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Last active Dec 23, 2015
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Pedro's Amazing Guide To Rooftop Bars

Very few people respect the art of rooftop drinking these days.

The problem faced by Rooftop bars is that their customers often believe they're being respectful because they're wearing a suit or a fancy dress.

Niclekback wears suits

Nevermind all the people that COMPLETELY FUCKED UP MUSIC AS WE KNOW IT while dressing well. We're still associating fancy dressing with respect.

But this guide is here to help.

It will teach you how to properly drink at a rooftop bar.

It will show you where the best rooftop bars are in the world.

And it will get you a 2% discount for your next tax return.

On Food

The second biggest mistake people make at rooftop bars is to eat.

It's a well known fact that food quality is inversely proportional to distance from ground. Explains why all malls have mediocre restaurants. Explains why the worse food known to mankind is served on airplanes. Explains how India became world's best cuisine with their earth ovens. And it explains Michael Mina's weird obsession for caves.

So next time you're on the 40th floor just don't order food. Part of your job as a rooftop connoisseur is to plan the night so dinner happens on ground level.

On the Environment

Every rooftop bar out there looks pretty nice.

The reason you would have trouble to find a rooftop bar that doesn't look nice is that they get demoted to terrace very quickly.

Take the Empire View Bar, for instance: located at the rooftop of the Empire State Building, it was turned into a tourist attraction when a fraudulent survey made the building administrators think the building wasn't nice enough. By the time they realized the survey was sabotaged their liquor license was already lost; event that was widely celebrated by owners of the Anshe Chesed Synagogue View Bar as their old customers started to head back.

On Service

With the nice environment comes a consistent and sad dichotomy: rooftop bar service sucks. It might look nice, and you might be in a suit – but fact is the time for each next drink increases exponentially.

Eric Gamma found this the hard way: got his first drink in 4 minutes, second in 16 – and third in a bit over one hour. He died before he could taste his next drink, a cucumber gimlet.

The tragedy yielded at least one good outcome: every rooftop bar is now required to allow customers to order their own drinks, which is the modus operandi of every respectable rooftop enthusiast out here.

On cocktail names

Little known fact, but several cocktails out there were named after the people and events around rooftop bars.

History begins in 1949, when the owners of the RView bar managed to obtain a liquor license before the actual permit to operate kitchen utensils. Seeing that the permit to operate construction tools was still current, they asked the bartenders to improvise – and that was the birth of the Screwdriver.

Bloody Mary got named after Marianne Anderson and the horrible circumstances of her death at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle Rooftop Pool Terrace.

Mai Tai stands for "Bar On The Floor Above The Last" in Tongan. The language doesn't have a word for rooftop.


The reason one third of the rooftop bars are named lounge is to avoid the stress dealing with the Bar Association for Rooftops, or BAR.

The association charges a pretty substantial fee for establishments willing to take their mandatory rooftop bar examination. But membership is the only way to get legal access to their stickers, and one of the hundred thousand rooftop bar names they have registered.

"BAR has registered so many names that it's virtually impossible to hint to customers that you have a rooftop without infringement", says the owner of Terzo Piano, in Chicago. "They own pretty much any combination of the words you'd normally associate with a rooftop", explains the owner of Jerry Remy's in Boston. "Terrace, roof, sky, top, breeze, it's all taken".

But their most profitable noun is actually "view". Bars named "The View" (and variations, like "The Best View" or "Vue") are either members of BAR, or very confident in their team of attorneys on retainer.

While the association started registering names in the early 40s, it only started pursuing the international market in the 90s. It's believed that Carlos Montana got the last recognizable name for a rooftop bar not taken by BAR, when he opened Brisa del Mar in 1990. The American counterpart "Ocean Breeze" was registered in 1941.

In face of this reckless trademarking issue, rooftop owners all over the world are divided: some are naming their bars after "lounge", betting that the term will eventually have a strong association with rooftops among their potential customers – and some are putting their money on the hotel business instead, hoping that it will soon become evident to the public that bars functioning inside a hotel are located on the rooftop.

Aware of these tactics, BAR recently started registering combinations of the term "lounge" too – and went as far as opening a few hotels with bars located at the ground level, like the W in San Francisco. At first it might seen like an expensive move, but paying $15 a cocktail, their confused patrons have apparently no trouble paying rooftop premium for a street level view.

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