Gotham’s top-notch cocktail haunts come tucked in restaurant basements, stuffed behind unmarked storefronts and hidden in hot-dog shacks. Rarely do you find quality drinks in the DJ-soundtracked, pool-soaked terrain of rooftop bars—until now. Enter Tim and Nancy Cushman, the husband-and-wife team behind Boston’s high-flying Japanese spot O Ya, who bring smart tippling to the roof deck of Gramercy’s Park South Hotel.
ORDER THIS: The alfresco drinks come courtesy of fellow Beantown import Ted Kilpatrick (Beacon Hill’s No. 9 Park) and are broken down into four categories. Under “Effervescent and Easy-Drinking,” you’ll find the sparkling-wine-finished Airmail ($18), a mellowing blend of Martinique rhum agricole, lime and honey, while the “Fancy” roundup offers the Count & Countess ($17), a white Negroni fortified with fruit-forward grappa and caramel-y oat whiskey. Martini stirrers have five riffs at their disposal: One is improved with Kubler absinthe ($15), another stirred with mint leaves ($15).
GOOD FOR: Views as stunning inside as they are outside. Overlooking the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, the copper-sided lounge is decked out with cantilevered banquettes, sunset-orange canopies and a crackling glass-front fireplace. Pro tip: Snag a seat near the hearth to keep you toasty on breezy summer nights—if the flowing Negronis haven’t warmed you up already.
THE CLINCHER: For the bar’s small-plates operation, Tim Cushman veers outside his sushi-and-soba groove, dispatching Mediterranean-hopping fare like crocche’ di Napoli ($10), crusty casing yielding to creamy Yukon golds and fontina, and roulades of salmon crudo ($14), dotted with dill pesto and garum, Rome’s answer to fish sauce. The roof menu is meant as a preface for the Cushmans’ in-the-works restaurant, planned to launch in the hotel in 2015—and if the caviar spoon ($50) loaded with Black River Osetra roe and lush sea-urchin sugo is any indication, there are decadently tasty times ahead.—Christina Izzo