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America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars

America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars: The J. Parker, Chicago

Eric Kleinberg

When the golden hour hits on summer evenings, a ritual unfolds in cities across America: cubicle dwellers rush for the exits; lines form waiting for elevators to open; and social media is flooded with images of backlit skyscrapers and bright cocktails. It’s rooftop time.

The coolest rooftops, like D.C.’s Jack Rose—with a 1,400-plus spirits collection that encourages policy wonks to unwind—have a way of amplifying your typical bar experience. Drinks are more piquant, conversations a tad more interesting, the sunsets and fresh air intoxicating. They provide a vertical respite far from all the life that happens on ground.

Sometimes, it’s hotels that have mastered the art of high-altitude escape, mixing inventive bartenders with energetic DJs, a stylish crowd, and, of course, a stellar view. Almost every block in Manhattan seems to have its vaunted rooftop. Lately, the terrace at Sean MacPherson’s trendy Jane Hotel has the West Side buzzing, thanks to a boho-chic design and a Hudson River panorama. For Brooklyn’s take on cool, head to Ides at the Wythe Hotel; the locally sourced menu by Andrew Tarlow, of cult-hit Marlow and Sons fame, is worth the wait alone.

In Chicago, when winter’s death grip finally loosens, locals head skyward. Join them this summer at newcomer IO Urban Roofscape, atop the Godfrey Hotel, for madcap mixologist Riley Huddleston’s margarita with habanero salt air foam.

Rooftops are always in season in L.A., where a 1927 Spanish Gothic building downtown got the Ace Hotel treatment, complete with a Middle Eastern motif and sexy pool scene. The cool kids in Charleston, SC, meanwhile, can be found at Upper King Street’s Stars Restaurant & Rooftop Bar, which mixes drinks with herbs grown on-site.

One taste, and you may never come down.

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