Among the many reasons we travel—whether it’s for the sunshine, culture, work or simply a break from the norm—is the joy of checking into a hotel. So much more than places to lay one’s head, hotels can provide built-in entertainment, and a few remarkable ones are using spirits to charm booze-loving guests into a better night. The hotels below, both domestic and international, are offering guests everything from boozy afternoon tea and deluxe mini bars to a full-blown gin takeover. Get ready to hit “purchase” and pack those bags—these are the 10 new places to check in for an extended stay.
The rickhouse at the Regent Singapore’s Manhattan Bar
Set atop a secluded cliff of Australian coast on Kangaroo Island (yes, really) lies Southern Ocean Lodge, a little bit of luxury among wilderness and the Southern Ocean coastline. Stunning views aside, the hotel houses a collection of regional wine and craft brews and also bottles its own gin and honey liqueur on-site, both of which are made locally on the island. Named for the lodge’s owner, James Baillie, Baillies 9 uses native juniper and is produced in small batches of which guests get first dibs. Island Sting, the lodge’s honey liqueur created by South Australia winemaker Chain of Ponds, is from made from local Ligurian honey. What’s more, Kangaroo Island is considered a bee sanctuary and home to the only pure strain of Ligurian bees left in the world, making the honey and spirit that much more exclusive.
In West Beverly HIlls, the newly launched W hotel offers guests the personal treatment in the best possible way: a bartender in an elevator. Available to guests on Saturday evenings, upon entering a specific elevator, patrons can choose from cocktails (served in a nifty caddy) from the drink menu at STK and Living Room Bar (both a lift ride away). This gives new meaning to “one for the road,” and there’s no doubt guest will linger a little longer on their journey between floors.
In downtown New York City, part of InterContinental Barclay’s $180 million renovation included the addition of Gin Parlour, where no less than 88 premium gins are steps from the hotel lobby. The Gin & Tonic is the house cocktail, and Orion Berge, who oversees the beverage program, knows the magic is in the details when serving guests this classic. The drink includes his house-made tonic water (made with impossible-to-get quinine syrup), and The Gin Parlour has adopted the Spanish style of serving it (with a large wine glass with fruit). Not to be overlooked: The hotel’s Caswell-Massey bath products have notes of juniper berries—a nod to The Gin Parlour.
The Gin Parlour at Intercontinental New York Barclay
One of a select number of bars in Florida that pour Pappy Van Winkle (including exclusive batches that cost upwards of $300 per shot), The Lobby Bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island takes bourbon drinking quite seriously. The newly opened bar, which also happens to have a sushi chef on hand for guest’s sashimi cravings, allows bourbon lovers to get in on the action. First Call is the limited small-batch bourbon infused on site. Each day, the mixologist creates a new blend (with spices and fruits, etc.), and guests can see the four-foot-tall infuser (situated at The Lobby Bar) as it distills. Guests can drink the latest creation alone or in cocktails until it runs out or if they reserve a seat at the Legend’s Table to sample bourbon flights, sourced by the bar lead, from Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, as well as rare sakes.
Bourbon flight, left, and Smoked Old Fashioned at The Lobby Bar
While everyone knows the best tequila is made in Mexico, few people realize that some of the best batches never make it to market. It’s typical for tequila makers to share their creations with friends and family, while the big brands get the glory. At Royal Hideaway Playacar, a resort on the Riviera Maya, they’re shaking things up a bit with an in-house tequileria. The resort invited a group of five “master tequileros" to taste more than 5,000 brands, and they narrowed the batch down to 50 craft choices served to guests at the tequileria. Because the production is so small (2,000 to 3,000 liters per month), guests would never get the opportunity to try many of these small-batch local brands elsewhere. And to further hone the tequila knowledge, Royal Hideaway also hosts a daily tequila master class.
Las Ventanas Lounge at Royal Hideaway Playacar
Billed as the world’s first gin hotel, The Distillery is a hotel, restaurant and museum devoted to gin and its history and designed by the founding directors of Portobello Road Gin. With classes on distilling, public and private drinking and dining rooms, and a handful of guest rooms to check into, the emphasis here is on education and drinking. GinTonica, a Spanish-inspired bar and kitchen, is on the first floor, serving a range of G&Ts, while The Boardroom allows for private dining and drinking. To boot, The Ginstitute (the London gin-making experience led by master distiller Jake Burger) is moving into the hotel, and guests can have a hand at blending gin on their own.
At Virgin Hotels Chicago, the hotel’s bar, The Commons Club, offers Upside Down Tea Party, its take on high tea service every Saturday and Sunday. Bartenders pour boozy tea cocktails served in teapots and tea cups with a new theme rotating in each month. For January, New Year’s resolutions inspired notable drinks like the Cheat Day (a hot tea cocktail made with mocha chai tea, mint tea, chocolate syrup and crème de menthe) and the health-inspired An Apple a Day (a cold tea cocktail made with green juice, Hendrick’s gin and Champagne). Reservations are required for the tea service, but it’s open to non-guests.
Sherry-based Sunny Day in Edinburgh cocktail at Virgin Hotels Chicago
In Edinburgh, The Balmoral treats its guests to local flavors day and night. Case in point, its whisky turn-down service featuring a menu of spirits. Once guests choose the spirit of their liking, they’ll later return to their room to find glassware, a tumbler of whisky (including The Balmoral’s whisky, Glenallachie), water and ice. As an alternate to a nightcap, the hotel’s whisky bar, Scotch, features one of Edinburgh’s largest collections (more than 500 malts, blends and vintages from the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Islay and Speyside), along with a range of Uisge Source waters for optimal whisky drinking.
The Balmoral and its whisky bar, Scotch
Finding a drink in the Big Easy is exactly that—easy. But the new Ace Hotel New Orleans is allowing guests to participate in drink making with DIY cocktail-making tools available in every room. Guest rooms are outfitted with an in-room minibar stocked with all of the ingredients for mixing. The full-size SMEG refrigerator is filled with mixers and spirits (including Valdespino Manzanilla sherry), along with a cutting board, a shaker, locally produced kombucha and bitters (including Underberg).
(image: Simon Watson)
At Regent Singapore, the acclaimed luxury property boasts the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse. Guests are given the opportunity to tour the space in the form of a three-house barreling program where they can get a sense of how the whiskey is stored and check out the hotel’s noteworthy Manhattan bar up close, along with the Ingredient Room, where the staff mixologists experiment with herbs, bitters, etc. As part of the tour, there’s also a whiskey tasting (straight from the barrels), or guests can try the house-made whiskey in Manhattan’s signature Negroni, which features it.
Manhattan bar at Regent Singapore
Think you know the booze?
Let’s start with some basics.