The Unlikely Souvenir You Should Collect From Luxury Hotels — Even Ones You Haven't Been to Yet

How one traveler amassed a collection of vintage glassware from hotels around the world.

Vintage glass from The Pierre hotel in New York
Photo: Elizabeth Daniels

Where do you want to go tonight?

I'd ask myself this question many (OK, most) nights during the pandemic when cocktail hour approached as the sun started to set. Despite lockdown limitations, I had eight choices far from the confines of my own home.

Because Paris is always a good idea, I could reach for the glass bearing the Hotel George V crown image, before the Four Seasons rebrand. Alternately, selecting the vessel with the iconic outlines of Trinità dei Monti's twin church bell towers coopted by its next door neighbor, the Hotel Hassler, means going to a very happy place. I've yet to stay at this grand dame of Rome hotels — a room at the Hassler with a view from the top of the Spanish Steps still looms large in my aspirational imagination. But the glass always felt like the right match for my growing love of Negronis.

Hotel Hassler in Rome
Elizabeth Daniels

Preparing a drink in the glasses from La Mamounia in Marrakech and The Peninsula, Hong Kong, would have me planning trips to dream destinations, while mixing a G&T in glasses from some of my favorite cities and hotels, namely Manhattan (The Pierre) or London (The Dorchester), had bittersweet emotional value. The least loved of my collection was the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo glass, but I began to appreciate the romance of the locale more when my kids got into Bond movies.

While travel to these luxury hotels in far-flung locales is now more of a possibility, visiting these places IRL was logistically challenging for most of the last two years. Instead, I had a resource sitting on my bar cart. One of my most prized possessions that combines two of my favorite things — historic hotels and hotel bars — was key to finding joy and escape in deeply weird, unnerving times.

Vintage hotel glassware for Hotel De La Mammounia Marrakech
Elizabeth Daniels

Over a decade ago, the long-unoccupied house next door to us in our former neighborhood opened its doors for an estate sale. While I love a juicy sale, I'm wary of the lure of good deals which usually lead to unnecessary purchases. But through the stacks of unremarkable tableware sitting on formica countertops that hadn't been touched in years, I found the ultimate score: a collection of eight rocks glasses stamped with logos of historic hotels around the world.

Our unknown neighbor was apparently a Hollywood studio publicist who, if her wardrobe and buying proclivities were any indication, professionally peaked sometime around the mid-1980s. She had no immediate survivors. Said movie PR maven moved out after her husband passed away, not long before we moved in. Unworn items still with price tags from the heyday of Los Angeles retail at elegant stores such as Bullock's Wilshire and Robinson's filled the closets and additional racks, since her possessions far exceeded the house's built-in storage capacity. (And then there was the disturbing existence of what we dubbed the Creepy Clown Room, a bedroom tucked next to the kitchen that was dedicated to this nightmarish theme. We never had the heart to show photos to the family who bought the house post-flip.)

Despite what one might politely call a lack of retail restraint, the house was full of evidence of a life well-lived. The treasured glassware I brought home was a perfect example. For all I know, she could have been an armchair explorer, sipping whiskey from her international cocktail glass collection while flipping through old issues of Travel + Leisure, uninterested in the logistics of managing airports, visas, and passport renewals. The truth is, it doesn't really matter. These evocative objects were the best impulse buy I've ever made; I haven't seen them anywhere or online since.

When not-so-happy-hour became more important after spring 2020, I could ask guests what cocktail and which fantasy urbane, deluxe destination they were in the mood for during distanced outdoor gatherings. That formula was the right mix of fun and pretension to cut through our existential anxiety. So, as the roller coaster that's been early 2022 starts to smooth out, these are reminders of the wider — albeit changed — world to experience outside the dimensions of a 10-ounce glass.

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