There are plenty of bars and lounges in NYC where Don Draper and the rest of the AMC Mad Men crew would feel comfortable today, in 2015. Here are my four top choices to find 50s and 60s ambiance and classic cocktails, but without the haze of cigarette smoke that was legal back then.
The Campbell Apartment – inside Grand Central Station, this gem has absolutely no relation to Pete Campbell, the character we love to hate. This was the private office of John W. Campbell, a senior railroad executive in the 1920s. It features dark, ornately carved wood paneling, stained glass windows, and deep, comfortable sofas and chairs. An excellent hideaway for a secret meeting, as I wrote in my NYC guidebook, Peaceful Places in NYC. The Campbell Apartment website.
The Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel – steps from Madison Avenue, with a list of Mad Men themed drinks, which also can be served in the lobby lounge area. It’s one of my favorite spots because of its literary history – this is where writers and pundits including Dorothy Parker hung out in the 1930s at a round table, which gave birth to the phrase roundtable discussions. The Algonquin Hotel is at 59 West 44th St.
Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria – another hotel lobby bar, this one with an elaborate, 30-foot-long bar, tan leather bar chairs, decorated by cast-glass female silhouettes from Brooklyn’s Flickinger Glassworks. Bar chefs pour both classic cocktails and modern concoctions with ingredients like pomegranate liqueur that weren’t around in Don’s days. The Waldorf is on Park Avenue at 50th Street. A bit of NYC history: the original Waldorf Astoria was torn down to build the Empire State Building. The Waldorf brand is now part of the Hilton family. Who can forget Don Draper’s relationship with Hilton founder Conrad Hilton a few seasons ago.
One if By Land, Two if by Sea – housed in a carriage house that dates from 1794, once owned by Aaron Burr, the man who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel. Widely regarded as one of NYC’s most romantic restaurants, always decorated with lots of candlelight and flowers. The dinner menu – $90 for a three-course prix fixe – does not classify as NYC on the cheap, so if you go, stick to the bar menu. One if by Land is at 17 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village.
These classy surroundings request classy dress. No tacky t-shirts, flip flops or such, please.
The new season of Mad Men premieres Sunday, April 13 on AMC. I’ll be watching. Will you?