Some hoteliers understand the importance of creating a hotel bar that acts as a destination. Others look at it as an extension of the hotel.
Confession: I used to be obsessed with themed parties in college.
The year I turned 21, my two roommates and I lived in the perfect party pad. It was just past city limits, which meant out of the jurisdiction of city cops, and Sheetz was right next door. Let’s just say we created a lot of memories but also don’t remember everything.
My favorite part of living in that house was the spate of themed parties we held. While most people would host themed parties to celebrate friends’ birthdays, we had them almost every weekend for no apparent reason other than enjoying the camaraderie that comes with participating. Where am I going with this? I’m glad you asked.
When we threw these parties, it drew our friends from all over to Kent, Ohio. Our themed parties became an event that everyone wanted to attend because of their reputation.
The same can be said for hotel bars.
Hotel bars are no longer an extension of the property but rather a destination for a unique cocktail. Take the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. This revolving piano bar is one of the city’s most famous watering holes and features a cocktail list that’s shaped around history (and it includes two types of Sazeracs). It’s been a staple of tourism for many years and will continue to be for years to come.
Every time I visit a new city, I always ask my fellow travelers where the best place to grab a drink is. Believe it or not, quite a few of their responses end up being hotel bars. I don’t always make it to these bars, but they’re on my list. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Proof on Main, 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky
If you needed another reason to head to the flagship 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, Proof on Main is it. With more than 50 bourbons to choose from (hello, it’s in Bourbon Country) your best bet is to get a bourbon flight. Much like the hotel, Proof on Main has more fabulous, original art on the walls. Guests come from all over to stay at the hotel, but the property has created a destination for locals with Proof on Main. And the drinks aren’t the only draw. The bar/restaurant has a talented chef.
2. The Refinery Rooftop at the Refinery Hotel, New York City
New York City is littered with rooftop bars and beer gardens. But there aren’t many that are open year-round. The Refinery Rooftop at the Refinery Hotel in New York City’s Garment District has some pretty spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and the Empire State Building. I wrote about this hotel’s rooftop bar back in 2013, and I have yet to visit there. But I’ve heard from numerous friends who live in the city that it’s quite the happening place to be (and of course you can’t beat the views). This hotel also has a bar on the first floor called Winnie’s Jazz Bar, which is named after an original tenant of the building Miss Winifred T. McDonald.
3. The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in New Orleans
There’s something about New Orleans and historic watering holes. But it makes sense. NOLA is known for its nightlife. The Sazerac Bar is more than just a bar. It’s a place you can go to feel like you’re part of history. I’ve never had anyone recommend the Sazerac Bar to me specifically, but every single article I read about hotel bars seems to have this one listed. Therefore, it is on my list of bars I MUST visit in my lifetime. The Sazerac is what many consider to be the first mixed drink and contains absinthe, rye whiskey or cognac and bitters. Throw in a sugar cube, too.
The one common thing that brings strangers together, in my opinion, is a wonderful alcoholic beverage. If hoteliers aren’t working toward differentiating their hotel bar, they’re missing the boat. Having a themed or historical bar can be a draw not only for the guests but for locals in the area. And when they experience a good cocktail, they’re likely to talk about it!
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