The Basics Drinking Out

10 of the Most Beautiful Hotel Bars

The Nest at Thompson Seattle. Image: Nic Lehoux

Anyone who has found their way through a hotel lobby to a seat at the bar knows that drinking at a hotel bar is a decidedly unique experience—where travelers and locals come together in a way that’s just not the same as a standalone spot. Hotels have taken notice, of course. What was once an afterthought is now a full-on drinking experience, and a great deal of consideration is going into how guests experience the hotel bar, including aesthetics. Because a perfectly crafted cocktail deserves a beautiful setting, these are 10 hotel bars worldwide that are worthy of a stop for a sip or two.

  • Library Bar and The Spare Room (The Hollywood Roosevelt, Los Angeles)

    Library Bar.

    Whether the agenda is a quiet cocktail or a beer with a side of board games, the bars at The Hollywood Roosevelt have a little of everything. Look to The Spare Room for a sexy Prohibition-era vibe, cocktails and a vintage two-lane bowling alley, plus backgammon, Scrabble and more. And just off the main lobby is Library Bar, where the focus is on local ingredients and freshness in each craft cocktail.

    What to drink: At Library Bar, ask for something seasonal, omakase-style, and see what the bartender comes up with. At The Spare Room, order up a one of its punch bowls (to share with friends) or one of its Ante Up cocktails.

  • Moon Bar (Banyan Tree Bangkok)

    With an unbeatable view of Bangkok’s glittery lights, the aptly named Vertigo sits above 61 stories above the city, and the restaurant’s Moon Bar serves cocktails worthy of the 360-degree vistas. At one of the highest spots in Asia for alfresco drinking and dining, the vibe is relaxed despite the inescapable tourists who can't stop admiring the view.

    What to drink: The signature cocktail, the Vertigo Sunset, made with the juice of pineapple, cranberry and lime blended and Malibu rum.

  • Vol. 39 (The Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago)

    Mad Men vibes live on at Vol. 39, and the grandeur of the bar matches the power in the room. During renovations, vintage encyclopedias were discovered in the property, and the décor of Vol. 39 is a nod to that. With midcentury touches and dark lacquer, it’s like a chic library that happens to serve Martini flights (try the Astoria Martini, made with gin, Dolin blanc vermouth and orange bitters).

    What to drink: Anything on the rocks! The bar takes its ice program seriously, so a neat drink with a hand-carved orb might be in order. Also look for tableside cart service stocked with caviar and Champagne.

  • The Spectator Bar (The Spectator Hotel, Charleston, S.C.)

    Like so many things in Charleston, The Spectator Hotel and its chic well-appointed bar off the book-lined lobby, referred to here simply as The Bar, oozes with Southern charm, right down to the dark panels, ’20s-style décor and affable service. It didn't take long for the hotel to rack up awards and The Bar to become one of the buzziest spots to drink in Charleston, no doubt due to comfy club chairs and the craft cocktails—new takes on modern classics.

    What to drink: Any creation that comes from the hands of bartender Allen Lancaster, like the Zozzle & Zonked, made with bourbon, Armagnac, sherry, chestnut-black pepper puree and bitters.

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  • Tapas Bar at La Sirena (The Maritime Hotel, New York City)

    When Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich took over the drinking and dining aspect of Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel, beautiful things happened, including the huge white bar where the dining areas of La Sirena intersect. Recently, the bar was launched as Tapas Bar, a new restaurant in the tiled-floored barroom of La Sirena serving modern Spanish tapas (and menu of cocktails to complement them). The bar, nearly 40 feet long, and its clean white Caesarstone top ensures there’s room for everyone to settle up and sip.

    What to drink: Gin & Tonics. Bar manager Meaghan Montagano took a nod from the Spaniards with a cocktail list focusing on G&T variations, Spanish sherries and sherry cocktails.

  • L.A. Jackson (Thompson Hotel, Nashville)

    Andrea Behrends

    With views of Nashville’s rapidly changing downtown skyline, the rooftop bar at the new Thompson Hotel, L.A. Jackson is the place to be these days. With vintage photos peppering the walls, brass fixtures and room for 200 at the bar, plus full views of Music City from nearly every angle, this is the Gulch neighborhood spot for craft cocktails and DJs spinning during the week.

    What to drink: beer — try one of the lesser-known brews, mainly from the south. Cocktails and wine are offered too, and be sure to save room for Tennessee truffle cheese fries.

  • The Library (Warwick Melrose Dallas)

    Don't let the name fool you: The bar at Warwick Melrose Dallas is more sexy than studious (it was deemed one of the best Seduction Spots for America's Best Bars by Playboy), and in Dallas, it’s known among locals as one of the best piano bars in the area. Charming and cozy, the mirrored and shelf-lined bar is right at home in the historic hotel, built in 1924, and the bar snacks should not be missed.

    What to drink: Whiskey (there are some top-notch selections), wine (many by the glass) or the Wedding Cake Martini, a favorite of regulars.

  • Charles H (Four Seasons Hotel Seoul)

    Named for American cocktail writer Charles H. Baker, who traveled the world in search of great drinks and the stories behind them, this speakeasy at the Four Seasons is one of the firsts of its kind in Seoul. From the elaborate secret entrance into the richly patterned, ornamental room (designed by AvroKO), the bar is almost as inspired as the art surrounding it. The face of the bar is made with a custom metal panel created from the mold of stingray skins, and the bar staff is more than equipped to delivery speakeasy service, right down to some more obscure and local Korean spirits they’re mixing into drinks.

    What to drink: Whatever the bartender makes you. The bar team is serious, and the menu extensive—a storybook of unique cocktails worldwide. Settle in and let the team guide you.

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  • Bar Centro (The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, Calif.)

    Nearly 10 years old, Bar Centro, set inside The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, still has that special magical quality to transport drinkers either via the Philippe Starck design or the science of molecular gastronomy in the cocktails. Spanish flavors abound, and the Gin & Tonics are as equally special as the Cotton Candy Mojitos.

    What to drink: A classic cocktail with a modern take, like the LN2 Caipirinha, made with Brazilian cachaça, fresh lime and sugar, all frozen by liquid nitrogen, or the Salt Air Margarita, which is served up and topped with sea-salty air and sal de gusano (worm salt).

  • The Nest (Thompson Seattle)

    Set upon the top floor of Thompson Seattle, The Nest occupies the space of the highest hotel bar and lounge in Seattle, with 4,500 square feet of indoor-outdoor space and unobstructed views of the city, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Look for a sleek (yet approachable) interior, including floor-to-ceiling of windows that bring the outdoors in and a well-equipped bar—a showcase for the inventive cocktail program.

    What to drink: Try one of the barrel-aged drinks, or for a pick-me-up, opt for the Eagle cocktail, made with coffee-infused rye, Punt e Mes, Aperol and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur.