America's Best New Hotel Bars
Published: May 2010
By Peter Jon Lindberg
Lobbying for a drink? The next generation of chic nightspots is cresting in cities across the nation—and these days, a trendy bar scene is as essential to an urban hotel as high thread counts. Check into one of our new favorites
New York City
RISE BAR Ritz-Carlton Battery Park
The Scene: Rise opened in January on the 14th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, at the tip of lower Manhattan. The conservatively furnished room isn't the draw; rather, it's the power-mad views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and, yes, even some spectacular sunsets. The Crowd: Half hotel guests, a quarter Wall Street dealmakers, and another quarter curious Manhattanites who haven't glimpsed water, open space, or natural light in weeks. The Drink: The frothy green Libertini, made from citrus-infused vodka, pear liqueur, Midori, and blue curaçao. When to Go: On a clear day, when you really can see forever—or at least to Jersey. 2 West St.; 212/344-0800.
CELLAR BAR Bryant Park Hotel
The Scene: Inside the year-old Bryant Park lurks a sophisticated subterranean cavern that fuses Gothic and post-mod touches: vaulted ceilings of creamy white tiles; wrought-iron chandeliers; a bar bathed in a shifting, sci-fi rainbow of light. Candles illuminate sexy goings-on that could only transpire underground. The Crowd: Filmmakers (who love the hotel's 70-seat screening room), designers and models (who jam the place after the fashion shows across the street in Bryant Park), and media insiders (who flock to eavesdrop on all the other fabulous denizens). The Drink: A Fleur et Pêche cocktail—champagne, elderflower syrup, and a peach slice. More-serious drinkers select one of the dozen single-malts. When to Go: Fridays and Saturdays after 10 p.m., for a DJ spinning smooth, trance-inducing sounds. 40 W. 40th St.; 212/869-0100.
BAR ROUGE Hotel Rouge
The Scene: Off the lobby is a glammed-out lounge—with servers in go-go boots, pulsing acid jazz, mohair banquettes, white leather barstools—that's surely too funky to be just five blocks from the White House. The Crowd: Guests of the hotel (the latest from the Kimpton Group), along with the bolder, brasher segment of D.C.'s normally buttoned-down citizenry. The Drink: Sin on the Rocks—two Stolis (raspberry and citron) plus cranberry juice, Alizé, and champagne, garnished with a lollipop. When to Go: Weekend nights if you like a packed house; early in the week if you prefer a table and a slightly mellower vibe. 1315 16th St. NW; 202/232-8000.
TOWER BAR Shore Club
The Scene: Revelers don't even arrive until midnight at the ground-floor lounge of this 20-story white-columned hotel. Candles softly illuminate the bare teak room, and a glowing fiberglass wall behind the concrete bar casts a heavenly glow. The Crowd: Skin-baring night prowlers, beach boys in designer gear, and South Beach visitors lucky enough to get in (the less you wear, the better your chances). The Drink: One of the many top-shelf sipping tequilas. When to Go: Any night but the weekend—Friday and Saturday are always crowded. 1901 Collins Ave.; 305/695-3100.
COBALT Hotel Monaco
The Scene: The bar at Susan Spicer's restaurant in the 10-month-old Hotel Monaco is a draw in its own right—not least for live jazz sets by the likes of Charmaine Neville and Harry Connick Sr. The space is coolly modern yet inviting, with steel-blue tile and industrial-metal accents offset by vases of red torch ginger. Best of all, you can order from Spicer's menu of upmarket comfort food (oyster pan roasts, duck-confit biscuits, butterscotch pudding) or from the tantalizing raw bar. The Crowd: Out-of-towners staying at the hotel; hungry New Orleans residents waiting for a table; and, later on, bright young things and the men who chase them. The Drink: Mary's Pirogue (a ridiculously spicy Bloody Mary), or a local Abita Turbodog beer. When to Go: Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., for live music. 333 St. Charles Ave.; 504/565-5595.
THE BAR Peninsula Chicago
The Scene: When the much-anticipated Peninsula opened last June, its posh bar—done up in vibrant oranges, blues, and golds—was an instant hit. Stitched-leather walls and a fireplace lend the ambience of a men's club, albeit one smartly updated by Le Corbusier lithographs, Sean Scully etchings, and a black granite—and—mahogany bar. The Crowd: Swooning couples (ages twentysomething to sixtysomething), after-work revelers, and the very, very rich. Late nights bring clubgoing types as the sound track shifts to deep house. The Drink: Any of the 24 premium ports—or, if you're feeling self-indulgent (and you will, once you're here), a $29 glass of Grande Cuvée Krug champagne. When to Go: Early weekday evenings, when it's pleasantly buzzing but not overly packed. 108 E. Superior St.; 312/573-6766.
