Hotel bars across the country are ditching the simple syrup in favor of a handcrafted cocktail menu where natural and unique ingredients shine.
While the smart and eco-chic Hotel Monaco Portland is steps from downtown's best bars, you don't even need to set foot outside the lobby to sip tasty libations. Just pull up a chair at the bar at Red Star Tavern and Roast House, home to Oregon's largest and most comprehensive bourbon wall. Here, Chef Kyle Rourke serves up a menu of small bites perfectly paired with specialty cocktails like the Ruby Gimlet, a delicious fusion of grapefruit vodka, elderflower and lime juice. Then there's the namesake Red Star Cocktail. With ingredients like vanilla vodka and a house-made citrus blend, it tastes just like a Sweet Tart (in a good way)!
Put your trust in the capable bar hands of Travis Nass, "spirit guide" at The Hermosa Inn, and you won't leave thirsty. One of Scottsdale, Arizona's most noteworthy mixologists, Nass likens his skills to that of a sommelier — getting his kicks from introducing guests to new tastes. His cocktail menu at Hermosa's signature restaurant, LON's, focuses on true classic cocktails, some of them very obscure, along with a few of his own unique concoctions. Pendennis Club, Jack Rose and Mesquite Sours are just some of the drinks you'll find on his list. Nass leads Monday Mixology lessons for just $6, where he shows attendees how to craft a different cocktail each week.
Named "Best Bartender of the Year" by Nightclub & Bar magazine last year, Jackson Cannon heads up Hotel Commonwealth's three on-site watering holes. Eastern Standard, which is credited for bringing the craft cocktail movement to Boston, is all about classics like the Whiskey Smash. Island Creek Oyster Bar puts the spotlight on locally sourced ingredients. Try the Clarke's Commandment, a mixture of cardamom and rhubarb with Beefeater gin. Part retro-cool hideout, part serious cocktail lounge, The Hawthorne is the hotel's newest bar and Cannon's labor of love. Its expansive cocktail menu is filled with nouveau masterpieces, rediscovered gems and daily changing creations.
As if being the birthplace of the Hot Brown sandwich weren't enough, Louisville's Brown Hotel is also home to more than 50 types of bourbon. Many of them are on display in the Lobby Bar's program where forward-thinking tenders curate a drink list that celebrates Kentucky's finest. The Bisontini marries Buffalo Trace cream liqueur with bourbon and a hint of nutmeg while the Kentucky Cocktail is a bit more straightforward — a merger of Maker's Mark and ginger ale. A local landmark, Brown Hotel is a part of the Urban Bourbon Trail experience that guides travelers through the area's best spots to sip American whiskey.
Forget farm-to-table. These days, a girl prefers the term "farm-to-drink." Spirits extraordinaire Klaus Puck — yes, he is related to Wolfgang, brothers in fact — uses The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles' 26th floor "cocktail garden" for fruits, herbs and flowers in a premium drink menu. After a toasty summer SoCal day, the Pineapple Mojito is practically a godsend with its refreshing combo of rum, pineapple and freshly picked mint. The Verbena Lemonade is another standout hit thanks to (what else?) house-grown verbena leaves. The cocktail garden changes seasonally and currently boasts plants like basil, fennel, orange and pansy.
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