Hotel bars are the fast track to opulence.
When your wallet says no to spending hundreds of dollars on a bed for the night, the price of an Old-Fashioned will let you sail past the uniformed doorman, glide through a marble-clad lobby and sink into a leather armchair beside an open fire.
Budapest-based and New York-raised travel writer Alia Akkam’s new book, “Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktail Recipes from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels,” celebrates hotel bars and their signature drinks.
While Covid-related restrictions mean that we can’t jet-set like we used to, the hospitality industry is opening back up and is in need of our support.
Most major cities have at least one grande dame hotel keen to have you back through its doors, so let this selection of edited excerpts from Akkam’s book inspire you to pay a socially distanced trip to a local hotel or to make plans for future travel adventures.
Connaught Bar, London
What to drink: Mulata Daisy (rum, lime, creme de cacao liqueur, Galliano, fennel seeds)
This Mayfair institution, at which Charles de Gaulle often lodged, telegraphs a hushed country estate; its carpeted staircase with glossy wood bannisters is a highlight. Scope out the massive art collection – peppered with pieces by greats such as Louise Bourgeois and Julian Opie.
Lobby Bar at Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg, Russia
What to drink: Million Red Roses (vodka, grapefruit juice, honey syrup, sparkling wine)
Past the Ludwig Fontana-designed, neoclassical façade of Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, the barrage of marble and gilt carries one back to tsarist 1875, when the property opened as Grand Hotel d’Europe. Dostoevsky came around often, Tchaikovsky honeymooned here and the enigmatic monk Rasputin, from behind drawn curtains, dined with politicians and paramours alike.
KOLLÁZS, Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, Hungary
What to drink: Smoky Forest (mezcal, blood orange, pine)
A 1906 Art Nouveau masterpiece, originally built for the Gresham Life Assurance Company by Zsigmond Quittner and József Vágó, it retains gobs of Secessionist-style features, including Zsolnay ceramic tiles, Miksa Róth-made stained glass, wrought-iron railings and peacock gates.
Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt New Orleans, Louisiana
What to drink: Ramos Gin Fizz (gin, simple syrup, egg white, cream, soda water, lemon and lime juice)
Seymour Weiss, owner of the Roosevelt New Orleans hotel, was buddies with Huey P. Long, the Louisiana governor and US senator who maintained a suite on the 12th floor of the hotel. The politician’s favorite drink was the frothy, labor-intensive Ramos Gin Fizz.
The Drake Hotel, Toronto, Canada
What to drink: 92nd Street (Scotch whisky, green Chartreuse, apple sencha tea, green curry leaf and vanilla seltzer)
In Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood, this property is an incubator of local, national and international art, with a proper performance venue in place, and that creativity extends to the lounge and mural-covered rooftop Sky Yard, where an artistic crew convene over drinks.
Asia and Australia
Blu Bar on 36, Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks, Sydney
What to drink: (vodka, peach and nectarine vermouth infusion, orange bitters)
It would be foolish to come all the way to Sydney and not spend ample time basking within a sight line to the Sydney Opera House. That’s why many travelers plot an evening, or an afternoon tea, at Blu Bar on 36. From the 36th floor of the Shangri-La, it feels as if you are floating over the concrete, shell-shaped architectural wonder.
Rock Bar, AYANA Resort and Spa, Bali, Indonesia
What to drink: Lychee Martini (lychee, vodka, vermouth)
On a clifftop above Jimbaran Bay, AYANA has a dozen swimming pools and butler-serviced villas tucked into the gardens. Rock Bar is maybe the most striking aspect of the property, where you can see the sun slink into the horizon, 14 meters (46 feet) above the Indian Ocean.
AYANA Resort and Spa, Sejahtera, Jl. Karang Mas, Jimbaran, Kec. Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80364, Indonesia; +62 361 702222
Chill Bar, Six Senses Laamu, Maldives
What to drink: Abandon Ship (tequila, mango-cilantro cordial, pineapple, citrus and spicy fire-water tincture)
Guests trek to remote Laamu Atoll to stay in one of the beachfront or overwater thatched villas at Six Senses Laamu. When they are done with their slate of open-air yoga classes and Ayurvedic treatments, they scatter off to the overwater Chill Bar and wait for the DJ or plop down onto one of the low-slung wooden stools at Sip Sip, the sunken bar that looks onto the Indian Ocean.
Six Senses Laamu, Laamu Atoll 15090, Maldives; +960 680-0800
River Lodge, Royal Chundu Island Lodge, Kambora, Zambia
What to drink: Gin and tonic
African sunsets are a sight to behold every evening, tinting the sky in a collision of deep red and orange hues. The ritual of the sundowner can be traced back to 19th-century Africa, when British officers would revive with a cooling, dusk-time nip of gin. Since those colonial days, the quenching pastime has evolved. The drink is largely a gin and tonic now, and it’s an essential component of any African holiday, particularly contemplative safaris.
The Willaston Bar at the Silo Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa
What to drink: Rose Ginvino (South African Musgrave rose gin, chenin blanc, lime juice, grapefruit juice, rose syrup, egg white)
Powerfully intertwining the past and present on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is Zeitz MOCAA. Directly above the museum is The Silo Hotel. Opened in 2017, featuring a private art gallery and panoramic rooftop pool, it is a commanding presence, with “pillow” windows that soften the well-preserved concrete exterior. Through those bubbles of bloated glass, you’ll be nothing short of transfixed by the appearance of Table Mountain and the harbor.
The Silo Hotel, Silo Square, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8801, South Africa; +27 21 670 0500
Alia Akkam’s “Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktail Recipes from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels” is published by Hardie Grant, with hardcover copies retailing at $19.99 and Kindle at $8.11.