V BAR Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino
The Scene: The owners of L.A.'s Sunset Room and New York's Lotus have created something remarkable: a chic Vegas nightspot with no pretensions of being anything other than a chic nightspot. No pirate ships or Roman togas here, just a
minimalist lounge with a sound track that leans more toward acid jazz and neo-soul than "Viva Las Vegas." The Crowd: Trendy young Vegas-dwellers and a few of the Venetian's edgier guests, all dressed for a night out . . . in downtown Manhattan. The Drink: The Aqua V (OP Aquavit, Cointreau, and cranberry juice over muddled raspberries). When to Go: Late, late, late—things don't start jumping till after midnight and typically last until 4 a.m. 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/414-3200.
727 PINE Elliott Grand Hyatt
The Scene: The sultry lounge in the front half of Danielle R. Custer's smashing 727 Pine restaurant immediately took off after its debut last summer. A striking Art Deco bar provides drama, while amber-hued sconces warm a room full of polished rare woods. The bonus: A top-notch bar menu highlighted by Custer's renowned lobster-and-shrimp enchilada with tomatillo salsa and chile-lime cream. The Crowd: Black-clad professionals in their twenties and thirties; older couples in suits and pearls, hoping to score a table in the dining room; and a few outrageous Seattle types. (Who is that guy in the two-button silver-lamé shirt and puka-shell necklace?) The Drink: A pear martini—vodka, pear brandy, triple sec, and fresh pear nectar. When to Go: Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays. 727 Pine St.; 206/774-6400.
VERANDA BAR Hotel Casa del Mar
The Scene: A recent $50 million renovation gave this 1926 Renaissance Revival building new life, this time as a grand seaside hotel. Just off the palm-lined lobby, under 30-foot ceilings with hand-painted beams, sits an imposing copper-topped bar, a cluster of distressed-leather club chairs, and a fireplace. Towering bay windows provide Cinemascope views of the beach. The Crowd: Well-heeled players from the fashion, film, and music worlds, most of them over 35. The Drink: An apple martini (Absolut Citron with Apple Pucker schnapps and a dash of Sweet & Sour, garnished with a cherry). When to Go: Late afternoons, to snag prime sunset seating; Friday nights draw a younger crowd with live jazz and Brazilian music. 1910 Ocean Way; 310/581-5533.
Show Me the Way To the Next Whiskey Bar
In the past year, the 39-year-old nightlife guru Rande Gerber has added another eight clubs to his empire, including the three below— proof that it's Rande's world; we just get soused in it.
Whiskey Park Usually clenched Brahmin jaws dropped when Gerber picked the Boston Park Plaza as his first Beantown venture, changing the stodgy old standby into a swank, 3,500-square-foot palace of cool. Boston Park Plaza Hotel, 64 Arlington St., Boston; 617/542-1483.
Whiskey Sky Views of Lake Michigan from the 33rd floor are staggering enough; the sexy interior—done in blue acrylic, silver leather, and black mohair—reaches new heights of decadence. Aptly, Playboy's headquarters are just up the block. W Chicago Lakeshore, 644 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago; 312/255-4463.
Whiskey Sky Gerber's Vegas debut has more than the requisite velvet rope and high-style look. Just opened: The eight-acre Whiskey Beach, with real sand and poolside cabanas. Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Dr., Las Vegas; 702/617-7560.
Night Lights: Where to go around the globe
EUROPE The Mandarin Bar at London's Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (66 Knightsbridge; 44-207/235-2000) is a most intoxicating space: beige silk wall coverings, a lacquered mahogany bar. It's open till 2 a.m., a rarity in London.
ASIA Soaring views of Victoria Harbour
and the Hong Kong skyline keep us coming back to the refurbished Lobby Lounge at the Hotel Inter-Continental Hong Kong (18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon;
AFRICA From the intimate Bascule at Cape Town's elegant Cape Grace Hotel (West Quay, V&A Waterfront; 27-21/
410-7100), you can gaze out on the yachts in Waterfront Marina and across to nearby Table Mountain.
AUSTRALIA Upon opening three years ago, Fix at the Kirketon hotel (229 Darlinghurst Rd., Darlinghurst, Sydney; 61-2/9332-2566) became one of Sydney's most glamorous bars, and
it's still going strong.
SOUTH AMERICA Just blocks from fashionable Paulista and Faria Lima avenues, the Lobby Bar at the year-old Emiliano hotel (384 Rua Oscar Freire,
São Paulo, Brazil; 55-11/3069-4369)
is a calm, stylish refuge from São Paulo's hypercharged pulse.
ANTARCTICA Okay, there's nothing here yet, but come on, it's a natural: you've
got the world's most exclusive door policy, myriad fur and Gore-Tex design possibilities, and you'd never run out of ice.