Once a watering hole of last resort filled with business travellers and tourists, the hotel bar is back with a vengeance.
All the major hospitality groups are filling their portfolios with new projects inside buzzy and beloved hotels. Hoteliers, too, are answering the bar-hopping public’s call: multiple cocktail concepts within a single hotel are becoming the standard at big city hotels, especially those that stand on historic grounds.
To create the ultimate American hotel bar bucket list, we’ve honed in on 30 hotel bars that stand out as icons among their peers. From the birthplace of the Mint Julep to a menacing bar housed in an old jail, the drinks always taste better here.
Up until 1990, the Beacon Hill building now known as a the Liberty Hotel was a jail for some of Boston's most infamous criminals. The Alibi Bar & Lounge, with its brick cell walls and gated doors and windows, is located in the shadowy space that was once the jail's drunk tank.
Cocktails echo the bar's criminal past with names like Jailbait (a blueberry mojito) and Vice Squad (coconut rum, pineapple, yogurt liqueur, and a 'strawberry float'). There's also bottle service, a nice wine list, and a full menu with pizza, pasta, sliders, and snacks like arancini and duck fat fries with truffle aioli. 215 Charles St., Boston, MA, 857-241-1144
Retreat to Chateau Marmont Hotel and Bungalows for your happily ever after. Modelled after a French royal residence in Loire Valley, this castle is home to the luxurious Bar Marmont.
The cocktail menu is built from vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, and gin for an extensive list of unique creations. For those with deep pockets, explore the menu's Rare Breeds section with prices ranging from $US80 to $US200. Enjoy European-inspired dishes from executive chef Carolynn Spence, former chef de cuisine at New York's award-winning Spotted Pig. 8171 West Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA, 323-650-0575
With nightly jazz and speciality cocktails, Bemelmans Bar inside The Carlyle Hotel is a whimsical escape from the chaotic city.
Twenty-four-karat gold leaf ceilings combined with chocolatey leather and black glass tabletops create a warm and elegant atmosphere. Named after Ludwig Bemelmans, the man behind the children's book 'Madeline,' the bar's walls are adorned with Bemelmans' murals depicting scenes in Central Park. 35 East 76th St., New York, NY, 212-744-1600
This craft cocktail bar opened last summer in the Acme Hotel off Michigan Avenue. The bar takes the new hotel's former name, The Berkshire, circa the 1920s to the 1950s.
The space is airy, with gleaming checkered tiles, high ceilings, and small nooks crammed with antique bottles and cocktail ephemera. To drink, there are five barrel aged cocktails (including a classic Negroni and Manhattan), seven house concoctions, and the alluring 'dealer's choice' option, in which patrons choose their own spirit, flavour profile, and glassware. There's also a nice selection of wine, beer, and small bites, such as fried chicken skins with smoked bleu cheese and house hot sauce. 15 East Ohio St., Chicago, IL, 312-894-0945
Built in 1926, The Biltmore Miami-Coral Gables is steeped in history. In its heyday, it was a respite for Hollywood icons like Ginger Rogers and Judy Garland, as well as gangster Al Capone.
Today, as Miami is morphing into a sort of Manhattan of the South, it's a bastion of old-school elegance. The marble-laden bar, with its club chairs and ample chandeliers, is like a postcard from another era. Keep it simple and order a mojito or martini made to perfection. 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, FL, 855-311-6903
Located inside Ian Schrager's newest hotel, The Clocktower restaurant and bar is new to the scene -- but nonetheless historic. The hotel sits on the former site of the Met Life Tower, which held the distinction of being the world's tallest building from 1909 to 1913.
While EDITION boasts an extremely fashionable Lobby Bar, we prefer the stately watering holes off The Clocktower restaurant. The lighting is low and sexy, the walls are covered with photos of iconic New Yorkers, and the cocktails are a ton of fun.
If you don't mind drinking out of a milk carton, try the Cereal Killer, made with Cheerios milk and bourbon. Or, if you're a caffeine junkie, the coffee-infused Cold-Fashioned will change your life. 5 Madison Ave., New York, NY, 212-413-4300
Decked in marble, crystal chandeliers, and Tiffany stained glass, Baltimore's stunning Hotel Monaco houses B&O Brasserie. The restaurant and bar takes root in the former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters.
The location's rich history is preserved with furnishings from original B&O train cars, as well as updates on classic cocktails, like The Cadizian (pictured), head bartender Brendan Door's take on a Manhattan. 2 North Charles St., Baltimore, MD, 443-692-6172
What began as a pop-up bar in an upscale hostel has evolved into a James Beard-acknowledged Miami institution that ranks number 22 on The World's 50 Best Bars list.
One part hipster beach shack, one part bohemian garden, The Broken Shaker builds its cocktails with herbs and vegetables grown on-site. The short but intensely creative menu ranges from a peach-infused Old Fashioned to a Caipirinha made with basil and sweet black beans. The beer selection has a local lean and, if you're feeling peckish, you can munch on shawarma chicken wings and house-made beef jerky. 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach, FL, 305-531-2727
The iconic Carousel Bar is New Orleans' revolving spectacle. The 25-seat Merry-Go-Round is located in Hotel Monteleone, a historic and supposedly haunted hotel in the French Quarter.
