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Drinks with a View — Cocktails and Inspiration

by Rich Rubin
54thirty- cocktail lounge, drinks with a view

Join me for a few memorable libations in destinations where you can also enjoy some of the best views in the world.

Rich Rubin

One of the first columns I wrote as the “Traveling Gourmet” was “Restaurants with a View.” Sometimes, though, all you want is a drink with an inspiring vista. So I’ve decided to take you to a few places where you can sip a cocktail and look out at a stunning panorama. All have outdoor areas, and all are primarily places to have a drink (though not all are bars). Join me for a few memorable libations in destinations where you can also enjoy some of the best views in the world.



There’s no building more iconic in the New York skyline than the Empire State Building, and there’s possibly nowhere in the city to get a better view of it than at the Spyglass Rooftop Bar, on the 22nd floor of the Archer Hotel. Take a seat in the cozy bar, or better yet, on the terrace, which wraps around the building offering a variety of views. Try one of their seasonal frozen drinks like Frosé (rosé, vodka and citrus) or perhaps an Empire in the Evening (bourbon, Aperol, amaretto, and ginger). As you sit at the long row of tables, the Empire State Building is smack in front of you (our friendly bartender Adam suggests we come back for a visit at dusk, when there is a light show before its nightly illumination). It’s a classic Manhattan view: the water towers, the modern buildings with an occasional Deco masterpiece, all visible even more closely through a “spyglass” telescope on the terrace. The small menu of bar food is great (not surprising from a place in Charlie Palmer’s collection). One fun innovation: for World Pride, they offered “Kaleidoscope Martinis” topped with rainbow-hued candy sticks, part of the proceeds benefitting The Center, New York’s LGBTQ+ hub. Spyglass is the kind of spot that, once you know about it, will become your go-to place in New York. 47 W. 38th St., New York NY. Tel: 212-730-0538. www.spyglassnyc.com

It seems like everyone in Toronto is in The Rooftop bar at the Broadview Hotel. It also seems like all of Toronto is spread out before you to relish through the glass walls. This is a buzzy place, and summer sees the outdoor terrace fill up with revelers. Even in mid-winter it’s packed to the gills on weeknights. Their glass façade encompasses 360 degrees views that are uninterrupted— and if that’s not good enough for you, step out onto the terrace when the weather is nice and you’ll look out over a skyline stretching for miles. Margaritas are on tap here, as are a wide variety of local microbrewed beers. You might prefer, however, a creation like the Basil Elderflower Smash, or the ever-popular Aperol Spritz, as you enjoy the plants hanging from the industrial-chic gridwork, lights that look like some of the nihgt’s stars have been brought inside,and most of all, a crowd that is clearly having the time of its life. 106 Broadview Ave., Toronto ON. Tel: 416-632-8439. www.thebroadviewhotel.ca

The Nest Cocktail Lounge

The Nest

On the top floor of the winning Thompson Hotel, The Nest is a rooftop bar par excellence, looking out over Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, the jaunty waterside ferris wheel, and skyscrapers springing up like weeds. Boats ply the harbor below, and you can see the vast expanse of Elliott Bay, with the Olympic Mountains visible on a clear day. Perch yourself on a leather couch in front of the large windows, or venture onto the open-air deck, where cushioned couches, low tables, and planters full of green await, along with that view. Bar snacks are great here, as is the creative cocktail list, from a Melon Ball (tequila, cantaloupe syrup, and winter melon bitters) to a Seattle Basic (built around coffee-infused Irish whiskey, with several additional coffee concoctions added to honor this caffeine-loving town). It’s a prime spot for watching the land-bound and aquatic action, and the ever-growing skyline of this constantly changing metropolis. 110 Stewart St., Seattle WA. Tel: 206-623-4600. www.thompsonhotels.com

Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery - Cocktail lounge with a view

Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery

The wine’s the thing at Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery. Well, the wine and the view. As you take a seat at a wood table on the patio, shaded by a Chardonnay-hued umbrella, you look out at meadows bright with yellow and white flowers, wooded hillsides covered in redwoods, Douglas Fir, bay laurel, and live oak, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. It’s a rare combination of perfect location and luscious winemaking, the latter thanks in large part to winemaker Jeff Pisoni, who hails from a family of winemakers and has perfected his craft here. The seclusion of the locale (the closest vineyard in California to the Pacific) gives a signature minerality to the wines, mainly Pinot Noir. (They also make a lovely Pinotage, from a South African grape the owners were instrumental in bringing to the U.S.) As I admire the scenery over the
grapevine-themed wrought iron balconies, I sip a variety of wines, starting with a light, crisp, not-too-oaky Chardonnay, before moving on to three Pinot Noirs. A full-bodied, rustic FRV 2014, the smooth-as-silk 2013 “The Terraces;” and, my favorite of the selection, the rich, bold 2015 “Top of the Land.” While there’s much to be said for a buzzy bar, there’s a great pleasure in the utter quiet and spectacular setting of this peaceful tasting room. 15725 Meyers Grade Rd., Jenner CA. Tel: 707-847-3460. www.fortrossvineyard.com

