Bars and restaurants within hotels have long been staples in the hospitality world, often figuring prominently among annual best-of lists. Many have been the sites of cocktail history, where drinks are born (the Singapore Sling at Raffles’ Long Bar in Singapore, the Hanky Panky at The Savoy’s American Bar in London) and bar legends are built.
Well-traveled bartenders are, we expect, dreaming about future journeys. Often, those visits include stops at hotel bars, which serve as places to meet, rest and unwind or to do a little R&D. For some bar pros, hotel bars represent future career opportunities, too.
The following three bar books center around hotels past and present. The first is a shiny newcomer that spotlights cocktails served at bars around the world right now, including many poised to become future classics. The second, published in 1930, is considered one of the seminal books in the cocktail canon. And the third updates a 1934 bar book for the modern era.
“Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktail Recipes From the World’s Most Iconic Hotels”
Alia Akkam (Hardie Grant, $20)
This lavishly illustrated newcomer, published October 2020, is sure to feed wanderlust fantasies. Cocktail recipes selected from hotel bars around the globe range from classics like the Pisco Sour from Bar Inglés at the Country Club Hotel in Lima, Peru, to the Sarova Stanley Spinner sourced from the Exchange Bar in Nairobi, Kenya, a Negroni-like variation made with equal parts gin, Campari, dry vermouth and Cointreau. Recipes and the stories behind them are punctuated by Akkam’s meditations on the charms of hotel bars.
Excerpt: “Hotel bars are often the nexus of a space—the stage. They are where the action takes place and, often in the span of just 24 hours, can take on multiple roles and create a range of experiences. When we create communal spaces such as these, we apply many of the same concepts as set design.… A sense of choreography—another element of theatre—can guide a guest’s journey. A path through a hotel’s public spaces with thresholds—transitional moments—are where the magic happens.”
“The Savoy Cocktail Book”
Harry Craddock (2015 reprint, Martino Fine Books, $19)
Harry Craddock left America during Prohibition and landed at The American Bar at London’s Savoy hotel. In the 90 years since his book initially appeared, it has come to be considered iconic. It’s full of once-forgotten drink recipes and bons mots such as “Shake the shaker as hard as you can; don’t just rock it: You are trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!” Originally published in 1930, newer reprints have kept the book at hand.
Excerpt: “Drink your Cocktail as soon as possible. Harry Craddock was once asked what was the best way to drink a Cocktail: ‘Quickly,’ replied that great man, ‘while it’s laughing at you!’”
“The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book”
Frank Caiafa (Penguin, $25)
Caiafa managed the Peacock Alley bar at NYC’s legendary Waldorf Astoria hotel from 2005 until it closed for renovations in 2017. One of his legacies is this 2016 cocktail bible, which includes breadcrumbs to 1934’s “The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.” A departure from many cocktail books, Caiafa “shows his work” in how he created and adapted drinks for the bar, which yields deep-dive lessons in drink-making, as well as the kind of breezy storytelling only an experienced barkeep can serve up.
Excerpt: “A Martini is never, ever shaken, and no, shaking does not make it any colder. Professors have been hired, equipment rented and tests performed. If you stir your cocktail for the proper amount of time, relative to the size of your ice, your Martini will reach its desired state of artic chill while maintaining its leaden imprint on your palate.… My closing thought on the subject is this: So important is the stirring of the cocktail that when someone is preparing one for me and he does nothing else right but stir it, he is already home.”