Photo: Ed Schipul, Flickr
In the romantic lore of cocktail history, hotel bars play a starring role. Artists, writers, politicians, actors, and folks from many other walks of life have conducted business and exchanged ideas in the luxurious setting of high-end hotels. The plush furnishings and gracious décor served as an escape from the chaotic city life in many major metropolitan areas.
Speaking of metropolitan, the old Hotel Metropole that was located at 147 West 43rd Street just off New York City's Times Square served a house cocktail called the Metropolitan that was pretty much just a Manhattan with brandy instead of rye.
The Waldorf cocktail is listed in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, by A.S. Crockett, as a dash of Manhattan Bitters (no longer available), 1/3 whiskey, 1/3 absinthe, and 1/3 sweet vermouth. However, this hotel was so famous for its cocktail scene it's got more than one namesake drink. The Astoria cocktail dated before Prohibition and contained 2 dashes of orange bitters, 1/3 Tom Gin, and 2/3 dry vermouth. And there's more: The Waldorf-Astoria (yes, this was back before they used an equal sign to divide the names) calls for a pony of Benedictine on ice topped with whipped cream. The original famous bar location was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building, but today's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is located at 301 Park Avenue in midtown.
New York's Bemelman's bar at The Carlyle may have its famous mural painted by the creator of the Madeline children's book series, but the St. Regis hotel outdoes it not only with its famous Maxfield Parrish mural of the king and giggling courtiers but with the ritzy King Cole Bar, which also claims a place in classic cocktail history with the Red Snapper. You might call that drink the Bloody Mary.
London's most famous hotel bar with a cocktail book following is, of course, The Savoy. The Savoy was the home of many original cocktail creations, but its namesake Savoy Hotel Cocktail is not so flashy -- simply brandy, Benedictine, and crème de cacao. (If in London, don't to pass up a few other historic hotels like the Connaught, Duke's,and The Dorchester, even if they don't have a famous name sake cocktail. London's gorgeous Dorchester even has its own brand of Old Tom Gin.)
One of the many cocktails originating in New Orleans traces its roots to The Carousel Bar in historic Hotel Monteleone. Sip a Vieux Carré there in the only bar in New Orleans that revolves around the room.
For more hotel lore, check out Meet Me in the Bar: Classic Drinks from America's Historic Hotels by Thomas Connors.
Alabama-born LeNell Smothers defines herself first and foremost as a bartender, but she's been called many things -- most recently, the proprietress of Casa Cóctel with partner Demián Camacho Santa Ana. She's owned her own whiskey label, called Red Hook Rye, and has been recognized by her home state as an honorary Colonel. Other interests include gin, sin and men.