With the average price of a mixed drink well above $20, a night spent in one of Manhattan’s best hotel bars doesn’t come cheap. But what that price includes is a taste of history – the people watching ain’t bad either. Here are five of Manhattan best historic hotel bars with a handy guide on what to order.
Bar: King Cole Bar
Where: The St. Regis Hotel, 2 E 55th St.
Price of a martini: $25
What you should actually order: Red Snapper
This small but historic bar is squished beneath a huge painting of Old King Cole by Maxfield Parrish. The bar is known as the birthplace of the Bloody Mary, originally known as the “Red Snapper.”
Bar: Palm Court
Where: Plaza Hotel, 768 5th Ave
Price of a martini: $22-$24
What you should actually order: Chartreusian Velvet Sling
In 1958 – at the height of the Tiki craze — Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. opened a tropical oasis in the Savoy-Plaza on Fifth Avenue. In 1965, he moved his bar, Trader Vic’s, across the street to the Plaza Hotel, where he slung Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians until his death. When Donald Trump bought the hotel in 1988, he closed the bar. But Trader Vic’s lives on in the Palm Court’s cocktail menu. Try Trader Vic-inspired drinks for two, like the Chartreusian Velvet Sling ($70) and the Leche Dolce ($66).
Where: The Carlyle, 35 E 76th St
Price of a martini: $20ish
What you should actually order: Luxury Sidecar
Named for renowned children’s book illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans — best known or his drawings the “Madeline” picture books and covering the Carlyle’s bar with murals — Bemelmans Bar home to those looking for strong drinks and smooth jazz – and it helps if money is no object. The bar hosts jazz trios most nights of the week, and Woody Allen is frequently among the performers.
Bar: Charlie Palmer at The Knick
Where: The Knickerbocker Hotel, 6 Times Square
Price of a martini: $18
What you should actually order: A goddam martini
There are other bars that would lay claim to the martini’s creation myth. But in New York, we know where the iconic cocktail was born: at the Knick. Built by John Jacob Astor IV, the hotel’s glory days were numbered, and it soon closed following the financial downturn brought on by prohibition. It has spent the majority of its life as offices, but the hotel was recently restored to its original glory. Head the Charlie Palmer lounge, order a Knickerbocker Martini and toast one of man’s most perfect inventions.
Bar: The BlueBar
Where: Algonquin Hotel, 59 W 44th St
Price of a martini: $17
What you should actually order: An Algonquin cocktail, Parker or Pink Pussycat
The Blue Bar is what’s left over from the original bar where the famed “Algonquin Round Table” met. These days the bar serves up a slightly gimmicky $10,000 martini (with a diamond in it), but if you are looking to commune with the ghost of Dorothy Parker there is no better place. Pet the hotel’s famous cat while you’re there.