Best of New York

The Absolute Best Downtown-Hotel Bar

Arrive here at the right time and the setting sunlight is just about perfect. Photo: Noah Fecks

Below 23rd Street, some hotel bars manage to maintain the glamour and sophistication of the city’s finest lobby-adjacent drinking establishments. These are the very best downtown-hotel bars.

The Absolute Best

1. Margaux at the Marlton
5 W 8th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-321-0100

Get here early enough and the light at the end of the tunnel-shaped bar is literally the sunset, descending through the column of the atrium, making the Marlton’s bar one of the few lobby spaces where you don’t have to squint through candlelight to read a menu. Of course, that’s not the only draw: The cocktails, including a negroni and an old-fashioned on tap, are like instant upgrades of your favorite drinks. A Southside Sour adds a welcome frothiness you didn’t know the original needed; the Perfect G&T cuts the classic mix with grapefruit, adding nice balance against the sweetness. And the best cocktail, the Lobby Boy, a heavy base of Laphroaig doctored with bitters, citrus, and honey, somehow tastes exactly like Laphroaig, but better. Don’t ask how, just have another.

2. Gordon Bar at Sixty Soho
60 Thompson St., nr. Broome St.; 877-431-0400

Worth a visit for the space alone, a tall, Deco-influenced box in the back of the hotel’s second-floor lobby, it’s almost subversive in its rejection of the thrift-store-furnished expanses that became popular in the wake of the Ace. The Gordon Bar is intentionally different, a more adult space (you would not freelance from here; there are no laptops). Though the drinks are typically expensive (this is Soho, after all), and the menu includes a column advertising bottle service, the main selections — like the furnishings — all seem exactly what they should be: a much-better-than-average margarita; a selection of complicated but tasty house cocktails; and a short list of bar snacks that culminates, surprisingly, in a cheeseburger. There is always room for a cheeseburger, no matter how upscale the space.

3. Evening Bar at the Smyth
85 West Broadway, at Chambers St.; 212-587-7000

The Smyth may just have the best ground floor downtown. The Andrew Carmellini-helmed restaurant, Little Park, quickly became a magnet for the area’s power-lunchers when it opened last year, and the adjacent lobby space, on any given evening, is a low hum of postwork martini-fueled corporate backstabbing sessions. But behind that lobby, on the other side of a partition and through a set of pocket doors, Anne Robinson, a vet of PDT and Booker and Dax, has created an instant-classic cocktail bar, its menu traditional and daring, seasonal and self-assured all at once. The space, too, is dark in all the right places, anchored around a fireplace, which, when lit, creates the kind of flickering glow that makes you stay for purely hedonistic reasons. The drinks are there to help.

4. The Lobby of the Bowery Hotel
335 Bowery, at 3rd St.; 212-505-9100

This list really couldn’t exist without the Bowery, which opened in 2007 and instantly redefined not just the potential of a good lobby, but the irresistible draw of a downtown lobby. There were always the grand one-percent haunts near the park; now downtown types had a spot, too, defined not by gilt walls and extravagant moldings but by overstuffed chairs, good cocktails, and a buzz of liveliness that would feel out of place anywhere that took itself too seriously. Seating preference in the lobby area — a mishmash of tufted leather and rose-colored wingbacks purchased, perhaps, from a Westchester County estate sale — is given to guests of the hotel, but think of that as a bonus, not a hinderance: When you do sit down, there’s a decent chance it’ll be next to someone for whom paparazzi is waiting outside.

5. The Ballroom at the Jane
113 Jane St., nr. West St.; 212-924-6700

For nights when Deco luxury and understated sophistication just don’t feel right, there’s the Jane, a storied West Village ballroom with a tough door, incredibly loud music, and a line of Ubers outside. Has anyone ever actually stayed at the Jane? Like, in a hotel room? That’s unclear, but what is clear is that for years models and the people who follow them have treated the clubby, safari-inspired ballroom as a waypoint on the road to wherever else the night might take them. If that’s your scene — this is New York, you’re not alone — then the Jane is forever the place to meet your compatriots. The drinks don’t matter because you’re ordering a bottle of Champagne.

The Best Downtown-Hotel Bar