On The Road
Where To Watch The Sun Set In Style
Eight bars to visit for a drink at dusk
Potato Head, Bali. Photograph courtesy of Potato Head Family
“The sun also rises,” Mr Ernest Hemingway pointed out in the title of his 1926 novel. It’s true. It does, but to see the sunrise one has to get up indecently early and it’s not the most agreeable time for a drink, as we’re sure even Mr Hemingway would agree. No, sunset is our preferred solar event. It’s nature’s own magical, Technicolor, Oscar-winning, eye-opening, soul-soothing, life-affirming visual production and is a signal for our thoughts to turn to carousing, cocktailing and coupling. Or even just sleeping, which is equally enjoyable. What’s more, it’s different every night, wherever you choose to watch it. Here are the best bars in the world to watch the day turn to darkness.
Frank’s Café, London
“Agora” by Mr Richard Wentworth, 2015, commissioned by Bold Tendencies at Frank’s Café, London. Photograph by Mr Quintin Lake, courtesy of Bold Tendencies
At the top of a concrete multi-storey car park in inner-city Peckham, and accessed by a rickety lift or loads of stairs, Frank’s doesn’t sound like the most promising of locations for an evening tipple (although the car park is home to the large-scale, site-specific sculptures from Bold Tendencies). Every summer for nearly a decade, an uncomplicated, open-air bar has opened there, serving a short list of punchy, aperitivo-esque cocktails. Despite the rough-hewn surroundings, the food here’s sophisticated, too – go for the ox heart kebabs, rich and smoky off the grill. It’s all an ideal accompaniment to the view, northwards to the clustered towers of the City of London, whose angles glitter and glint as they take on the rays of the falling sun. It’s in such unexpected places that beauty can surprise us the most, and at Frank’s it can be revelatory.
What to order: a potent negroni sbagliato, with Campari, Martini Rosso and prosecco
Potato Head, Bali
Photograph courtesy of Potato Head Family
Sunsets in Bali are predictable. Due to the island’s proximity to the equator, they happen at more or less the same time every day (6.00pm) – which makes it easier to ensure you’ll be somewhere comfortable, drink in hand, when it comes around. In terms of appearance, however, Bali’s sunsets are far from samey, all vibrant fuchsia and towering cloud formations, and one of the best spots to appreciate the tropical twilight is Potato Head. A short drive from Seminyak, and with a westerly outlook towards the Pacific horizon, it’s an upscale beach club with an infinity pool, swim-up bar and restaurants. It’s fabulous during the day, but comes into its own when the sun goes down and the DJs get going. From a lounger by the pool or in the open, teak-clad bar, order something exotic and fruity – it seems appropriate – and watch the heavens turn from azure to ink via a kaleidoscope of pinks.
What to order: the Bali Pimm’s cocktail, spiked with Balinese brem liqueur, passion fruit and pink ginger beer, is the tropics in a glass
The Ides, Wythe Hotel, New York
Photograph by Mr Matthew Williams, courtesy of Wythe Hotel
One of the best things about Manhattan is the way it looks from Brooklyn, especially the northern part of the borough, where many a west-facing window has views of the most famous skyline in the world. Wythe Hotel is definitely new Brooklyn. It occupies a prime shorefront position in a turn-of-the-century Williamsburg industrial building, and is as hip a residence as any you’ll find in New York. Which is why queues often form at the entrance to its top-floor bar, The Ides, but it’s also because the unobstructed sunset views over the city are nothing short of spectacular. Book a table on the open-air terrace or in the minimally stylish bar (which has gaping windows), then settle in and order a strong cocktail and watch as the Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building turn to silhouette and the sun reflects off the East River.
What to order: The Bordello Glow – a strong and simple blend of bourbon, lemon and bitters – should see you through to darkness
Shutters On The Beach, Santa Monica
Photograph courtesy of Shutters on the Beach
Swaying palm trees outlined against the vivid pinks, oranges and reds of a sunsetting sky, while the Pacific rolls peacefully in the background. Is there a more iconic image of California than this? From San Francisco to San Diego, the Sunshine State offers some of the best places for a sundowner on the planet, but few match the experience at the delightful Shutters On The Beach. The hotel is SoCal personified – cool but casual, relaxed and confident, metres from the immaculate sands. If you time it right, you could end an evening beachside stroll from Venice here. Bag a seat in the Living Room bar by the floor-to-ceiling French windows or on the heated terrace, sit with a Californian rosé and something from the seafood-focused menu (lobster and crab salad, say) and watch the sun go down over the edge of the world.