A long list of craft cocktails goes hand-in-hand with Louisiana small bites like blue crab and crawfish beignets. With live local music and a perch that overlooks Royal Street, the sights and sounds are almost as good as the food and drink.
214 Royal St., New Orleans, LA, 866-338-4684
At the top of Soho's The James hotel, JIMMY boasts 360-degree Manhattan views and a well-deserved reputation as one of the city's sleekest rooftop bars.
The vibe here is a classic pub transplanted in '70s NYC. During the summer months you can take a dip in the rooftop pool and rinse off in the outdoor showers. But make sure to go before 9 p.m. -- after that the bar executes a controlled entrance on the ground floor.
FYI, those herbs in your cocktail came from the chef's garden. Hungry? Crowd the table with small bites like Kobe franks in a blanket, deviled duck eggs, and shrimp and lobster wontons. 27 Grand St., New York, NY, 212-465-2000
Inside the kingly Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles sits one of the city's best hotel bars. Carved angels look down from above as refined cocktails cross the polished granite bar.
The Galley is famous for its 'Manhattan Menu,' featuring six variations on the classic drink, but it also makes a fabulous martini. To eat, you can't do better than the 1920s-style shrimp cocktail served on the hotel's original silver. 506 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 213-624-1011
Inside the glamorous St. Regis hotel lies the American birthplace of the Red Snapper, known today as the Bloody Mary.
St. Regis bartender Fernand Petiot experimented with vodka and tomato juice cocktails in Paris before coming to New York. In 1934, he made the first Bloody Mary for a well-known man at the time named Serge Obolensky, who requested the drink after tasting it in Paris. Staying true to the bar's elegance, the name Red Snapper superseded the vulgar Bloody Mary.
Here you can also gaze at the 'Old King Cole' mural by Maxfield Parrish. Two East 55th St., New York, NY, 212-339-6857
At the back of the hum-drum lobby of Midtown Manhattan's Iroquois Hotel is one of the city's greatest tiny bars, Lantern's Keep.
Opening the door is like travelling back in time and entering the parlor of a grand old house. There's a fireplace at one end of the room and a small bar fronted by a bow tie-clad mixologist at the other end. With just 10 or so tables, this candlelit hideaway accepts reservations.
The cocktail menu is extensive and the drinks are stiff. They do particularly well with sherry here -- try the Fino Maid, a mix of Fino Sherry, mint, cucumber, and lime served on the rocks. Or you can just to tell the bartender your preferred spirit(s) and flavours and let him surprise you. 49 W. 44th St., 212-453-4287
Built in 1924, Dallas' Warwick Melrose Hotel is dripping in southern charm. The main artery of the elegant hotel is the Library Bar, which hosts local singers six nights a week.
Saddle up on the mirrored bar or find a cosy chair in the book nook and sip a cooling Aperol Spritz or maple- and bourbon-spiked 'Til Morning cocktail. The whiskey menu boasts Macallan 25-year and the wine list features 27 wines by the glass. 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas, TX, 214-521-5151
There's a spate of hip new bars and hotels in Louisville, but if you only have time for one drink, the Lobby Bar at The Brown Hotel is your target. Sure, the crowd is a little vintage, but the Mint Julep is the best in town and the environs evoke a palace fit for southern royalty.
As for cocktails, the menu is short, simple, and local -- you're in bourbon country, after all. The Brown Manhattan, made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon and booze-soaked cherries, is a must. And this is a bar where you definitely want to order some food: The Brown Hotel is the birthplace of the hot brown, an open-faced sandwich made with turkey breast, bacon, sauce Mornay, and bubbly-hot cheese. 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY, 877-926-7757
Home to the 'International Martini Classic Challenge,' Oliver's Lounge serves Seattle's 'Best Classic' martini and has won 'Best Specialty Martini' and 'Best International Classic Martini.' If you aren't intrigued by the eight-time classic martini winner, try the Paradigm Shift or The Cachaca Climax -- both signature cocktails.
Opened in 1976, Oliver's Lounge occupies the site of Seattle's first Bartell Drug store. 405 Olive Way, Seattle, WA, 206-623-8700
This former speakeasy in the historic Belvedere Hotel is soaked in history. During prohibition, the bar's owl statues would appear to wink if there was whiskey in the basement. Though the watering hole boasts newer additions, such as a pizza oven, the owls are still there today.
There are 21 beers on tap, including the bar's own brews and Flying Dog's Sriracha Pale Ale, and the cocktails are organised into two categories: old school and new school. Longtime classics include the Sidecar and Prohibition Punch while newer additions range from a mezcal Old Fashioned to the Buffala' Bob, made with bourbon, basil, brown sugar and balsamic simple syrups, and ginger beer. 1 E. Chase St., Baltimore, MD, 410-347-0888
Tucked in the basement of the iconic Georgian Terrace hotel -- once host to the likes of Elvis Presley and F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Proof & Provision is a speakeasy with a playful spirit.
Walking down the entryway stairs is like descending into an abandoned subway station, but then you're greeted by an underground watering hole meets frat house with flat screens, a shuffleboard table, and beer kegs.
