Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beertender, I’ll have Another Martooni… What City Am I In Again?!? Hotel Bars: A Place of Refuge for the Weary Traveler

Even though the U.S. has had its warmest winter in recorded history, many of our Northern friends and family are looking for an excuse to get down here to the Texas Tropical Sun Belt to soak up a little of our warm Southern weather and hospitality. And while we may welcome them with open arms, we may not welcome them with open doors, so a hotel with a good bar is a welcome option, and you simply can’t have a great hotel without having a great hotel bar.

A hotel bar is a place of refuge for the weary traveler, where a highball and a barstool can be had for only a 300 foot commute back to bed. So, just what makes a good hotel bar? Well, Peter Jon Lindberg of Travel and Leisure Magazine says “It should be intimate in scale, yet capacious enough that you can always find a seat... The loudest sound shall be the shaking of ice. An excess of staff is actually a minus… and for God’s sake, no bouncers. A bartender should be the only thing standing between you and a perfect Manhattan.” I’m apparently a bit more laid back about my out of town (or in town) drinking and feel a little less stringent about the atmosphere and decorum of my hotel bars than Mr. Lindberg does.

The modern hotel came to prominence in the early 19th century, and as a foreshadowing of the luxury that awaited their guests, upon arrival, patrons were treated to a cocktail, a singular sign of hospitality. Consequently the modern hotel and the cocktail grew up together, in a manner of speaking.

Cocktail historian Derek Brown says that “Hotels were often luxurious and full of amenities, including top bartenders. It was the perfect environment to nurture the Golden Age of cocktails.” So it stands to reason that some of today’s most popular drinks were created at some of the more famous hotel bars, for instance…

Cosmopolitan – The Strand, South Beach, Miami

Margarita – Rancho La Gloria, Baja California, Mexico (if you believe some people…)

Martini – Knickerbocker Hotel, New York

Pina Colada – Caribe Hilton, Puerto Rico

Red Snapper (or Bloody Mary as it’s now more commonly known) – St. Regis, New York

Singapore Sling – Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Tequila Sunrise – Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix

A great hotel bar can be a destination itself. Prior to the rise of the popularity of night clubs, hotel bars were the places “to see and be seen” for the rich and famous. In fact, back in the day, if you had been having a drink at New York’s Gramercy Hotel you could have run into Babe Ruth; at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were regulars; the Ritz in Paris was a favorite with Ernest Hemmingway; at the Raffles Hotel bar in Singapore, you may have rubbed shoulders with Somerset Maugham of Rudyard Kipling; or if you were staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. you could have swapped tales with Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

Whatever your taste in hospitality-based libations is, be assured that there is a hotel bar to fit your bill here in the Metroplex. Whether you’re entertaining out-of-town guests, having a romantic weekend away from the house, or you’re just looking for some swanky new digs in which to down a few drinks, here are a few home-away-from-home options…

Bar Belmont – Belmont Hotel

Dallas Art-Deco at its finest. Housed in a vintage hotel with a great view of downtown from the balcony. A very laid-back and diverse crowd largely populated by hip locals. Try the signature Belmontini -

Bolla Bar – The Stonleigh

After a recent $36 million renovation, the Stonleigh’s vintage hotel bar was redesigned much to the dismay of the regulars, and while the new upscale Art-Deco inspired Bolla Bar has a different feel, the animal friendly hotel (and bar) has won back many of the old crowd.

Charlie Palmers – The Joule Hotel

Red velvet chairs, crystal chandeliers, designer dress-clad waitresses, and a custom-designed scent for the lounge. Modern meets classic (a la Moulin Rouge), where celebrities, athletes, and “A”-list locals in a wide range of ages, mix it up.

Dragonfly – Hotel ZaZa

Opulent, over the top, and just too-much… fun that is! Sure it’s a bit cliché, but what a great place to people watch. Eat some hot tamales from a bowl on the bar, have a Zatini, and if it’s too cool to swim, dance on the glass that’ll be covering the pool!

Five Sixty – Reunion Tower, Hyatt Regency

The only reason that I put this bar on the list is for the view. One of the best in Dallas, hands down. Wolfgang Puck put his name on the new restaurant that often gets mixed reviews, but an appetizer and a cocktail at the spinning bar in the big sphere, does have a certain charm.

The Library Bar – Warwick Melrose

A nice subtle remodeling last year updates the bar without taking away any of the classy charm. Leather and dark woods, a baby grand in one corner (and a pianist in the evenings… “Good night folks!”), and bookshelves lining the walls. Go with a classic martini or gibson here. One of my favorites.

The Mansion Bar – The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

Oil tycoons and sports team owners would be right at home here as were David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Stevie Nicks, and recently Benjamin Bratt. Stellar bartenders and a good strong pour in an amazingly elegant setting. One of the top rated restaurants in the world is right here.

The Rattlesnake Bar – The Ritz-Carlton

Celebrity chef Dean Fearing is the man shakin’ snakes at this classy bar that fronts Fearing’s namesake restaurant. A truly great guy who has almost single-handedly put Southwestern cuisine into the upper echelons of haute cuisine. Backlit honey onyx and real (non-living) rattlers comprise the amazing bar. Try the $1,000 an ounce 1806 Pierre Ferrand Cognac.

The Rodeo Bar and Grill – The Adolphus

An interesting twist for a high-end hotel. Grab a barstool partner, Order a draft beer, throw some peanut shells on the floor, and order up a ribeye. Funky, kitschy Western/rodeo-themed décor. Not the best on the list, but a nice change of pace for the out-of-staters.

In the days of the British Empire, colonials could find a respite from the hot, dry, warring world in the paddle-fanned lobby of a grand hotel. The world always looks more civil through the bottom of a tall gin and tonic.

Travelers from all over the world meet in Dallas hotel bars, each with a dozen stories to tell. So, whether you’re visiting our fair city or you’re just stuck here in land-locked Dallas and are longing for the excitement and glamour of world travel, transport yourself for a while in one of Dallas’ best hotel bars.

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