Broken Shaker, opening tonight atop the Freehand hotel in Gramercy, aims to be unlike other New York City rooftop bars, which tend to be exclusive and make it difficult to get in, get a drink, get a seat, and get happy. Here, owners Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi want to keep the douchey vibes out, nixing bottle service and dramatic door policies, playing reggae and other eclectic music through the vintage sound system, and filling the space with plants and bright colors.
Orta and Zvi opened the original Broken Shaker as a pop-up in Miami’s Freehand hotel in 2012, and it has since become a cocktail sensation and spread to Chicago and Los Angeles, garnered two James Beard Award nominations, and landed as No. 14 on a list of the world’s best 50 bars. Here in NYC, at 23 Lexington Ave. between 23rd and 24th streets, the guys continue the same ethos of standout seasonal craft cocktails and Caribbean-Middle Eastern food in a lush setting.
Go-to design firm Roman and Williams got its hands on this highly designed 18th floor beauty, creating four distinct spaces — two indoor bar areas with 52 seats and two outdoor with 92 seats — with plenty of nooks and crannies. Inside, saturated colors explode on the walls and furniture cushions, tempered by wood panels and wicker framing and accents.
Outside, plants from UrbanGreen reign supreme in what comes off like an actual concrete jungle, sprinkled around tables separated by walls that make some areas feel private. The result is akin to a home rooftop garden rather than the more common neutral, lounger-filled decor of other rooftop bars.
“Here we pushed the boundaries a lot,” Zvi says, noting that more custom and vintage items went into this space than the others. “I started as a dishwasher in New York, so for me it was very emotional and important to get all our dreams in one bucket and make it happen.”
There is custom glassware, napkins, and coasters; artwork from Bard College students; and ceramic cups made by Penguin Foot Pottery that Zvi encourages people to steal.
Unlike doormen swayed by money and promises of table buys at other rooftops around town, here all tables are sat through a hostess keeping a wait list that’s first come, first serve, while servers bring the playful cocktails and island-inspired food.
Drinks are split into three sections: new drinks made for and inspired by NYC such as an everything bagel gin fizz, top-selling cocktails from the original location in Miami, and a mix of those from Chicago and LA. The menu pulls from the Caribbean and Middle East, blending flavors from both in dishes like a saffron shrimp escabeche with jicama, cabbage, and avocado.
The addition of this hip bar to Sydell Group’s Freehand hotel is just the latest destination within. Other hot spots include restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s global restaurant Simon & the Whale, Jewish-Moroccan lounge Studio, and refined cocktail bar George Washington. A location of all-day cafe Smile to Go is set to open on May 14.
Broken Shaker is open daily at 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, with the outdoor space closing at midnight. Brunch will soon follow.