Here you'll find a healthy assortment of snacks (think cheesy pretzels and fried chicken sandwiches) and cocktails organised by spirit. Priced from $US8 to $US12, including barrel-aged sips, the drinks are a steal. 659 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA, 404-897-5045
Rebooted in 2011 by hotelier Ian Schrager and famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Pump Room was a '20s Hollywood haunt that kept cranking well into the '70s and '80s. Frank Sinatra and Mick Jagger both partied there.
Open until the wee hours, the bar is favourite among Chicago's most fashionable night owls. Supper club classics like the Corpse Reviver are poured alongside newer creations like the Motocycle Diaries, a mix of pisco, Frenet Branca, anise and fruit liqueurs, bitters, and mint. 1301 N. State Hwy., Chicago, IL, 312-787-3700
'It' girls and musicians flock to Rose Bar like bees to honey. Scented with an exclusive Le Labo fragrance that is utterly divine and mysterious, the dimly-lit lobby bar (one of two) doubles as an art gallery. Works by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and more adorn the walls.
After 6 p.m., the late-night menu beckons with exotic cocktails like the Rose and Lychee Martini, fortified with a pour of floral Hendrick's gin. If you have one too many, hop next door to Maialino (open until 4 a.m.) and down a bowl of cacio e pepe. 2 Lexington Ave., New York, NY, 212-920-3300
As the legend goes, this resplendent bar is paneled with redwood carved from a single tree. Complemented by plush burgundy couches, forest green lamps, and a glowing bottle rack, the atmosphere evokes a warm, sultry vibe.
Pick your poison from an extensive cocktail list (the Blackberry Smoosh sounds intriguing) and feast on gourmet bites such as foie gras hush puppies with truffle honey. 495 Geary St., San Francisco, CA, 415-929-2372
This LDV Hospitality concept is a reincarnation of a 1940s cocktail club formerly located on the same site. Bartenders wear shawl-collared jackets and bow ties and the menu jumps from sazeracs to juleps to flips.
On any given night, the cushy leather banquettes boast a fashionable South Beach crowd. But the bar's most illustrious guest is its head barman and managing partner, Julio Cabrera, who describes himself as a cantinero -- the Cuban word for a career bartender who's master of his dominion -- and makes one of the most authentic daiquiris in Miami. 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL, 786-975-2555
This lobbyist hangout in the Willard Intercontinental is the spot where Kentucky statesman Henry Clay mixed the first Mint Julep -- so now you know what to order.
Longtime barman Jim Hewes has made the Scotch Bar menu (130 selections strong) his personal mission. The Scotch Bar opens at 4 pm and is in a non-descrip location up a set of stairs.
Add to all that Round Robin's illustrious list of former patrons: Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few. The atmosphere is dark and stately and, with all the DC heavyweights, you're bound to overhear something juicy. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC, 202-628-9100
Paul Ninas' murals surround a distinguished African walnut bar at the storied Sazerac Bar. The name comes from what's claimed to be the world's first mixed drink and the decor is reminiscent of old New Orleans.
Located inside the historic Roosevelt Hotel -- once a host to Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles -- The Sazerac Bar is a place where the conversation flows as freely as the booze. The thing to order is most definitely a Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans. 130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA, 504-648-1200
Eleven stories above Independence Hall, the Stratus Rooftop offers beautiful views of Philadelphia -- with cocktails to match.
The first thing you need to know is that the dress code is 'sophisticated,' so sneakers, hats, and hoodies are on the no-fly list. As for the drinks, expect a gourmand, seasonal take, with ingredients like date syrup, jalapeño, and coconut-infused caçhacas topping the menu.
To go with the fancy dress there are plenty of bubbles, as well as large format beers. Bites range from stone crab claws with remoulade to a bahn mi pork belly sandwich. Moveable walls mean this rooftop bar and lounge is in commission all year long. 433 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 215-925-2889
Resting at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, The Langham is one of those timelessly elegant hotels that instantly puts you at ease.
While the Tap Room décor is a vivid recollection of its prohibition-era beginnings, the drinks are decidedly global and the menu is formidable. In addition to 11 signature cocktails, four Langham classics, and four old-school favourites (think the Gimlet and Margarita), there's an extensive spirits menu with some very nice single malts, ports, and cognacs. 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue, Pasadena, CA, 626 585 6457
In the heart of Old City, The Wine Bar at Panorama Italian Restaurant features the world's largest wine preservation and dispensing system. The selection changes weekly and totals over 800 different wines a year.
If you can't decide on one of the 120 wines on tap and 150 plus wines by the glass, opt for a flight of five different wines from one of over 24 themed groups. 14 N. Front St., Philadelphia, PA, 215-922-7800
Walk into the regal Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia -- which was inspired by the Pantheon -- and you won't miss its vibrant lobby bar, 10 Arts Lounge.
Situated in the domed marble lobby with surrounding columns, the contemporary décor makes a statement with contrasting burnt orange and fuchsia accents. Formerly a bank, there's plenty of space to socialise over a hand-crafted cocktail and live music. 10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 215-523-8273