Passing the Bar: Gramercy’s Polar

Written by James Mulcahy on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

GET YOUR COLD weather puns ready, because there’s a cool new lounge in town. Gramercy’s Polar, located in the Marcel Hotel, is selling itself as an arctic ice cave. This subterranean space has got paintings of polar bears, glaciers in their cocktails and icy blue hues—everything you need to chill out in the warm weather.


Even so, trying to rock faux-winter style can leave audiences frigid; just think of Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze shouting “Ice to see you.” Then again, don’t think about that—why would you want to relive the trauma? Polar is careful to leave this cheese factor to the other bars in the area. Instead of laying it on thick, the space uses tasteful accents to sell the vibe. An imposing picture of a polar bear standing on its hindquarters greets you as you descend the staircase and furry white pillows are tucked into the banquettes. Clear plastic “ice chairs” dot the space and the air conditioner keeps things cool.

Though the space keeps the icy theme within bounds, the drink prices are out of control. Like $17 for a cocktail. At those prices, the actual aurora borealis better be lighting up the space. Despite the prices, however, the list does have some options worth trying.

The Endurance is a mix of Sazerac rye, lemon and honey. This boozy concoction should be what those St. Bernards carry around to warm up avalanche victims. Even better, it comes with its own “floating glacier,” a gigantic sphere of ice that keeps the drink uniformly chilled as you sip.

The Operation High Jump turns a humdrum vodka cocktail into something special with a garnish of frozen grapes. They cool the beverage and complement the white grape juice that’s used to sweeten it. With the prices so high, you’re better off freezing some fruit in your home fridge. Stick to the beer and wine. There’s a crisp Prosecco for $12 a glass, and a Sauvignon Blanc from California is available at a relatively reasonable $11 a pour.

The drink prices aren’t the only tip-off that Polar is trying to cater to the moneyed folks who live in the neighborhood. The lounge comes equipped with private polar caves, which are basically VIP nooks that offer plush seating, waitress service and a semblance of privacy. These are some posh igloos, but the good news is that you can score a reservation for one without ponying up for bottle service. It’s a solid alternative to a weekend night out at the clubs.

Polar is careful to leave this cheese factor to the other bars in the area. Instead of laying it on thick, the space uses tasteful accents to sell the vibe.

The varied group that hung out in the space during one of my visits seemed to have a good time. Laughter echoed from the polar caves while an after-work crowd hung out in the main room by the bar. A few befuddled-looking tourists huddled for warmth in one of the banquettes, but otherwise the crowd was young, stylish and attractive. While it’s not preferable to spend every night this far North (in this case, above 14th Street), a visit to the Arctic doesn’t hurt every now and then. Just watch out for polar bears—and your bank account balance.

>>POLAR 201 E. 24th St. (at 3rd Ave.), 212-696-3800.