Raising the Bar: Winter Roof Hot Spots

Laura Kusnyer

Baby, it's cold outside. You've bundled up and rushed from one destination to the next, perhaps forgetting to take in the dramatic views NYC's sprawling skyline has to offer. It's time you warmed your tired toes and got your nightly dose of skyscraper eye candy—all at once. This season, kick back at one of the City's little-known winter treasures—the heated rooftop bar, available on the top floor of a variety of stylish NYC hotels, among other venues.

Start things off in the Meatpacking District, where guests at the Hotel Gansevoort's Plunge bar can sip warm seasonal cocktails like the Pomegranate Ginger (Pearl pomegranate vodka, ginger and a splash of red wine) by the indoor fireplace or relax on the roof deck, heated and enclosed in glass for winter. A view of the Empire State Building peeking over the neighborhood warehouses is just one of the draws at this swank sky-high nightspot, where locals and celebrities—you might even spot Marc Jacobs here—have been known to mix.

Uptown and floors above Lincoln Center, the Empire Hotel's Empire Rooftop lounge is also serving up quaffs like mulled wine and hot buttered rum, all in a couch- and cushion-filled ambience. "It's nice and cozy," says Herbie, manager of the Empire Rooftop, where the heated and covered west terrace's view of Columbus Circle and sizzling fireplace paint an ideal setting for snuggling. The spot is also incredibly spacious: in addition to the west terrace, the non-covered east terrace provides a getaway for those who want to check out views of Lincoln Center and Central Park, while the interior bar area provides guests with a wide-open floor to dance to jazz on Tuesdays and DJ tunes Thursday through Saturday.

Speaking of romantic settings, two very distinct venues with equal amorous allure are perched high above the City. On the 22nd floor of Midtown's Peninsula hotel, the glass-walled Salon de Ning bar features a panoramic view of sparkling Fifth Avenue high-rises. Although there's no fireplace here, red candles pepper the Asian- and Art Deco–inspired space at nearly every turn. Meanwhile, about a dozen blocks south, Bookmarks, atop the Library Hotel, has transformed literary quirkiness into sex appeal. Step right off the elevator into the Poetry Garden and its adjacent outdoor deck dotted with heat lamps, or turn left into the Writer's Den, where a crackling fireplace serves as the centerpiece of a room that gives way to another outdoor patio—this one glass-enclosed and heated for the season. A staff mixologist serves up warm drinks like the Hot Apple Toddy and Café & Cachaça in a spot that's so romantic, its staff claims, it's known for hosting blind dates and marriage proposals.

With its wicker chairs, rows of plants and greenhouse-style windows, Bookmarks is certainly a rooftop garden, but when it comes to sky-high greens, art collector Steven Greenberg's 230 Fifth is king. This huge 22,000-square-foot space is ideal for parties, and includes an indoor penthouse lounge and an open-air roof deck. Heat lamps and thermal blankets converge with piña coladas and palm trees, lending the space a Copenhagen-meets-Miami vibe. Be sure to come with an empty stomach, as consulting chef Zak Pellacio's menu includes tiny treats like Malaysian Fish Cakes and his famous "Romli Burger" sliders.

If you like palm fronds but still crave a fireplace, the Delancey on the Lower East Side might be the spot for you. The roof deck here is heated and covered for winter, so you don't have to shiver while listening to the indie-rock tracks that often blast from the speakers. And back in Midtown, the Ava Lounge atop the Dream hotel has multiple fireplaces for guests to choose from. Try the Key Lime cocktail in the glamorous, tented space, where a bird's-eye view of Times Square will make you wonder why you were saving NYC's rooftop bars for the summertime. There's no need to stay at sea level just because it's chilly; the heat is rising to the roof this winter in NYC.