There’s something mysterious and a little bit thrilling about sidling up to the bar in an elegant hotel and ordering a classic cocktail. Maybe that’s why so many movies feature an ingénue perched atop a barstool being charmed by a rakish gentleman. Think Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper a la Love in the Afternoon or even a young Scarlett Johansson and a distinguished but down on his luck Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.
Maybe we love hotel bars because they give us a chance to try on a whole new personality. No one knows you in a foreign city, which makes it all the more exciting to sip a Bellini while slipping into a glamorous cocktail hour persona.
Most hotel bars are fun; they stock booze and perhaps even snacks mere steps from the place you’ll be resting your head when you’re ready to turn in. But what makes a truly great hotel bar?
To compile our list of the best, we first looked at hotel bars that have a storied past as well as a vibrant future. There are a few hotel bars that have invented entire rollicking nightlife cultures, with Gershwin and Glen Miller charming the guests, and others that have been left standing in the wake of World Wars to serve thirsty patrons another day. Those are certainly on this list, but there were still more criteria to consider.
We also looked at location. Scenery matters! What’s the point of vamping it up at the bar in an inelegant locale? At the bars on our list, the view from the window is almost as important as the view from the barstool.
And finally, there are the drinks. Some of the bars on this list serve up the stuff of legends. Gin fizzes fit for kings and martini trolleys that guests will remember for the rest of their lives. A decent hotel bar has cheap drinks, a good hotel bar has strong drinks, but the best hotel bars have drinks that live on as memories.
So tell us, what’s your favorite hotel bar? Here are ours:
The Sazerac Bar, The Roosevelt, New Orleans
Huey Long once flew a bartender at The Sazerac to New York to teach the locals a thing or two about a perfect gin fizz. The place still holds onto its classic glamour, and the world famous Sazerac recipe hasn’t changed a bit since Glen Miller and The Kingfish bellied up to the bar.
Vue Bar, Hyatt on the Bund, Shanghai
View Shanghai from a rooftop Jacuzzi at this bar, and while you’re soaking, choose from the bar’s selection of Champagnes while the house DJ spins.
Emily Alford is a special contributor to The Daily Meal.