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How Hotels Are Shaking Up the Craft Cocktail Scene
Inventive menus, customized drinks and on-demand service are just a few trends on the horizon.
Whether you want to master the art of mixology or savor innovative creations, hotels are giving craft cocktail enthusiasts even more reasons to visit.(Getty Images)
Elaborate craft cocktails (think: Any Port in a Storm or bathtub gin) are all the rage at restaurants and bars across the globe. Driven in part by millennials who are choosing wine and spirits over beer, the craft cocktail trend is spreading into hotels that are increasingly targeting Gen Y. According to Allison Patel, founder and owner of Brenne French Single Malt Whisky, a craft cocktail is one that is made with high-quality ingredients that are often locally sourced or seasonal, and is well-balanced and visually appealing. "It's the difference between fast food and a gourmet meal," she says, noting that "crafting" usually involves inventive tools, specialized ice and appropriate glassware for each drink.
From teaching patrons the art of mixology to providing in-room bar carts and personalized recipes, hotels are getting crafty about their spirits. Here's the inside scoop on how inventive hotel mixologists are adding creative twists to their menus – and other up-and-coming cocktail trends to look out for this year.
Private and On-Demand Mixology Service
At The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Chicago's River North area, guests can request its Prohibition Porter to mix handcrafted cocktails in their room or anywhere on property. Guests can choose up to four drinks from a 1930s specialty cocktail menu, including classics like a French 75, Gin Rickey, Tom Collins and Mary Pickford, that a mixologist will create over the course of 30 minutes. "We won't be lighting anything on fire or making you assemble your own drinks; instead, the Prohibition Porter is all about first-class service, which never goes out of style," says Kim Corrigan, general manager of The Gwen.
Hotel bar closed? Never fret: At The Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, you can summon a mixologist to your room at any time of day, who will arrive with a fully-stocked bar cart ready to make your desired drink. Craving a post workout drink? At the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a boutique property with four floors of fitness facilities, you can quench your thirst with a craft cocktail from a roaming bar cart in the men's locker room.
In Park City, Utah, ski fanatics can hit the slopes while the Après Butler at the Waldorf Astoria Park City prepares a personalized cocktail kit. The kit includes your preferred libation along with a shaker, ingredients, recipe and custom après cheese and charcuterie spread. Upon request, the butler will light the fire, draw a warm bath and leave warm robes and slippers.
If you fancy yourself the next cocktail master (think: Tom Cruise in "Cocktail"), many hotels offer the chance to learn the art of mixology. Ocean Key Resort & Spa in Key West, Florida, for example, gets you up to speed in your room with their Craft Cocktail Experiences program. Plus, guests can attend the resort's two-hour mixology class, offered Monday through Friday.
In Playa del Carmen, at the Viceroy Riviera Maya's Coral Grill & Bar, the resident mixologist coaches guests in the art of mixing sophisticated cocktails at their convenience. Upon completion of the one-and-a-half hourlong course, guests receive a diploma certifying them as an “Artisan Cocktailier.”
Alternately, after a tiring day on the slopes at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, guests gather round the outdoor fire pit for an Après Mixology lesson in making signature winter cocktails and creative après fare. Other hotels and resorts offering on-site cocktail classes include The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe and the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino.
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Naples, Florida, even lets you brush up on bartending remotely via Periscope videos. Watch mixologists prepare drinks as they share tips on techniques and offer insight into everything from ice to ingredients.
For patrons with discerning palates, several hotels are creating customized craft cocktails tailored to guests' tastes. The bartender at The Pierre New York, A Taj Hotel, for example, asks guests about their preferred spirits, favorite memories, smells and tastes, and even how their day is going to concoct three sample cocktails along with a recipe to take home.
And the hip and modern Red Bar and Lounge at Hotel Irvine in Orange County, California, offers a "Dealers Choice" option during happy hour. Guests are invited to share their favorite spirit so the bartender can craft a special drink.
Patrons of Le Méridien Indianapolis' Spoke & Steele eatery can join its invitation-only Craft Share program, giving them access to a new cocktail each month, which is aged by barrel for six to eight weeks. Members have an apothecary-style bottle stored in the restaurant's drink case to enjoy at Spoke & Steele or the hotel's Steve McQueen-inspired private drinking room anytime throughout the month. Prospective Craft Share members must submit a request on Spoke & Steele's website, and once vetted, an invitation is extended by mail. Spoke & Steele also creates custom barrels with personalized cocktails for brides- and grooms-to-be or groups.
The Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City has partnered with Angel's Envy to create an exclusive, limited edition bourbon blend. The Lobby Lounge offers pours of the blend, along with the distillery's Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey finished in port wine barrels and Angel's Envy Rye finished in hand-selected Caribbean rum casks. Meanwhile, when guests check into a suite at the Mandarin Oriental, New York, they receive an invitation to the hotel's MObar to sip a complimentary cocktail that's themed according to their suite, such as the Sunrise Cocktail for the Central Park View Suite and the Dusk Concoction for the Hudson River View Suite.
For "Star Wars" enthusiasts, the Anaheim Marriott recently served a series of specialized movie-themed cocktails for visitors attending the Star Wars convention. Drinks included everything from a Han Shot First to the Slave 1 at nFuse Bar + Kitchen, just steps away from Disneyland. The property, which offers more than 65 whiskeys and bourbons, regularly crafts custom cocktails tailored to special events.
Many major hotel brands are taking notice of the booming craft cocktail trend, implementing new menus and programs across their portfolios. Marriott is tapping into the bourbon craze with a new program in 200 of its hotels' Greatroom lobbies, offering handcrafted cocktails and bourbon flights. Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside has adopted the program and offers 16 bourbon varieties, as well as a tasting of three bourbons with large single spheres of ice for $18 at its Crimson Tavern restaurant.
Westin Hotels & Resorts is also offering handcrafted cocktails at all of its lobby bars. The menu features fresh, locally produced small-batch brand spirits, such as the Tamarind Paloma cocktail at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa designed to evoke the deserts of Tucson, Arizona. Meanwhile, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' cocktail menu features a choice of the most requested classics, revised classics and neat pours, offering a selection of spirits.
A nod to the classic European aperitif hour, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts hosts sparkling aperitifs each evening at their lobbies, which transform from coffee bars into swanky lounges with destination-inspired menus filled with effervescent cocktails and spritzers.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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