54thirty cocktail lounges


You know there’s bound to be a great view from high up, and the bar gets its name from Denver’s altitude, as the “ski lift chairs” and mural of skiers at the entrance reinforce. It’s that rare place where you feel like you’re both in the middle of the cityscape and looking out at it from afar. Firepits along the bar keep you warm on a chilly Colorado evening as you gaze at Denver and the mountains, the view stretching all the way to the town of Boulder. It’s the tallest open-air rooftop bar in Denver, and its L shape lets you choose whether you want to feel like you’re among the bustle of the city’s burgeoning skyline or above it all looking down. Open from April to October on the twentieth floor of Le Méridien, it (naturally) features “elevated cocktails,” from City Peaks (gin, honey, lemon, blackberry, bubbles) to #Thatviewthough (Tito’s vodka, chamomile tea syrup, lemon, Princess Yum Yum), whose name aptly describes the reason we’re all gathered here. 1475 California St., Denver CO. Tel: 303-893-1888. www.54thirty.com

Litchblick Cocktail Lounge Austria

Photo: Innsbruck Tourismus – Christof Lackner

While Lichtblick is a well-known restaurant in Innsbruck, located on the top floor of the Rathausgalerien department store, we’re not going to the restaurant. We’re heading to the wine bar. With a 360-degree view of Innsbruck and the mountains, it’s a prime place to appreciate both the beauty of this Austrian town’s setting and the fineness of Austrian wines. The rounded structure with its glass walls makes for perfect viewing. And with an outdoor space surrounding the bar, there’s nothing between you and that amazing view (you’ll want to circle around to see the entire city from above). Join the al fresco sippers perched at tables or simply standing at the rail to gaze. On a bright Innsbruck day, sun glistening off the rooftops, domes, and spires, and the mountains seeming to grow right out of the city, you’ll understand the meaning of “Lichtblick” (light box). Maria-Theresien-Strasse 18, Innsbruck, Austria. Tel: +43 512 56 6560. www.restaurant-lichtblick.at

DNV Rooftop Cocktail Lounge

DNV Rooftop

On the top floor of Kimpton’s Donovan Hotel, DNV Rooftop is as popular with locals as hotel guests. That’s probably due in large part to the sweeping views of the nation’s capital from this lofty perch and the large pool that invites you for a series of “pool party” events as summer draws on. The creative cocktails of Lead Bartender Justin Golash might have something to do with it too. As you gaze out at historic Thomas Circle and the city spreading beyond, dig into a Grumpy Guru (Bacardi, lemon, orgeat, sage) or a Sand In Ya Shorts, served in a beachy bucket with a pair of umbrellas. Washington unfolds around you, so close you feel like you can touch one of the spires that seems to hang just off the terrace. Feeling the DC Heat? Go for Booze in a Stick, Hibiscus Mai Tai, or Piña Colada flavored popsicles. Look down at stately Thomas Circle, the statue at its center, paths radiating across lawns, and traffic buzzing around the circumference, and you’ll realize that while you might feel transported, you haven’t left DC! 1145 14th St. NW, Washington DC. Tel: 202-737-1200. www.dnvrooftop.com

Tahoe Tastings Cocktail Lounge

Tahoe Tastings

You can have your drinks while looking out at Lake Tahoe, or you can have your drinks while on Lake Tahoe. Thanks to the ingenious folks behind Tahoe Tastings, the latter is the preferred option. Board the 1953-vintage Golden Rose, a wooden boat with gold-plated fixtures. As you leave the marina, you’ll enjoy the first of several wines, mostly from lesser-known vineyard regions of Northern California. You might enjoy a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, a Barbera from Amador County, or a Petite Syrah from El Dorado County, along with lovely fruit/cheese plates local deli The Cork and More. Once you’ve settled on a favorite, you can have a bottle brought to your table. Look through the rose etched windows at the mountains and lake gliding past your amazed eyes as you sail through Emerald Bay, traversing the southwestern corner of the lake. There’s no better way to appreciate the vastness and beauty of Lake Tahoe than to be in the middle of it. “I wanted to emulate the wine bar experience,” notes Diondra Colquhoun, who with her husband Shane runs Tahoe Tastings. They’ve done that and tossed in the world’s most astounding lakeas a bonus. Tahoe Keys Marina, South Lake Tahoe CA. Tel: 530-494-9222. www.tahoetastings.com

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