New York: Five Fun Summer Bars

When the weather heats up, it’s white wine and sunshine as New Yorkers hit the great outdoors. Here are five fun bars to get your sip on this summer in the City.

By Bernard O’Riordan

After a bone-chilling, nose-numbing winter that just never seemed to end, the Big Apple is starting to warm up, and so too is the outdoor bar scene.

From high-rise watering holes to secluded garden bars, summer in the City is the perfect time to soak up some sun and and indulge in your favourite tipple.

Whether it’s Central Park or Soho, the Financial District or Flatiron, New York’s diverse neighbourhoods have a bar to suit every taste.

In no particular order, here are a few of our favourite City haunts to knock back a Stella when the Mercury hits 80F (26C) or more.

Summer Garden & Bar, Rockefeller Plaza

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When most of us think of Rockefeller Plaza, we imagine being rugged up mid-winter watching people skate next to the giant Christmas tree.

But from late spring, the famed space in midtown Manhattan transforms into an open-air lounge bar with funky music, signature cocktails and tapas-style share plates.

With its boxed hedges and topiary, wicker lounges and communal high tables, Summer Garden & Bar is a great spot to take a load off after a day of shopping or sightseeing around Times Square and Midtown.

Flanked by the bronze Prometheus statue and nestled at the foot of the landmark Rockefeller Center, Summer Garden is one of those truly Insta-worthy spots for any first-time visitor.

Where: Rockefeller Plaza, 20 W 50th St.
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Spyglass at the Archer Hotel

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Rosé coloured glasses

It’s hard to decide what’s most appealing about this luxe rooftop bar in midtown Manhattan: the classic cocktail and wine list or the stunning up-close views of the Empire State Building.

This sleek bar on the 22nd floor of the Archer Hotel has indoor and outdoor spaces, with floor-to-ceiling windows that ensure prime views of the Empire State Building no matter the season.

Spyglass was actually inspired by the 1954 mystery thriller “Rear Window”, hence the name which takes its cue from the telescope used by Jimmy Stewart in the film.

The bar really is a homage to the voyeur in all of us, as we spy on the buildings around us and the people at street level below.

But the fantasy is quickly shattered when the check arrives. You suddenly remember drinks are expensive in places like this ($17-$21 a cocktail, $12-$17 a glass of wine and $9 a beer).

Of course, it’s not (just) the drinks you come for, it’s the million-dollar views. And they are priceless.

Where: Level 22, The Archer Hotel, 45 West 38th Street.   
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Terroir at the Porch 

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This pop-up, seasonal wine bar is a great spot to stop for a beverage after wandering the High Line.

Located above the industrial grime of Chelsea, at the southern end of the High Line, the open-air bar serves wine, beer, and small plates with stunning views.

Terroir has a number of locations around the city, but the High Line bar is hard to beat.

Where: The High Line, at West 15th St and 10th Ave.  
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Tavern on the Green

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Slow-paced people watching

For much of the 1970s and ’80s, Tavern on the Green hosted the likes of high profile locals like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Yankee ballplayers and virtually every Broadway opening night party in town.

Then it became outdated and overpriced and people went elsewhere.

A few decades and a significant makeover later, and Tavern on the Green is once again winning the hearts of locals and visitors alike.

The outdoor patio and bar, with its umbrellas and whicker chairs, is great for slow-paced people watching. Or just sit back with a cold drink and soak up New York and Central Park in all its summer glory.

On a brick patio bordering the western side of the Tavern, there’s also a beer garden with picnic tables and benches.

Where: 67th Street & Central Park West.  
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The Met Rooftop Bar

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Hidden gem at the Met

Many visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art don’t realise there’s a hidden gem on the roof of the museum:  the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden.

The Roof Garden is open from May through October each year, and on Friday and Saturday night’s turns into a Martini Bar. Be warned though, the drinks are super expensive.

With sweeping views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, it’s the perfect spot to soak up the late afternoon sun when you’re done admiring the artwork and sculptures downstairs. The bar closes an hour before the museum.

The trickiest part is finding your way to the rooftop. Look for the lift in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts gallery, and then head for the 5th floor.

Where: The Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue.  
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Honourable Mention:

St Cloud Social Rooftop

If there’s one thing New Yorkers despise, it’s having to venture anywhere near the glittering tourist trap that is Times Square. But sitting back in a VIP sky pod at St Cloud, a 7,800 sq foot rooftop bar at the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, is a whole other story.

High up on the 16th floor, you can soak up the frenetic, pulsating vibe of Times Square without actually being in the thick of it. The menu includes the obligatory Knickerbocker Gin cocktails and upscale bar food like tomato brioche and eggplant polpette.

Where: Broadway and 42nd St, Times Square. 
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