Pedro's Amazing Guide To Rooftop Bars
Drinking with a perspective
Very few people respect the art of rooftop drinking these days.
Notably, rooftop bar customers often believe that wearing a suit or a fancy dress conveys respect.
Nevermind all the people that COMPLETELY FUCKED UP MUSIC AS WE KNOW IT while dressing well. They'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 feed you with delicious frozen pizza.
In case you're wondering why there is a frozen pizza packed with this guide:
The first edition of Pedro's Amazing Guide To Rooftop Bars contained a voucher allowing readers to redeem a free burrito at one of the many participating restaurants all over the nation (you're soon going to learn why you should not eat at a rooftop bar).
While the voucher was the main driver for the overwhelmingly positive public reception, it also presented a major challenge to our international publishers: unable to make arrangements with local burrito shops, some got vandalized by hungry readers.
Truth be told, worse things have happened in face of an unfulfilled promise of free burritos (see also: the Mexican-American War). But there's literally only one publisher we can count on in South America, and it refused to print the vouchers for this 2nd edition.
This frozen pizza you have in hands is the result of an ongoing effort to prevent a global burrito crisis, and to keep our reviews positive.
Please keep it refrigerated, and refer to the addendum for cooking directions.
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 widely celebrated by owners of the Anshe Chesed Synagogue View Bar as their old customers started to head back.
With the nice environment comes a consistent and sad dichotomy: rooftop bar service sucks. It might look nice, and you might be on a suit – but fact is the time to get drinks grows 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 hot tubs
Knowing that hot tubs are consistently ranked as the best single place to enjoy alcoholic beverages, one has to wonder how did the rooftop bar industry got to be 15 times bigger than the hot tub and sauna bar's.
"For every rooftop bar opening there are three hot tub bars shutting down", explains Hugo Lawrence, president of the Hot Tub Association, or HOTASS. "This is the result of decades of propaganda to change the public perception of hot tubs and blatantly take over our market share".
The war between these industries dates back to the 40s, when hot tubs started to gain popularity in the United States and Europe. Historians found out that rooftop bar associations retaliated this success with propaganda that led people to associate hot tub bars with homosexuals, a move that is widely considered the single biggest mistake in the industry, now unable to capitalize on the abundant money that other bars make from this population.
But hot tubs peaked in the 70s, with the introduction of hydrotherapy pumps and the jacuzzi. This was a crucial moment in bar history, when many believed that hot tubs and saunas would become the de facto standard for every bar out there. It's also when rooftop hot tubs started to flourish, a substantial threat to orthodox rooftop bars all over the world.
What no one saw coming was another huge investment in propaganda that ultimately led to the destruction of the hot tub and sauna bar industry – this time aimed at the alleged dangers of consuming drinks in these environments. They spread horrific stories of people dropping glasses and getting cut while in the water, or just passing out and drowning. Today this is considered the birth of the culture of fear.
We all know what happened next: hot tubs and saunas diminished and turned into novelty, rarely seen outside winter cabins while rooftops became the most prominent format of bar, far ahead of the karaoke and dive bar industries.
The extremely popular desire for sex on rooftop bars made their administrators exceptionally good at detecting and stopping sex acts on premises. Time and careful investigation allowed us to understand some of the elements in their technique, like the tasteless environment music – but reality is we still don't fully understand how they became so effective.
Even the Catholic Church expressed interest in knowing how they operate. After a long and frustrating battle to prevent people from having sex, which culminated in a rewrite of the Bible making intercourse even more forbidden – the Church finally decided to incorporate some of the mechanics seen in rooftop bars. Tasteless music and wine helped so much that they went as far as looking for a leader more in tune with how rooftop bars handle this issue, which culminated in the election of Pope Francis.
The hotel industry is also particularly interested in the sexual desire around rooftop bars, as it quickly became the biggest drive for the growth in the sector. Conrad Hilton was certainly the pioneer on this front, realizing there is a lot of money to be made by giving people rooms close to rooftop bars so they can have sex.
The desire for sex in rooftop bars is perhaps only surpassed by the desire to have sex with rooftop bar guide authors. Or that's what James Mulcahy said soon after writing "New York Rooftop Bars: 10 Awesome Options for Summer". J. K. Rowling reported a similar outcome, but her advisors asked her to shut it down fearing how readers of her other franchise would react to Joanne's Amazing Guide To Rooftop Bars and the promiscuous lifestyle that came out of it.
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 English counterpart - "Ocean Breeze" - was registered decades before.
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 in the rooftop.
Aware of these tactics, BAR went as far as opening a few hotels with bars located in the ground level, like the W in San Francisco. At first it seemed like an expensive retaliation, but making $15 a cocktail it quickly paid itself off, as their confused patrons apparently have no trouble paying the rooftop premium for mere street level view.
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 rooftop industry invests quite heavily in elevator engineering and research, a pretty reasonable choice when your whole business depends on people going from ground to top floor.
And while elevator technology has been quite stagnant - over a century since their latest major achievement, automated doors - many believe we're close to another turning point: better elevator music.
Elevator manufacturer Otis put years of research and millions of dollars trying to understand the typical feelings of depression and hatred that elevator passengers are so familiar with. "The goal was to create music that could not possibly offend anyone", explains Otis sound engineer Alfred Johanson. "We never set to create a new musical genre".
But times have changed, and so has music: artists are now dedicating their whole careers to inoffensive music. "We got contracts going with some of the most bland, innocuous bands out there", Johanson elaborated. Coldplay is already in studio, James Blake reportedly signed a contract too.
If things goes as planned we could be looking at elevator live concerts soon. Here's hope that James Blake is a better lift man than he's a musician.