History Bernard’s opened in 2009 on the second floor of what was then the Elysian Hotel. Since the Waldorf Astoria took over the property last year, the bar’s been getting more buzz—adding food was a big plus—but the vibe remains the same: This is a mahogany-and-velvet hideaway for special nights out.
Crowd A Kennedyesque trust-fund kid holds court at the bar, a trio of fresh-faced med school grads get technical while nursing vodka sodas, and a middle-aged couple grope each other sloppily during what’s presumably their night away from the kids.
Noise Low-level Rat Pack
Minutes to get a seat on a weekend night Zero
Minutes to order/receive first drink 1/3
Creativity The cocktail selection is small but seems well thought-out, with most delivering a tweak or two on a classic. Exhibit A: Arsenic & Old Lace employs fresh tarragon to brighten up the anise in the pastis and, somehow, the pine in the gin.
Quality The vested bartenders have a way with whiskey—the green Chartreuse and sherry in the Witch & the Warlock balances the bite of rye—but they’re just as happy to stir (or shake) you a perfect martini.
Value $14 a drink is steep, but they go down smooth.
Food Bernard’s leans on the Waldorf’s anchoring restaurant Balsan to offer an abbreviated menu of charcuterie, cheese, oysters and desserts (Thursday–Saturday only). Our money goes to cocktail-friendly oysters and spreadable snacks like duck rillettes.
Final evaluation Bernard’s remains the hidden jewel within the Waldorf palace, with cozy seating, dim lighting, solid cocktails and friendly service. This is how the other half lives, dahling.