A Beloved Watering Hole For In-The-Know Upper East Siders... That's Not Bemelman's?!

by Brad Japhe · August 17, 2023

    The Upper East Side of Manhattan is no stranger to luxury hotels. Indeed, the glamorous locale is home to some of the most renowned properties in the city. But even in that crowded high-end landscape The Lowell stands apart.

    Although The Lowell itself is a historic hideaway, which will soon celebrate its centennial, its beloved drinks venue Jacques Bar—a neighborhood secret for those in the know—has only existed in present form since March of 2017.

    “The concept behind Jacques Bar was to create a place for our guests that felt intimate and timeless,” explains Dina De Luca Chartouni, owner of the landmark, 17-story building. “We named the bar Jacques after the French painter, Jacques Majorelle, who created the Majorelle villa and gardens [in Marrakech, Morocco]. It seemed so appropriate and playful.”

    The drinks, too, are playful. You certainly can’t go wrong with a classic martini—Head Bartender Hassan Niang will mix you up an ice cold arrangement you won’t soon forget. But it’s his speciality tipples that really resonate with regulars.

    “The Marrakesh Express is enduringly popular. It's made with just three basic ingredients—plus one secret: Tito’s Vodka, pineapple juice and Saint-Germain. It has been on the menu since we opened, and though we do rotate the selection of signature cocktails seasonally, this one is a staple that almost never leaves the menu’s pages.”

    Formerly a bartender at the legendary Fred’s at Barney’s, Niang has wasted little time building a loyal local following at his new home. Another crowdpleaser is his White Cosmopolitan, subbing in a lighter style of cranberry juice in place of the typical red, to affect a floral nose and a slightly more herbaceous finish, garnished with fresh violets. The barman steers guests towards a pairing alongside the popular Oyster’s Mignonette from a short but sweet food menu, with other standout options including a well-curated charcuterie platter and the bar’s namesake burger.

    “It pairs well with a glass of Côtes du Rhône, or Saint-Émilion—if you are feeling indulgent,” Niang says, referring to the sizable portion of ground beef, sandwiched between brioche slices.

    Jacques Bar adjoins its sister restaurant, Majorelle, whose garden terrace is always a sophisticated scene. The cuisine here is a mix of French and Mediterranean flavors, relying heavily on fresh, garden-sourced ingredients. Together they form a unique atmosphere for this part of the city, the work of Charles Masson, a floral artist and restaurateur behind beloved midtown institution, La Grenouille.

    “At The Lowell, he wanted to create a restaurant of his own that would also become a pillar in the pantheon of exceptional New York restaurants,” explains Elizabeth Stewart, the hotel’s operations manager. 

    "So far, it seems to be evolving exactly as he intended: into an establishment with a spirit of its own, classic yet unique, and poised to endure the tides of change and passing trends to stand the test of time."

    As testament to that fact, the bar seems to be steadily building a cult following—amongst frequent hotel guests and UES residents, alike. If you’re hoping to join them, rooms start at around $1,100 per night. Though you needn’t overnight here in order to indulge in the tipples, which will set you back $24 per serve. It’s a small pittance to pay in exchange for soaking up the ambience of a space which has existed as a privately owned hotel since 1927. According to De Luca Chartouni, this is a big part of the allure: there are no corporate politics to adhere to.

    “As a New Yorker, born and bred in this city, I am highly aware of what is authentic and what is created to synthesize authenticity,” she contends. “The Lowell Hotel is one of the rare properties that is authentic. I think that the best compliment that I’ve heard about Jacques’ Bar was from a local patron who brought her tired husband into the bar for a late night aperitif. She said the following to him: ‘Look around. Look carefully. This is where I want to live and die.’”

    After a few special pours from the staff here, you’ll be feeling quite lively, indeed. How you fare thereafter is out of their talented hands.

    [Photos courtesy The Lowell Hotel]