New York is lucky enough to have a wide variety of historic bars, literary bars and classic hotel bars. Bemelmans is all three, tucked as it is inside the venerable luxury destination The Carlyle. On top of that, it’s an old-school piano bar and it’s where craft cocktail maven Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club) got her big break, running a revived bar program in the early 2000s under legend Dale DeGroff. Drink in the throwback upscale charm of tuxedo-jacketed waitstaff, an animated mural by “Madeline” creator Ludwig Bemelmans decorating the walls and the well-executed classic cocktail menu. After all these years, it’s still packed on weekends with a mixed crowd.
THE DRINK TO DRINK: One should start with an ice-cold gin Martini, of course, then opt for one of the specialties, like the Old Cuban: Bacardí Ocho eight-year-old rum, mint, lime juice, sparkling wine and bitters.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Sadly, longtime pianist Chris Gillespie, a favorite among frequent visitors, passed away in December 2017.