The Only Way to Go is "Up" at Castell Rooftop Lounge in Times Square
New Yorkers, rejoice! We’ve finally found it—a reason for locals to go to Times Square.
High up above the the hawkers selling CDs and “free medical massages,” the old men dressed in Elmo suits, the bright lights and the tour operators passing out fliers, is a veritable oasis: Castell Rooftop Lounge at the top of the AC Hotel.
While we are normally of the mojito persuasion, we heard that the martinis and gin and tonics at Castell were legendary, so Music & Mojitos headed to the rooftop of the AC Hotel on a warm summer evening to find out for ourselves if these classic cocktails were as good as Castell claims.
In a word: YES. So, so much yes.
But first, let’s get started with the incredible, breathtaking views.
The stunning panorama of Midtown Manhattan serves as your backdrop for a delightful evening as you settle into the cozy cushioned couches and cute tables for two on the open terrace. The vibe is decidedly trendy and cool, but without the pretension that such places typically ooze. Castell is a lounge you could easily bring a first date, visiting in-laws, and out-of-town friends who want the rooftop experience without the "tourist” vibe. It also easily accommodates the after-work and happy hour crowd.
We of course had to start with some of Castell’s classic cocktails: the “Vesper” Martini (Fords Gin, Absolut Elyx Vodka, Lillet Blanc) and The ACGT (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, AC Small Batch Tonic, Club Soda). Cool and crisp in the warm summer breeze, the Vesper was the perfect drink to sip on slowly as you ease into dusk, while the ACGT was perfectly refreshing and effervescent in the way that only summer cocktails know how to be.
While we slowly luxuriated in our classically cool cocktails, we perused the fabulous and extensive small plates at Castell, mulling over what to order. We settled on a delicious array of goodies, each more tantalizing than the next: Avocado, Feta, Basil & Seed Spice Toast; Serrano Ham, Chorizo, Aged Manchego & Idiazabal Cheese Charcuterie; and French Fries with Garlic Aioli (because how could you not?).
In addition to having first-class cocktails, Castell certainly knows how to prepare delicious bites. We loved that the food came out as it was ready, instead of all at once. The servers at Castell, both kind and professional, knew how to pace their guests, taking care to never make one feel rushed. Castell is a place that knows how to respect one’s desire to live la dolce vita and ease slowly into the night.
The avocado toast, with the addition of the feta cheese, was in a word, scrumptious. I am positive that going forward, I’ll be making avocado toast similarly at home.
The charcuterie contained the perfect mix of sharp cheeses and serrano ham, balanced out with the smoky flavor of chorizo and olive oil drizzled toasts.
Of course the real star of the night (as our server rightly indicated) was the French Fries with Garlic Aioli dipping sauce. Perfectly crisp and shoe-string thin, these french fries were served piping hot and lightly sprinkled with paprika. We had to force ourselves to take a picture of them before promptly wolfing them down (“slowly easing into the night” be damned!).
At some point during this delicious array of small plates, we decided to order a couple more cocktails. The martinis and G&T’s at Castell rightly pack a punch, so we decided to ease up a bit on our second round, opting for Shaken cocktails instead. We ordered two of the most delightful summer cocktails you could imagine: The East Side (Fords Gin or Reyka Vodka, Mint, Cucumber, Lime), and What She’s Having (Greenhook Gin, Greenhook ‘Beach Plum’ Gin, Hibiscus, Fresh Lemon, Cava).
Effervescent, lightly sweetened, and with floral and fruity notes, What She’s Having and The East Side were the perfect drinks to complement the rich foods we enjoyed. It also helped counterbalance the Martini, and would be perfect for those looking for something lighter to drink.
As dusk turned into night, it was time to round out our visit at Castell Rooftop Lounge—but not without indulging in some decadent macarons and a couple of final cocktails.
I’m usually skeptical of macarons that aren’t Ladurée, but the macarons at Castell were decadent enough to rival Paris’s finest.
We also ended with two cocktails that surprisingly were my favorite of the night: The Caddy (Casamigos Añejo Tequila, Grand Marnier, Lime, Guajillo Chile-Black Lava Salt Rim) and the White Negroni (Plymouth Gin, Salers Aperitif, Atxa White Vermouth).
The Caddy was God’s answer to “What comprises the perfect margarita?”
It was without a doubt one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had, perfectly balanced in flavors. The Black Lava Salt Rim was also a nice touch. The White Negroni, on the other hand, was one of the smoothest cocktails I’ve ever tasted - a feat for something as traditionally liquor-heavy as a Negroni. They were truly some of the finest cocktails we’ve had the pleasure of trying, and we couldn’t think of a better way to end our night.
260 W 40th Street, New York, NY 10018 (the top of the AC Hotel in Times Square)
Phone: (929) 284.3741
Sunday - Thursday: 4:00pm - 12:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 4:00pm - 12:00am