lineup of savory snacks, including some from the downstairs Gitano Jungle Room.

JIMMY at the James is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

Ophelia, Midtown East

Seated at the top of the storied Beekman Tower on 49th Street and First Avenue, the newly refurbished cocktail lounge offers a 360-degree greenhouse terrace, expansive windows and indoor space, and a five-star food and drinks menu. More than that, though, Ophelia is coated in rich New York history. Built in 1928, the art deco building, once dubbed the Panhellenic Tower, originally served as a women’s-only hotel for college graduates. When the rooftop space opened to the public in the 1930s, it became the Top of the Tower restaurant and quickly became a mainstay for Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa, among others. After seven decades in business, though, Top of the Tower closed in 2013 and remained vacant until 2018 when Ophelia opened the space’s historic doors once again.

The new bar capitalizes on the Beekman’s vintage 1920s bones and icon reputation, making full use of the venue’s three original iron-paneled windows and calling upon classic design details like red velvet, Bone China blue walls reminiscent of the 1930s, and countless curious artifacts like matchboxes and tarot cards from the 1950s and handwritten notes. Ophelia’s full embrace of the past allows guests to escape the minutiae of the 21st century and instead enter the glitz and glamour of the Beekman Tower during its heyday — with modern luxuries like photo-friendly drinks and experiential mixology, of course.

Ophelia’s new cocktails for spring include both the modern and the mastered. For an updated classic, try the Aegean Paloma, a blend of Ouzo #12, Ketel One Grapefruit-Rose Vodka, pink peppercorn, grapefruit sod and rose water, topped with fresh grapefruit. If it’s history you’re after, order the Beekman 360, which fuses Ketel One vodka with Apostoles gin, Cocchi Americano, yellow chartreuse, suze, allspice, and orange bitters. And if you’re feeling frisky, try the A La Espanola, a gin-based concoction that features strawberries, lemon, rhubarb, juniper berries and tonic.

Ophelia’s drinks are all $20 and under, and it is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday.

R17, South Street Seaport District

Part of South Street Seaport’s booming revitalization, R17 is the newly opened rooftop jewel that sits atop the historic Pier 17. The 70-seat bar and lounge, designed by the Rockwell Group, offers beautiful views of the waterfront, but what really makes this place great is the total transformation it undergoes between winter and summer. Since its December 2018 opening, R17 has welcomed diners to its totally enclosed Scandinavian-influenced space. Guests would curl up on cozy sofas by the venue’s many fireplaces and sip on winter cocktails, while others flocked to the lounge’s Winterland ice-skating rink around the holidays and sipped on hot toddies in the “warming hut.” In anticipation of the sunshine’s triumphant return, though, R17 will ditch the fireplaces and open two outdoor patios, bringing its total capacity to more than 300.

In addition to the bar’s revamped food and drinks menu for spring and summer, Live Nation’s wildly successful concert series, which debuted last August, will return to the pier. During these concerts, R17 will be closed to the general public and open just to VIP members.

Although the rooftop’s patios won’t open until late May, its spring cocktails are already available to visitors. The new lineup of drinks includes the Pamplemouse Spritz, a mix of Grey Goose vodka, Luxardo maraschino, grapefruit and Blancs de Blancs, and Summer Berry Sangría, which adds cherry brandy, triple sec, citrus and berries to the classic. There’s also the San Luis Swizzle, a mezcal-based cocktail that blends Génépi, pineapple juice, Peychaud’s bitters, and serrano pepper; the London Mule, a less fruity version of the traditional Pimms Cup; and the Royal Jungle Bird, a refreshing champagne and rum blend with pineapple, citrus and orchid.

All cocktails range between $15 and $19, and R17 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

A.R.T. at Arlo SoHo

The Arlo Hotel’s trendy 11th floor has long been a hotspot for sun-seekers and skyline junkies, given its prime views of downtown Manhattan and the Hudson, but its early 2018 renovation only further secured its standing as one of the city’s best rooftops. The space was previously called the Good Story and was home to a surf shack pop-up every summer but since its makeover, goes by A.R.T. (Arlo Roof Top) and strikes more of a lounge feel. The new rooftop, which features an indoor and outdoor space filled with sleek furniture and hanging lights, does pay homage to its former self in a new mural that reads, “every night should end with a good story.” Although it’s far from New York’s highest rooftop, A.R.T. is among a select few that own such a western location, sitting on Hudson Street just north of Canal, the perfect place to watch the city’s famously gorgeous summer sunsets.

Following its renovations last year, A.R.T. debuted a new food menu from Chef Harold Moore, the man behind the hotel’s downstairs restaurant, Harold’s Meat + Three, and new drinks from Employees Only barman Milos Zica. The rooftop’s new cocktails for spring include classics with the hotel’s own personal touch, like the Arlo Collins, which adds cucumber and thyme to the traditional drink, and the Arlo Margarita, a mezcal-based concoction with grapefruit, rosemary and habanero pepper. A.R.T. has also made full use of its name with four $16 “Avant-Garde” options: the Pablo Picasso, Rembradt, Jackson Pollock, and of course, Andy Warhol. The ode to Pollock is unsurprisingly a splatter of flavors and colors, blending Old Forester bourbon, blueberry and clove with Amontillado sherry, plum and lemon, while the “Blue Marilyn” artist’s sees a fuse of the hotel’s house rum blend, Wray & Nephew overproof rum, toasted coconut, banana, pineapple, lime and mint. While it’s impossible to say whether these prolific men would approve of their respective drinks, A.R.T.’s guests certainly seem to.

The rooftop bar also offers readymade flasks, bottles and punch bowls of four cocktails, all designed to serve between four and eight people, and a series of $10 “Postmodern Poptails” like the Diplo Daiquiri and Blue Hawaii.

A.R.T. is open from 4 p.m. midnight Monday through Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

PUBLIC Roof, Lower East Side

Ian Schrager’s Lower East Side haunt, PUBLIC Hotel, has been a haven for every cool New Yorker since it opened in 2017. It keeps to the hotelier’s iconic minimalist tendencies and boasts a Jean-Georges restaurant, posh bar, and even a world-class arts program, but the true star is 28 floors up, at the PUBLIC Roof. With the Empire State and Chrysler buildings on one side and One World Trade Center on the other, the Chrystie Street rooftop has truly unparalleled panoramic views of the city. During the warmer months, guests fill the oversized outdoor terrace for sunset cocktails and all-day rosé, while the immense indoor space provides shelter from those occasional April showers. PUBLIC Roof features sleek, white furniture and wooden tables and a minimalist bar, allowing both its spectacular views and its attractive clientele to take center stage.

The rooftop is the perfect place to soak up the sun, but it’s even more fun when the moon and the stars do their thing. After dark, the bar transforms into a nightlife destination (complete with long lines and discerning bouncers) and hosts renowned DJs from around the world.

Although it has yet to release its latest menu, PUBLIC has earned a reputation for its delicious and inventive cocktails over the last two summers. The rooftop is open from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday to Wednesday.


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