What to order: Liquid Farm’s Vogelzang, a single-estate rosé from Santa Barbara, is fresh yet involving
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina, Sicily
Photograph by Genivs Loci, courtesy of Belmond
Ancient Taormina, on the eastern edge of Sicily, is the Italian town of the imagination. It’s home to stunning Roman architecture and has characterful streets that zigzag down to an unspoilt, beach-fringed cove. Some of its higher hills have incredible views over the island and the Timeo, a hotel built in 1873 and fully deserving of its Grand title, makes the most of them. Even if you can’t stretch to a suite, drop by of an evening for a drink at the Literary Terrace, named after the many writers who have stayed there and been seduced by this very special part of Italy. After a strong aperitivo or two, you may be moved to pen your own ode to the singularly inspiring vista over the balustrades to the pretty town, the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna, sending up plumes of smoke into the darkening sky.
What to order: a bellini is just the thing to make you feel you’re living la dolce vita
Sunset Beach, Shelter Island, New York
Photograph courtesy of Sunset Beach
Out towards the very tip of Long Island, a dazzling dusk is practically guaranteed, and the terrace at Sunset Beach is the most agreeable spot to take it in. The hotel is a chic conversion of a 1960s motel, with breezy awnings and a buzzing crowd, and the man behind it is hotelier Mr André Balazs, of Chateau Marmont and Chiltern Firehouse. You know it’s going to be an outstanding experience inside, but come evening, all eyes in the beachfront café or first-floor bar are firmly fixed on the west, where the Instagram-ready sun drops over the horizon into Long Island Sound. And hands are usually fixed firmly around something crisp and pink from Provence or coastal Italy – the wine list is a corker – or, more appropriately, a glass of Sunset Beach rosé from Channing Daughters’ vineyard in nearby Bridgehampton.
What to order: rosé from New York State? Damn right – and Mr Balazs’ own will probably go down faster than the setting sun
180º Sunset Bar, Mykonos
Photograph courtesy of 180º Sunset Bar
With a name like this, you’d be pretty peeved if you turned up only to witness a disappointing dusk. But the sun takes on extra sparkle and shimmer above the Aegean, and just about every evening there’s a light show to remember. Castle Panigirakis, a restored fortification high above Mykonos Town, is home to a delightfully characteristic hotel, and its alfresco terrace bar comes with one of the finest views on the whole island, a widescreen aspect over the fishing boats and yachts of the port and sea to neighbouring Rineia and Delos. It’s particularly picturesque at nightfall, when the sun sends a golden-orange streak across the waves and the lights of the whitewashed town begin to glow. The spacious bar has great cocktails, with seats and sofas dotted among its ancient architectural features, meaning you’ll want to stay for more than just the panorama.
What to order: the house cocktail Euphoria, with local yoghurt, mastika liqueur and basil, is a refreshing choice on a warm evening
Nomad Bar, Marrakech, Morocco
Photograph courtesy of Palais Namaskar
The Palais Namaskar is a five-star hotel on the outskirts of Marrakech and a palm tree-filled oasis that’s a haven of peacefulness and good taste. It boasts secluded suites set amid glassy courtyard pools and scented gardens, but even if you’re not staying the night (although you should), the rooftop bar is a hugely rewarding place for an evening drink away from the teeming city. Amid domed Arabic roof lanterns and candle lamps, sit back with a French-inspired cocktail (rosé champagne with eau de rose, perhaps) as the African sun begins its descent behind the mighty Atlas Mountains and turns everything that glorious desert peachy-pink. There are no traditional sunset motifs – no sea view, no skyscraper cityscape – but it’s proof that nightfall can be an unforgettable experience in places you don’t expect.
What to order: the elegant cocktails nod to the days of the French Protectorate – the Prisé de Safran is made with champagne and syrup of highly prized Ourika saffron