The Best Hotel Bar in 20 American Destination Cities
Gone are the days when hotel bars -- much like their accompanying restaurants -- catered entirely to guests. No, today, they’re trendy and sleek and draw locals and travelers alike with stunning views and sophisticated cocktails. And while you might not book your hotel based on the bar alone, in some cases, you probably should. These are 20 of those cases.
The Hawthorne beneath the Hotel Commonwealth looks like a friend's living room -- a friend with a good design sense, of course! -- and is a relaxed space to order up a cocktail or four while sitting fireside and contemplating the inevitably of death, traffic, and dropped R's. But mostly traffic. Also, it's a big supporter of Tiki culture in the summer, so get ready for some wicked-cool patio partying.
We're gonna eat shit for this pick, and we already know it. Even so, with all of the fantastic rooftop and "speakeasy-style" hotel cocktail bars in LA, there is no place quite like the bar at the Chateau Marmont -- if for no other reason than its legendary status as THE place where the celebrities (from Marilyn Monroe to Lindsay Lohan) have flocked for decades, evident in its palpable air of old Hollywood noir seediness. Order the Sunset Sour to complete the vibe.
We could have named a Gaslamp District hotel bar here, but we didn't. Why? Because this is San Diego, FFS, and anything not on the ocean is a waste of time that could have been spent on the ocean. JRDN Restaurant at TOWER23 Hotel is on the ocean. Kick back with some San Diegan craft beer (there's nothing wrong with Sculpin all day, every day, of course, but it has plenty of others to choose from, too) and enjoy the surf, sunshine, and knowing that where you are right in that moment is the closest thing to paradise in the continental United States. Truth.
In the heart of River North, where there is certainly no shortage of hotel bars from which to choose, Sable Kitchen & Bar at the Hotel Palomar is just a bit above the rest. Chicago's cocktail game is strong, no doubt, and Sable is an exemplary entrant into the "best cocktail bars of [such and such]" category. First, it organizes its cocktail list by the four elements -- earth, sky, ocean, fire. Then it has its house classics, as well as a long list of the classic classics. And then, it even has a section dedicated solely to Spanish-style gin and tonics, which will make any Douglas Adams fan happy. In fact, one of them SHOULD be named "Cuarenta y Dos" -- Spanish for 42. You're welcome, Sable Kitchen & Bar management.
Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play and they sip on fine wine like ev-er-y day. The Wine Room at the St. Regis has a list of over 500 vinos available by the bottle that's focused on high-quality American producers and single-vineyard boutique American wineries. It also conducts a "Champagne-sabering ritual" at 6pm every day (WHAT????) and has a lovely patio for you to sip your wine outdoors as the gods intended.
You could pick any one of Las Vegas' many (many) top-floor-with-a-Strip-view casino-resort-bar-lounges and pay $20 per drink and have a consistently unremarkable experience: VEGAS, BABY. Or, you could head up to Skyfall, a more sophisticated establishment (meaning the headlining DJ goes on before 2am) with a cocktail list that might actually earn Vegas its reputation as a cocktail city (a reputation, mind you, built on market and myth).
The newly remodeled Skyfall Lounge, formerly Mix Lounge, sits atop the 64-floor Delano Las Vegas and rocks a solid view of the Strip. And it offers a refreshing departure from the usual Grey Goose-and-Bacardi drinks (although, yes, it still has those -- it is Vegas) with cocktails like the Kentucky Colada, made with Elijah Craig bourbon and Appleton rum with coconut, lime juice, and Tiki spices.
In the land of surfside South Beach ultra-luxe hotels with their ultra-trendy ultra-lounge bars, The Broken Shaker and the Freehand Miami Hostel stick out like a sore thumb and welcome oasis. Enjoy the clever cocktails made with house-made elixirs, syrups, and infusions (and fresh herbs) at this highly acclaimed bar that's been named one of the best in America by the laudable Tales of the Cocktail. It's also one of our 33 best cocktail bars in America. And it's practically surfside!
This Nob Hill institution is the antithesis of the Silicon Valley/Silicon Valley tech scene, and that's exactly what we love about it. It is unrepentantly old... dating back to ye olde 1976, which, granted, isn't OLD old, but it looks the part, what with the Old World carved wood walls, studded green leather (vinyl?) chairs and banquettes, and the old people who hang out here. It is NOT AT ALL HIP, and really, isn’t that kind of refreshing in a city like San Francisco, where a place's measure of worth is directly proportional to the number of tech bros/trustafarian hipsters willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money/wait an exorbitant amount of time just to be able to check in on whatever the new Foursquare is and post a heavily hashtagged photo of whatever the new Instagram is? Order a barrel-aged Negroni for the not-absurd-for-San Francisco price of $14 and be done with it. As Barney Stinson once had to find out the hard way, new is not always better.
In hip, hipper, and hippest Austin, where do you even begin? Question and answer: at the lounge at Hotel San José, a zen-like garden courtyard with mellow DJs and Sunday jazz brunches. It's hip without being too hip(ster) -- a bit artsy, a bit fartsy, and tucked away enough to draw in the locals and the tourists. Order a michelada (made with Shiner Bock, OBVIOUSLY) with some Jimmies jerk chicken wings and hang out the Austin way.
Are we partial to this place because it happens to share the name of one of the greatest DC Comics characters of all time, for which a pretty great, pretty underrated TV show was made then cancelled after only one season (as well as a movie before it that was actually completely fucking cool, from Keanu Reeves right down to Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare)? Fine, a bit, yes. Or how about because it has a freakin' "Whiskey Chapel"? And a vaguely occultist theme. If vampires were real, they would totally hang out here.
