One for the Road: Historic Hotel Bars

Just about every new high-end resort and sleek boutique hotel touts its menu of signature cocktails and extra-large liquor selection. But many of the best hotel bars are actually in some of the country’s most venerable establishments. Get a true taste of history at these storied watering holes.

Bar Marmont, Chateau Marmont, 8171 West Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, Calif., 323 650 0575:

Chateau Marmont has long been a playground for Hollywood’s elite, and the Bar Marmont is no exception. Over the years it’s had many lives, including as a glam-rock club in the 1970s and as home to the fabulous French eatery La Toque in the ‘80s. These days, the cocktails are just as top-notch as the clientele.

What to Drink: Sun Goddess (Belvedere Vodka, Lillet, lemon juice, grapes, mint)

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell Street, San Francisco, Calif., 415 395 8595:

Just off Union Square, past the Beefeater doorman and up 21 floors to the top of the regal Sir Francis Drake Hotel is this swingin’ venue. The San Francisco institution is named after its one-of-a-kind host and offers 360-degree views and classic cocktails.

What to Drink: Harry’s Martini (Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, St-Germain, dry vermouth, orange juice)

J-Bar, Hotel Jerome, 330 East Main Street, Aspen, Colo., 970 920 1000:

Open since Colorado’s silver-mining boom in the late 1800s, J-Bar was converted into a soda fountain during Prohibition, but that didn’t stop the liquor from flowing—the drinks just became a little more creative. Enter the Aspen Crud, basically a bourbon milkshake. The refurbished saloon is now a celebrity hangout.

What to Drink: Aspen Crud (house-made French vanilla ice cream, bourbon)

King Cole Bar, The St. Regis, 2 East 55th Street, New York, 212 339 6857:

Small, sedate and exuding the understated opulence of classic New York, the King Cole Bar is known for its fine cocktails and huge Maxfield Parrish mural (pictured above) depicting, of course, Old King Cole. The hotel is also where, according to legend, the Red Snapper, cousin of the Bloody Mary, was perfected.

What to Drink: Red Snapper (Belvedere Vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, spices)

Oak Bar, The Hermitage Hotel, 231 Sixth Avenue North, Nashville, Tenn., 615 345 7116:

Named after Andrew Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage Hotel opened in 1910. Its gentlemanly Oak Bar, a study in dark wood and leather, has long been a favorite of Nashville natives and well-to-do visitors.

What to Drink: Tennessee Two-Step (George Dickel Tennessee Whisky No. 12, Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey)

Round Robin & Scotch Bar, Willard InterContinental, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., 202 637 3748:

This power brokers’ favorite is more than 150 years old and has hosted everyone, including Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. But it was homesick, bourbon-loving Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky who muddled the bar’s first Mint Julep—now its signature cocktail.

What to Drink: Southern Style Mint Julep (Maker’s Mark Bourbon, sugar, mint, branch water)

Sazerac Bar, The Roosevelt New Orleans, 123 Baronne Street, New Orleans, 504 648 1200:

This legendary New Orleans bar was once the regular haunt of Governor Huey P. Long, who had a suite on the 12th floor of the hotel. The Roosevelt recently underwent a $170-million renovation, and the Sazerac Bar looks as stunning as it did in 1923 when it opened.

What to Drink: Sazerac (Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, Herbsaint)

Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.

From our Friends



  • John Apodaca posted 7 years ago

    Some of these bars are good for looks but not all for drinks.

  • eguarino posted 7 years ago

    Dont forget the Palm 2 in New York which was a watering hole for newspaper people back when and the walls are lined with
    the bold and beautiful!! Graet hangout bar!!

  • zach posted 7 years ago

    i agree with Ginny. show some KY love.

  • Davis posted 7 years ago

    Wow; those are great picks. I have had the pleasure of visiting a couple of these and fully agree that they are worthy of considerable accolade.

    There is another Colorado Hotel Bar that cannot go without mention, however. Unlike the J Bar at Hotel Jerome, The Cruise Room located within the Oxford Hotel directly across the street from Union Station in historic LoDo, Denver is readily accessible and sure to please.

    The Cruise Room was downtown Denver’s first bar built, and has the considerable distinction of having been opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

    Boasting an Art Deco décor, The Cruise Room was last redecorated in 1938, and continues in the form of a full scale reproduction of the martini bar built on the RMS Queen Marry launched that same year.

    For more about the historic Oxford Hotel as well as The Cruise Room, point your browser to


    Davis Wolf

  • Max Renfro posted 7 years ago

    The "Pump Room" at the Ambassador East Hotel should be on the list. Many celebrities have been their with many pictures on the wall. It has also been mentioned in song and novels.

  • Ginny posted 7 years ago

    Thanks for more options for great bars. I'd add The Old Seelbach Bar in Louisville, KY to the list. The mahogany bar is a must feel. Atmosphere is great.

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