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Trip List by adamunc

Favorite Hotel Bars

Jun 22, 2009  
0.0 of 5 bubbles based on 0 votes

I’m a hopeless hotel junkie, and one of the major factors to me in picking a hotel is the quality of its bar. A well-executed, comfortable bar experience can make up for mediocrity in a lot of other areas. Following is a list of my twelve favorite hotel bars from my travels around the U.S.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia
  • Category: Best of
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing
  • Appeals to: Business travelers, Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Singles, Tourists
  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. King Cole Bar [St. Regis New York]
    King Cole Bar, New York City, New York

    This is the classic bar in the classic hotel in the classic city. It's tucked away and cozy, with a fantastic mural to gaze at while munching on a very nice snack menu. The drinks are served by top-of-the-line professional bartenders and your fellow patrons may be rich or famous or both. Though it's on the small side, there always seems to be just the right amount of seating open. Not cheap, but it gets no better than this.

  • 2. Thirsty Camel Lounge, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, AZ

    Though you may question marble in Arizona, the lobby of this enormous pleasure palace certainly stands out from the Southwestern décor of most of the other resorts in the area. And this bar/lounge/terrace on the far side of the lobby from the entrance will spoil you for just about any other view of the Valley of the Sun. [It may be slightly better from the Camelback Mountain hiking trail, but they don't serve bellinis there.] The drink repertoire is extensive, and the pricing is actually not too stratospheric. There's plenty of seating, so no worries about being crowded out.

  • 3. Tambu Lounge, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Be aware that you can get very hammered at this family destination. In fact, there are people who do bar tours of the Disney resorts. There's even a name for one such endeavor--the "looped on the loop" tour, which covers the bars on the monorail-linked Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian. The latter is my favorite of the three, with sort of a Disney-does-tiki vibe going on. The Backscratcher here is a concoction of rum, apricot brandy, fruit juices, and some other stuff. A couple of those and you may wake up behind Space Mountain twelve hours later. This one can get kind of crowded, so I like it as an early evening stop, following by a stroll out to the hotel's beach to enjoy the sunset view of the Magic Kingdom.

  • 4. St. Regis Bar, St. Regis, San Francisco

    Overall, this hotel may be a little on the austere side, but the lobby bar is a stunner. It's a tall-ceilinged space with a beautiful long wood bar, sexy lounging couches, striking lighting fixtures, and dramatic wall art. It's also just inside the door of the lobby, so it feels very connected to the city outside the huge windows. They serve items from the menu of signature restaurant Ame, and, best of all, it's open early.

  • 5. Lobby Bar/Wine Room, Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, FL

    This street-side space is bright with sunlight by day and almost an extension of the active Fort Lauderdale main drag at night. There's a terrace plus an interior space with a long bar backed by a superb mural of waves crashing. This hotel was originally developed as a St. Regis [do they know how to do bars, or what?] but has continued its excellence under the Ritz flag. In a cozy nook next door to the main bar is the tiny Wine Room, where you can get a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and wallow in the good life.

  • 6. The Greenhouse [Ritz-Carlton Chicago]
    Deca Restaurant and Bar, Chicago, Illinois

    It's like a treehouse overlooking the Magnificent Mile. Most of the room is glassed in, and with all the vegetation around, you could almost be in an English garden. This is a large space which also serves food and afternoon tea, but the smallish bar is located next to the windows and offers fine central-Michigan Avenue view. Typically solicitous Ritz service keeps everything serene even when the room is crowded.

  • 7. Coq d'Or, The Drake Hotel, Chicago

    Old school all the way, this long narrow room was opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition. The smart-jacketed, slightly crusty barkeeps look like they've been there ever since. This is the place to go when you want to drink away the afternoon with other like-minded folks. They're serious about their highballs here--no skimping on the liquor and a minimum of mixer. It's stashed a little below street level in the center of the hotel, so it feels like you're hiding from the city.

  • 8. Tonga Room [Fairmont San Francisco]
    Tonga Room, San Francisco, California

    Another spot recalling the tiki craze. This place is so South Pacific you expect people to start belting out "Some Enchanted Evening" or maybe doing an impromptu hula. The viciously potent rum drinks here may sneak up on you and cause you to get up and shimmy your hips--all those sweet fruit juices hide the liquor taste maybe a little too effectively. There's a large square bar up front, then traditional restaurant seating in the rest of the room. This is on a nice corner for bar-hopping, with the Top of the Mark and the Ritz-Carlton close by. But for pure kitschy fun, you'd be hard-pressed to beat the Tonga.

  • 9. Park 75 [Four Seasons Atlanta]
    Park 75, Atlanta, Georgia

    It's all about the specialty cocktails here. There's an inventive beverage director here somewhere who particularly likes lemongrass and uses it to great effect in his creations. The room itself is nicely traditional, with sleek sofas, separate tables, and a traditional bar along one wall. It's one flight up a grand marble staircase from the entrance, and can be quite crowded on a weekend evening. Even at capacity, that polished Four Seasons service won't let you linger long without a libation.

  • 10. 10 Arts Lounge [Ritz Carlton Philadelphia]
    10 Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    This former bank building's domed lobby feels like the entrance of some grand governmental office. On the far side of all that marble from the doorway is the long bar of 10 Arts, run by super-chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin fame. There are dramatic red accents to warm up the space and the ample seating means you'll rarely be denied a stool. This is one place where the menu is as much an attraction as the liquor. The octopus ceviche and heirloom corn soup are stupendous.

  • 11. MObar [Mandarin Oriental New York]
    Asiate, New York City, New York

    The scenesters here can be a bit of a pain (and take up all the seats), but if you hit MObar at the right time you can sample some terrific signature cocktails, including the Jade Blossom--my favorite--which has peach vodka, green tea liqueur, and sauvignon blanc. The space is a dark corner off the main restaurant and lounge on the seventh floor overlooking part of Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. The service can be a little harried, but this place definitely has a Big Apple vibe, especially post-theatre when the Lincoln Center crowd mixes with the club yuppies

  • 12. Roberts, Franklin Hotel, Chapel Hill, NC

    I had to include a hometown bar, and this is by far the best one in the area. The Franklin Hotel manages to mix a New South sensibility with nods to tradition. The bar has multiple seating groups with plush armchairs, cozy love seats, and traditional leather chairs. There's also a pretty well-stocked proper bar backed by a huge flat-screen TV for catching all those college sporting events that are critical to life in Chapel Hill. The clientele runs from travelers to faculty to silver-spoon students. There's a small food menu, but you really come here for the well-mixed classic cocktails.