NYC’s 10 Best Outdoor Bars for Summer Drinkin’
Warm weather has finally returned to New York, signifying that al fresco season has officially begun. And in a city obsessed with bar-culture, that means drinks outdoors. From see-and-be-seen rooftops with sky-high views of the city to under-the-radar wine bars, NYC has no shortage of open-air options. Read on for the best bars where you can while away the hours under the New York sun, cocktail in hand.
The Heights at Arlo NoMad
Come to The Heights for the views, but stay for the frosé. Of course, there are other cocktails, too: one favorite is the Brooklyn Heights, a refreshing blend of tequila, lime, lemon, and fresh-pressed watermelon juice. And what of those views? The corner shape means guests can see uptown, downtown, east and west. To one side, the Empire State Building stands seemingly just out of reach, while to the south, the golden pyramid atop the New York Life Building glistens in the setting sun. Patrons send an obligatory Instagram Story of the skyline (holding out their frosé in the foreground), as well as of the glass-bottomed area, which looks down onto the cab-filled street below.
Built in 1942, the sleek wooden schooner Sherman Zwicker would spend summers in the North Atlantic fishing for cod before sailing to South America to purchase salt. Nowadays, it lives a more sedentary life at Pier 25 in Tribeca, and houses the ever-popular oyster bar Grand Banks. Step aboard for refreshing, nautically-themed cocktails—made with fresh-squeezed juices and locally sourced produce—or chilled wines and champagnes, plus tray after tray of wild-caught or sustainably harvested oysters from both coasts. Retractable yellow-and-white striped awnings provide shade, both at the central bar and at tables spread across the boat deck. In between ogling the views of New York Harbor, One World Trade, and the Hudson, take some time to look at the vessel itself, which has been painstakingly restored into a museum-quality example of mid-century shipbuilding.
Skip the bar area at Loreley, a German-inspired tavern on the Lower East Side, and make a beeline for the back patio. Modeled after the Brauhaus in Cologne, the lively biergarten has a dozen or so communal pine picnic tables, making it one of the neighborhood’s most popular day-drinking spots come summer. There are 12 imported beers on tap (mostly from Germany), plus wines from the Rhine river valley. Pair a Kölsch (or several) with the bar’s traditional German fare, including grilled bratwurst, paprika chicken with spaetzle noodles, and several varieties of schnitzel.
Consider Brooklyn Barge the borough’s spin on Grand Banks. On a barge in the East River, the Greenpoint hangout has a popular bar that focuses more on local beer than champagne—although it’s there—and sliders, jerk-chicken sandwiches, and grilled shrimp with salsa verde. Take a seat around wooden tables made from cable-rollers, or stand by the gangway and enjoy the Manhattan views across the East River. Before you have too many rounds, take to the water yourself: stand-up paddle boards and kayaks are available for rent.
The Bar at Loeb Boathouse
Fresh off a $3 million renovation, the Central Park Loeb Boathouse is an elegant lakeside restaurant near the park’s entrance at Fifth Avenue and East 72nd Street. Tourists come here for a splurge-worthy meal, while in-the-know locals consider consider it an ideal stop for drinks. Mimosas, Aperol spritzes, rosé, and light beers are popular choices to patrons who flock to the open-air bar. This summer, they’ll enjoy a fully overhauled look, with muted tones that allow the colors of nature to take centerstage. Pull up a chair on the terrace, or at one of the 30 new high-top seats. In between the din of neighboring tables and rowers offshore, you may hear sounds of migrating birds who frequent the park, or spot any of 26 species of butterflies known to fly by.
On the 22nd floor of Williamsburg’s William Vale Hotel, Westlight is an expansive indoor/outdoor rooftop bar with serious views and a swanky party vibe. Glass walls and terrace railings keep the focus on the epic vista of the Midtown skyline rising from the East River. Head outside for a seat on the pale-yellow sofas or other lounge chairs, including on an upstairs faux lawn. Cocktails from mixologist Anne Robinson range from vintage classics, like the simple Gold Rush, with just bourbon, honey and lemon, to newfangled concoctions. Go for the summery Simpatico, with Pisco, aperol, strawberry, lime, and sparkling rosé from the North Fork. And don’t skip the food: Andrew Carmellini, of Locanda Verde, The Dutch, and Bar Primi fame, is behind the menu of bar bites, which include favorites like a shrimp cocktail dumpling and potato skins with caviar and yuzu hollandaise.
1 Rooftop Garden & Bar
Up to 450 people can fit on the 3,475-square-foot 1 Rooftop Garden & Bar, and on summer weekend days, that’s probably how many people are there. Its afternoon pool parties, which center around an angular plunge pool, have become one of the city’s most popular hangouts since the bar opened last June. Enjoy lively music, signature cocktails—like the Heatstroke, with tequila, mezcal, pineapple, agave and lime—and impressive views over the downtown skyline, framed by the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor. Weeknights are slightly less buzzy, although sunset hour can draw a hip crowd.
Since opening in 2011, oyster bar Maison Premiere has set the standard for a sophisticated night out in Williamsburg. Faithfully styled after historic bars in Paris and New Orleans, the restaurant draws a sizable crowd to its horseshoe-shaped central bar. For a more tranquil experience, head to the lush garden. Large, potted ferns surround clusters of tables-for-two shaded by an arbor bursting with fragrant wisteria. The drinks menu—which has helped earn the bar three James Beard nominations, winning Best Bar Program in 2016—pushes absinthe to the forefront, either in sublime cocktails or as a traditional absinthe drip with a sugar cube and chilled water.
RELATED: The Most Romantic Bars in NYC
Gottino is a cozy Italian wine bar in the West Village with a delightfully quiet backyard. And with no thumping music, and no crowds to speak of, it feels more like a private residence than restaurant. Wood chips cover the ground of the tree-shrouded space, and string-lights line the wooden fences along the perimeter. The menu features a standout selection of small plates, including seasonal vegetables, wild boar with polenta, a slew of cheeses, and several addicting crostini. Pair it all with a curated selection of Italian wines and you have a truly romantic date night.
Broken Shaker at Freehand
This month, Bar Lab’s Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta debuted the New York outpost of their popular Miami-originated bar Broken Shaker inside the Freehand Hotel. The tropical, garden-like oasis occupies the 2,500-square-foot rooftop, with indoor and outdoor space offering city views. Expect small bites and hyper-seasonal cocktails that utilize fresh ingredients in innovative ways, like a strawberry caipirinha with tarragon, a kombucha-topped gin number with passionfruit liquor and charred pineapple, and playful, only-in-New-York tweaks like an everything bagel gin fizz.
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