Ah the joy of writing a top 10 list. Done well and one uses all one’s experience to guide potential guests to drinking experiences that will long live in their mind. Done badly and one runs the risk of alienating friends and colleagues and opening yourself up to ridicule and criticism.
Historically hotel bars have been a bit of a curate’s egg. In the early cocktail movement they were very much the cradle of hospitality and mixology but then corporate chains and mini bars removed the soul from most. In recent years, though, there has been a distinct and welcome rebirth that has seen them once more become über boites and temples to both fine living and impeccable hospitality.
With that in mind I hereby set out my top 10 hotel bars but add the following criteria and caveats. This is not a ranked list but instead a list of 10 bars in 10 cocktail-friendly cities that will provide a truly unique and memorable experience. The bartenders are not just highly proficient but also personable and deeply connected in their cities and bartending communities to provide you with options should you go and disagree with my choices.
Black Angel’s, Prague, Czech Republic
Tucked away in the basement lives a somewhat Gothic take on the modern cocktail movement that both belies and emphasises the slightly louche Prague Bar scene. Many of the world’s greatest bartenders have their roots in the former Czechoslovakia but are now transplanted – but Black Angel’s shows what great homegrown talent remains. The menu runs the gamut from ultra-classic to molecular mixology and the bartenders have never given me a bad drink nor anything less than 100% satisfaction.
Nomad, New York, US
The hotel is run by the ultra-hip Ace Group and the bar by the team behind Eleven Madison Park, so this is the king of the competitive NYC hotel bar scene. With the busy main bar and its dramatic backbar and the quieter Library (below) with its delightful cocktail trolley (think bottle service done right), the bar is easy on the eye (like most of the patrons). This is a destination you will have difficulty leaving – with awesome food and well drilled staff this spot is nothing short of brilliant.
Clyde Common, Portland, US
The Pacific North-West is pretty much ground zero in terms of American ‘craft’ culture. From craft beers to craft coffee to craft wine, plus cutting-edge creativity such as, Nike this city is taking off big time and it is epitomised by the bar/restaurant in the Ace Hotel. Home to innovator extraordinaire Jeffrey Morgenthaler, this unassuming, busy bar is cranking out craft everything with passion, precision and personable people aplenty. Several a la moment trends started here and expect many more in the future.