Why a hotel and restaurant inside repurposed shipping containers? Because it is a hotel and restaurant inside repurposed shipping containers. The 404 is a five-room micro-boutique hotel with an attached restaurant that shows off the possibilities and versatility of, well, living and working in a shipping container. The 404 Kitchen has an intimate six-seat bar (another way of saying it's really small), and an excellent cocktail list that boasts modern twists on classics and an acclaimed lineup of bourbon, rare whiskey, and Scotch.
It's the bar that kickstarted Detroit's culinary and cocktail renaissance (and yes, that's a real thing) and was the first true "see-and-be-seen" spot there in a loooooooong time. The bar has served as something of a mixologist vocational training center, grooming some of Motor City's most talented bartenders since it opened in 2008. The must-try drink? The Last Word.
If you find yourself at a 21c Museum Hotel anywhere in the country -- like chic Cincinnati, or glamorous Bentonville, Arkansas -- just know you're in a good place. While we don’t totally understand the methodology behind its location scouting, it definitely seems to be working, and we're not complaining.
At Proof on Main, you'll gawk at the 21c's collection of contemporary art as you wander through the lobby en route to the bar, then you'll gawk even harder at the extensive bourbon selection -- you are in Bourbon Country, after all -- and the inventive cocktail menu. Try the Missionary, the most expensive cocktail on the menu at $12, or go all-in with a barrel-proof bourbon flight.
In a city overflowing with skeletons stuffed in closets and where any sort of social gathering space doubles as a venue for elbow-rubbing and relentless networking, politicking, plotting, secret back-room dealings... ooof, sorry, House of Cards binging in preparation for the new season... anyway, it's nice to be in a bar that is tongue-in-cheek about it all. It likes to bill itself as Downtown DC's place to be "seen and not heard," which is a cute way of referring to all the networking, politicking, plotting, secret back-room dealings, etc. An old-school DC bar that was once a hotspot for politicians and the journalists who love them (hoo-boy, if those walls could talk...), Off the Record is a super-sexy space (in that old-school DC way) with a so-so cocktail list, worse beer list, slightly better wine list, and surprisingly great Scotch list. Therefore, this is a place where you order Scotch. Scotch Scotch Scotch.
This is a no-brainer. New Orleans has lots and lots and lots and lots of bars, and lots and lots and lots and lots of hotels (with bars), and so very many of them are great places to drink in -- seriously some of the all-around best in the country. But the rotating Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is so exceptionally iconic that it stands just that much more above the rest. And when you're here, you must order a Sazerac, the actually IRL official cocktail of New Orleans.
If the truffle popcorn isn't enough to sell you on the place, perhaps the fact that it was named the number-one bar in America by USA Today readers will. Sure, it's possible you have different tastes from the typical USA Today reader, but the publication also managed to name Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago and Proof on Main in Louisville -- both of which also made this list -- so it's a pretty solid endorsement. An even more solid endorsement comes courtesy of us, right here.
New York City
There is arguably no more visible, more prominent, more recognized, or more discussed adaptive reuse/urban greenspace project than the High Line in New York, a public park built on a historic freight line rail elevated above the streets of Manhattan's West Side. Slap up a well-regarded boutique hotel on one end of it with a top-floor space-age lounge, live jazz, dramatic views of the city, and drink prices that are not in keeping with the rest of the city (still not as bad as Vegas, ya whiners), and you've got yourself a must-have Manhattan experience. This might not be THE best bar in a hotel in all of New York City, but it is an exceptional New York City experience.
You gotta love a bar that has a fairly robust selection of absinthe. There was a push a few years back when it seemed like absinthe was going to become "a thing," but it never really quite landed. Sure, the taste isn’t for everyone, but the ritual is pretty much the coolest interactive drinking experience you can have. So Clyde Common carries French, Swiss, and Washingtonian absinthe -- this being Portland and all, you know there's gotta be something semi-local -- as well as a sizable selection of small-batch and single-barrel bourbons, and wheated bourbons, and cask-strength bourbons, and Tennessee whiskeys, and rye whiskeys, and barrel-aged cocktails, and exclusively Oregon drafts, and a whole separate menu of brunch cocktails that includes a brandy milk punch which you almost never see outside of New Orleans. Yeah, this is a place you want to drink.
We picked this for the view. There may be better bars, and better hotel bars -- or maybe not! Six Seven is a pretty terrific bar in its own right, but there are absolutely no better views in the entire city of Seattle -- OK, maybe from the Space Needle, but whatever. This particular hotel is the only over-water and waterfront hotel in the Seattle area. That's it. The only one. It's located on a pier in Elliott Bay, part of the Puget Sound, and Six Seven is a restaurant and bar with some seriously jaw-dropping outdoor seating. The cocktail menu is full of creative and classic concoctions that will please any beverage enthusiast, including a build-your-own mule menu, several barrel-aged cocktails, breakfast cocktails, and after-dinner cocktails. That's a lot of round-the-clock cocktails. The spirits list is extensive and there's probably some beer and wine in there too, but who cares. Also, the view. Also also, this hotel has a long history of rock pedigree, having hosted The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Kurt Cobain. The Seattle sound on the Sound -- there's a certain poetry to that, yes? We'll drink to that!
Speakeasy is a Prohibition-era bar that is actually a Prohibition-era bar, dating back to the 1920s (although it was used as a storage space for years before being restored to its former glory). Enjoy pre-Prohibition classics, Pennsylvania-inspired cocktails, and the "Signature Collins Service," which is just like, "Yes, tableside Collinses please!" and makes the Grey Goose bottle service at bars in, say, Las Vegas, just so... sigh.
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Nicole Rupersburg lives in Las Vegas and likes it well enough, except when it comes to shitty cocktails at stupid prices and the sad-sack "beer scene." Follow her on IG where she will often make fun of these things: @eatsdrinksandleaves.