Skip to comments.Grand Old Hotels Take the Bar Exam
Posted on 12/06/2008 11:02:23 AM PST by EveningStar
"It's funny what a wonderful gentility you get in the bar of a big hotel," Ernest Hemingway has Jake Barnes say to Brett Ashley in "The Sun Also Rises." They are sipping nice icy Martinis at the bar of the Palace Hotel in Madrid and marveling at the elegant professionalism of bartenders. "Barmen and jockeys are the only people who are polite any more," Brett says, and Jake agrees: "No matter how vulgar a hotel is, the bar is always nice."
If only that were still true. Once upon a time, hotel bars set the standard for sophisticated drinking, with barmen who were the best in the business. Jack Williams, who was the head bartender at Chicago's Palmer House before Prohibition and then at Washington's Mayflower Hotel after repeal, claimed a repertoire of over 3,000 drinks. Nowadays you're lucky to find a hotel bartender whose vocabulary extends very far beyond Vodka-Tonic. Over the past year and a half, as I traveled around the country, I stopped in at dozens of grand old hotels, incognito, to see if their bars lived up to the tradition. I found a few gems in a sea of expensive mediocrity (punctuated with the occasional fiasco).
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Has anyone ever been to the Hotel Bel-Air bar in LA?
Anyone been to the bar at the Hotel Coronado? I’d like to know how that measures up, I love the place.
Nobody beats the off-season bartender at the Hotel Overlook. The man had a real talent for knowing just what was on your mind. Often times, the drinks were free.
Lloyd, I think his name was.
No, but I drove across the front lawn on night....
I’ve never seen the type of genteel hotel bartender described in this article. Most hotels I’ve been acquainted with just grab some doofuss off the floor and stick him behind the bar.
This thread reminds me of the movie “Silverado.” There was an “eveningstar” in that movie, wasn’t there? And that guy liked good bars.
I love old hotels and have had the pleasure of staying at many in my 51.
The old Edgewater and Broadwaters in Biloxi Mississippi
Royal Orleans and Maison DeVille in NOLA
Breakers Palm Beach
Don Cesar St Pete Beach
Penninsula-Mandarin in Hong Kong
El Esplendido Portofino
Ritz Carillion Paris
Daniel Excelsior in Venice and Ciprianis
Dolder Grande and Bar Au Lac in Zurich
Oriental in Bangkok
Trident Villas, Half Moon in Jamaica
El Prado Baranquilla
Copacabana in Rio
Hay Adams in DC
Adolphus in Dallas
Red Apple Inn Arkansas
my favorite where I once lived next door, Grand Hotel Point Clear Alabama
Rancho Encantada Santa Fe
Coronado in San Diego
Banff Lodge Alberta
there’s other’s can’t remember now.....the old colonial at Iguacu Falls
everyone should experience some of these old traditional places
Trader Vics is my favorite place to get real drinks, even though they’re pricey. Great food and drinks, old-timey kitsch.
Quite an impressive list. :)
Red Apple Inn? When we stayed there, it and the entire county was dry dry dry. We had to drive like 40 miles for take out refreshments. Lew
I HAVEEEE ES back in da day LOL! my high school prom was there
No, I’ve never been tossed out of that one. LOL
Haven’t been tossed out of any, for the record.
I’ve been to the Hotel Coronado but not to the bar.
it was dry
it was my parent’s place....i went there a bit as a boy
i forgot Mohonk in New York
Historic hotels abroad that I have visited include the Luna, in Venice, where I stayed in 1962. This establishment began as an eatery in the sixteenth century. In 1965, I stayed in the Ritz in Barcelona, which was not as pricey as its name suggests. During the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans' version of the KGB was reportedly headquartered here.
In 1969, I stayed in the Manger Hamilton in Washington, DC, but didn't get around to visiting its Purple Tree bar. This hotel, built in the 1920's on the corner of 14th St. and K St., NW reopened recently after having been closed for several years.
In New York, I stayed at the Pierrepont Hotel in Brooklyn Heights in August of 1961, not knowing at the time that Ramón Mercader had stayed there in 1940 while traveing to Mexico City, where he would assassinate Bolsivik leader Leon Trotsky. The building still exists, but it's no longer a hotel. In 1965 and 1966, I stayed at the New Yorker, a large hotel in midtown Manhattan, and in 1977, I attended the Young Americans For freedom conventiion at the Statler Hilton, the once and future Hotel Pennsylvania, whose telephone number, 212-PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was the title of a 1940 hit song for Glenn Miller (the number still works).
A few years ago, I stopped at the bar in the La Fonda in Santa Fe, NM, where, during World War II, the barkeeper was an FBI agent--on the lookout for spies targeting Manhattan Project activities taking place at nearby Los Alamos.
However, when I travel, I usually stay at Motel 6, since all I'm usually looking for while on the road are the three B's--bed, bath, and Bible.
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