Filled with intrigue, endless possibility and, well, beds, hotel bars have always been the sexiest of the booze-peddling brood. There's nothing more soothing to the wayward traveler than a built-in nightcap, and for locals, nothing more romantic than a rendezvous inside a dimly lit downtown lobby.
So with all the attention on the ever-growing roster of excellent hotel restaurants these days, we're shining the limelight on the barstools and sofas, lounge chairs and love seats, where you'll really want to stay awhile.
New York City, NY
Forget hotels. The Library is one of New York City's best drinking establishments, period. It just so happens to be housed in a pretty excellent Manhattan hotel. Inside, sharply dressed literati lounge around the stately cocktail den's book-lined two stories—connected by a spiral staircase plucked from the South of France, no less—chatting over charcuterie plates and crunchy crudités. Down at the gleaming maple wood bar, polished, winking mixologists whip up original creations like the Tit for Tat, a peppery mix of aquavit, fino sherry, St-Germain, yellow Chartreuse, fresh raspberry and lemon juice. Though, locals, be warned: Only guests of the hotel are allowed in after 4 p.m., so if you forgot your watch, you hopefully remembered your toothbrush.
Photo: Daniel Krieger
A trilevel rooftop with sweeping views of the Chicago River and a high cupola offering a glimpse of Lake Michigan, the LondonHouse Curio Collection hotel's LH Rooftop represents the birthplace of the American skyscraper with grace and a boatload of delicious booze. The new boutique hotel is housed inside the gorgeously renovated historic London Guarantee Building, a 1923 landmark reminiscent of all its era's style and poise. The elevator opens onto the 21st story lounge, LH on 21, sleek and inviting with a handful of slate-colored four-tops and a long black marble bar. Upstairs, the outdoor terrace is well worth braving one of the Windy City's breezier evenings. Grab a snack—we recommend the pillowy, rich and satisfying nduja cheese bread (see the recipe)—and an LH Old Fashioned (Basil Hayden's bourbon, Scotch syrup, maple, Angostura), and snag a spot along the rooftop's edge for a starry night straight out of a more decadent time.
Photo: Courtesy of LondonHouse Chicago
Miami Beach, FL
There's no shortage of quality bars in Miami, but when it comes to vacation boozing, the Freehand's Broken Shaker is undoubtedly one of the country's top picks. Stocked to the gills with James Beard-nominated mixologists, this vibrant boutique hotel-hostel (read: hipster haven) recently took home Tales of the Cocktail’s Best American Hotel Bar award. Think of it as a wallet-friendly, slightly rowdier Ace Hotel, with refreshingly lax, booze-driven branches in Chicago, Los Angeles and, soon, New York City. But while all the spots can hold their own, the OG Miami location takes the cake. Lines form around the block on Friday and Saturday nights, but in-house guests get priority access. And with accommodations starting in the double digits, you might as well just go for it—especially after a Papa Lama (Bacardi, Barbancourt, sweet vermouth, Bruto Americano, gooseberry and Buddha's-hand fruit) . . . or four.
Photo: Adrian Gaut
Stashed away in a tiny logging town about halfway between Seattle and Portland, this spacious pub, eat-in movie theater and pool hall fits perfectly into McMenamins' astounding collection of pristinely renovated Pacific Northwest historic hotels. Opened in 1908 as an elite "gentlemen's resort" (we'll just leave it at that), the space is as beautiful as it is eerie, with shadowy corners, gorgeous wood paneling and painstakingly restored Tiffany chandeliers that evoke a seductive Prohibition-era vibe. The drinks menu highlights the hotel group's own lineup of wine, beer and spirits, ranging from a nutty, full-bodied sipping whiskey distilled in a vintage cognac still to a smooth raspberry-spiked ale. Don't forget to stop by the bathroom before you leave; the curiously decorated sink area offers more than a few options for freshening up (and plenty of Instagram ops).
