The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

by James Stevenson

Over the past year Beautiful Booze has taken the opportunity to explore North America and educate ourselves on the increasing popularity surrounding hotel bars. Hotels bars were once respectable places where patrons would come to meet up occasionally to converse with friends or colleagues and conduct business, however over the years these bars became perceived as expensive and with so many options to choose from patrons were taking their business elsewhere. Fortunately hotel management finally seemed to take notice of this and have been doing something to return these institutions to the level of prestige and respect they once demanded. Hotel bars are finally finding their place again in modern social drinking culture.

In pre-existing hotels these changes sometimes came over time with the re-structuring of staff; though often you will see these bars spending big money on completely renovating the bar and surrounding area to bring it up to modern standards. The perceived issue with hotel bar staff was that over the years they had become very pretentious and less hospitality and client orientated which led to customers looking elsewhere for a friendlier experience. I’m not saying all hotel bars or even all bars now are perfectly hospitable but the ones we visited and have included below are great examples of hotel bars with amazing cocktail programs and more importantly, a welcoming atmosphere.

New hotels are ensuring a quality craft cocktail program is part of the package and pre-existing hotels have bought in experts and employed professionally trained bartenders to elevate their existing programs to match the times. Some of favorite examples of these are…

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

Four Seasons | Mexico City | Austin | Seattle

The Four Seasons hotel group is an exemplary example of old and new venues that understand the necessity of implementing a reliable beverage program at each of their great properties. The best part about the craft cocktail programs throughout the Four Seasons is that they place great value on utilizing locally sourced ingredients from spirits to herbs and fruits found within 100 miles. Before beginning our adventures throughout the continent we spent a decent amount of time at the Goldfinch Tavern; of course despite the name this “tavern” is a beautiful high-end cocktail bar in the Seattle Four Seasons Hotel lobby. Here you can sit back and enjoy perfectly constructed artisan cocktails by the fireplace overlooking Elliott Bay and the famed Great Wheel; make sure to try the American Goldfinch cocktail which uses a Grappa based liqueur infused with chamomile.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

At the Four Seasons Austin the Beverage Manager, Aneesh Sharma has done an amazing job re-establishing the once popular Lounge Bar as a location not only for hotel guests to relax and unwind but also as a leading destination for locals to meet up and enjoy great live music while they sip on delicious cocktails.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

At the Four Seasons Mexico City our good friends Axel Pi and Mica Rousseau have taken charge of the Fifty Mils beverage program where  you will find nothing short of amazing, creative concoctions and vibrant personality to match. The bar has an understated Mexican elegance with beautiful modern décor and an expansive range of products the staff love experimenting with. For the best experience here we recommend sitting at the bar and getting to know the wonderful staff while sipping on one of the best cocktails in Mexico.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

The Punch Room at the Ritz Carlton: Charlotte, NC

When in North Carolina you may be drawn to Asheville for its immense cocktail scene but if you have the opportunity to visit Charlotte you are in for a real treat. A few years ago the Ritz Carlton Hotel decided to elevate its bar program and contacted Bob Peters to transform their 15th floor bar into a venue that would be set apart from the rest. Bob took the space and delivered far above expectations with The Punch Room; this space is a marvel with elegant classically inspired furnishings that make you feel like you have stepped through a portal to another time. The Ritz also allowed Bob to use their rooftop to create his very own garden where he grows many of his own herbs; he was even allowed a few beehives where he extracts fresh honey each day to use in his creations. Before the doors open to the Punch Room each day Bob creates a unique signature punch that is offered to each guest upon their arrival throughout the evening.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

The Chattanoogan: Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga is a great city to visit and a beautiful destination for those who are driving around the Southeastern United States full of character, charcuterie, coffee and cocktails. While in town we enjoyed many cocktails everywhere we went, beginning at lunch when we visited Main Street Meats and enjoyed some bottled cocktails along with delicious fare. We were fortunate to stay at The Chattanoogan Hotel during our time in town and take full advantage of all of their amenities and enjoy cocktails at The Foundry where they are mixing up some unique house-made infusions. Following cocktails we headed to the degustation chefs tasting table at the Broad Street Grille. The following evening we found our way to Easy Bistro & Bar in the Riverfront District where owner/chef Erik Niel is producing some great French inspired dishes and the bar is having fun with some creative cocktails.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

Hotel Monteleone: New Orleans, LA

Although this bar is one which is held in such high regard in the New Orleans hospitality scene year round, there is one week every year where it is inundated with thousands of industry professionals for the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival and inevitably at one point or another throughout their visit these enthusiasts will be found occupying a seat at the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. The bar here was always a marvelous sight but the beverage program apparently needed some work; recognizing this, the management team bought on someone fresh to take control and mix things up. To our understanding, everything really started to change for the better when Marvin Allen took control of the bar program in 2002 and little by little he has transformed the Carousel Bar into the marvelous space it is today. He has helped with concepts for the reformation of the space itself but obviously is most recognized for his knowledge of classics and incorporation and implementation of beautifully crafted variations on classics and modern craft cocktails on the Carousel Bar cocktail menu.

, The Re-Institutionalization of Hotel Bars in North America

Brown Hotel and 21c Museum Hotel: Louisville, KY

When touring the bourbon trail you will almost certainly be staying in Louisville and thankfully this little Kentucky town is full of great hotels that understand the necessity for a quality bar program. When looking at where to stay it was difficult so we actually stayed at a few locations and when reading about The Brown Hotel it was a must for us. We were drawn in by the amazing history surrounding the hotel and with patrons like Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama more than likely sneaking a tipple at their bar we knew we had to do the same. The astoundingly picturesque Lobby Bar in the main foyer offers up some delicious hand crafted classic cocktails with a focus on bourbon and if you’re really looking for a local Kentucky experience they offer great bourbon flights. We were also fortunate enough to stay at the beautiful 21c Museum Hotel, which is in the middle of downtown and immediately after checking in made our way to their famed Proof on Main lobby bar. This venue frequently changes its wonderful artwork and the décor at the time of our visit was similar to something out of an Alice in Wonderland film. The bar program itself is never overshadowed and features a menu full of amazing cocktails not only utilizing local spirits but also a great selection of international liqueurs and aperitifs.

We are now beginning our next adventure into South America and intend to compile a similar list, though this may take some time. Follow us on our awesome Instagram or check out beautifulbooze.com to keep up to date on our experiences along the way.

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