Photo: Courtesy of Olympic Club Pub
Over the past few years, 21c Museum Hotel has grown from a regionally beloved but little-known Louisville gem into a multi-state boutique empire. And as the pack's venerable leader, Kentucky's Proof Bar sets the standard for the chain's cutting-edge aesthetic and unparalleled cocktails. The airy bar, cast in a series of fluorescent hues and illuminating bizarrely intriguing art, knows its bourbon, with more than 75 expressions, plus a bounty of exclusive single-barrel offerings. If the straight stuff puts you off, ease into it with a Smoke Rings, a sultry mix of Old Forester 100 Proof, dry curaçao, Ramazzotti amaro, Lapsang souchong and locally distilled Copper & Kings absinthe. And if all that booze isn't enough to get the creative juices flowing, the bar's proximity to the hotel's 24-hour museum is guaranteed to spark interesting conversation.
Photo: Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel
Glacier National Park, MT
The Many Glacier Hotel's Swiss Lounge is nothing fancy, but with views of Glacier National Park's Swiftcurrent Lake and enough of the hard stuff to cure any post-hike chill, this true hideaway rubs elbows with the best of them. The bar itself, cozy with vinyl booths and rustic wood plank walls, is charming, but the main lobby is the real draw. Four stories of hand-carved balconies look down onto the grand, sprawling space, complete with a central brass fireplace surrounded by cushy Adirondack chairs. The chalet-inspired hotel was built in 1915 as a respite for the West's finest nature enthusiasts, and with a Huckleberry Smash (Montana-distilled Headframe Spirits Neversweat bourbon, lemon, native huckleberries, mint leaves, simple syrup) or an earthy Tumbleweed IPA from Helena's Lewis & Clark Brewing in hand, you'll swear you just stepped into Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel.
Photo: GlacierNPS via Flickr
New Orleans, LA
This downtown newcomer has a tendency to get lost amid NOLA's countless nightspots, but the lounge might just be the city's best-kept secret. Soft leather seating, exposed brick and a floor-to-ceiling liquor library add to the hotel's cool industrial aesthetic, while a cocktail menu steeped in local tradition rounds things out. Grab a seat in the open lobby, lit by floor-to-ceiling windows, or settle into a chemistry class-style wooden stool at the corrugated tin bar during Q&C's generous 4-to-7 p.m. happy hour, and order up a deeply discounted classic Sazerac and an appetizer. And if you want a true taste of the Cajun life, try the crawfish pizza (Louisiana crawfish tails, roast potatoes, feta, romesco, green onions).
Photo: Courtesy of Q&C Bar
Los Angeles, CA
With its storied history and long-running celebrity clientele, Chateau Marmont is a heavy hitter in a town of heavy hitters, and its adjacent bar, Bar Marmont, is bursting with all the Golden Era glitz, glamour and intrigue La La Land has to offer. On most nights, a motley crew of wizened locals, posh visitors and the Hollywood set descend upon the bar's red velvet banquets, sipping Pimm's Cups, sidecars and bottles upon bottles of Champagne underneath the ivy-strewn skylight. And despite the hotel's troubled past—John Belushi and Helmut Newton both perished on-site, and debaucherous stories come by the dozen—it's also strangely comforting, like a glamorous old woman smoking a cigarette. There's something dangerous about it, deadly even, but there's no denying its timeless beauty.
Photo: Ari Perilstein/Getty
Palm Springs, CA
One of the most masterful aspects of the Ace Hotel's slow crawl toward world domination is the boutique chain's ability to make each location feel both familiar and completely tailored to its specific environment. Such is the case with this eight-year-old, perpetually packed Palm Springs oasis. Inside, it's cool and inviting, the dark-gray bricks, castle-like archways and soft Edison bulbs a welcome refuge from the desert sun. And with an emphasis on fresh juices and refreshing flavors, the beverage program doesn't hurt either. Service extends poolside, and for night owls, The Amigo Room might have trivia night hosted by a beloved local drag queen or a hit indie band. Just make sure to keep hydrated, party people.
Photo: Courtesy of The Ace Hotel Palm Springs