Hotels can feel anything but familiar – new cities, new surroundings; all things you’re not accustomed to. But dotted throughout the country are incredibly warm, intimate bars, nestled in lobbies or on rooftops of sprawling hotels, where drinkers can cut lose sans crowds. Here, the best small-scale hotel bars to sidle up to.
The Library Bar at The NoMad, New York New York
The NoMad Hotel’s namesake bar routinely cleans up in the industry awards, but veer through the main bar and to the left into The Library Bar. While The NoMad Bar is buzzing with excitement, The Library Bar is quiet and refined. It’s open to the public during the day, but during the evenings the space, complete with two-story bookshelves and a 24-foot-long mahogany bar, is reserved for hotel guests. Expect inventive menus, like the 1984 menu, inspired by the dystopian novel.
White Barn Inn Bar, Kennebunk, Maine
Nestled in the heart of a grand Relais & Chateaux property, you’ll find what once was a 17th-century barn. Now, it is a cozy bar, large enough for just ten guests at a time. The bar still hints to its former life – there are farm tools on the walls and the original beams span the roof, but with contemporary touches: floor-to-ceiling windows and a modern bar.
Lantern’s Keep New York
Lantern’s Keep is one of New York City’s stalwart cocktail bars. In this velvet-seated spot in midtown’s Iroquois Hotel, bow-tied bartenders will serve drinks, yes, but are also happy to walk you through each cocktail’s history. The highly civilized drinkery holds just 25 guests at a time.
Milk Room, Chicago
Hidden in the heart of The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, also home to the more vivacious Cindy’s, the relaxed lobby bar The Drawing Room and rowdy shuffleboard spot The Game Room, is Milk Room, a microbar with bold offerings. In this quiet spot, beverage director Paul McGee (also of Lost Lake) curates a menu based on rare or vintage spirits—find ancient bottles of Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond, 40-year-old Armagnac or rare blends of whiskies. You need to put down a deposit to reserve a spot, but it will be discounted from your overall bill.
Ghost Donkey Las Vegas
The second iteration of Nacho Jiminez’s East Village tequila hotspot landed in Vegas recently, bringing all the fun of the original haunt. Head into The Cosmopolitan and weave through the Block 16 food hall, to the speakeasy-style marked door. Step through it to find a blushing pink and purple bar and a canopy of neons and fairy lights. Sip large-format tequila drinks and snack on chorizo and tripe tacos.
The Library at the Nines Hotel, Portland, Oregon
The Nines Hotel may put a focus on contemporary art, with soaring ceilings and swanky sophisticates filling the space, but head off the main atrium to a bar seemingly pulled from a time past. The Library Bar feels like a drinking den from a British Hunting Lodge: there’s a pool table, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and rich leather sofas to sink into. Bartenders here make mean Old Fashioneds, or order from a petite menu that riffs on classic cocktails.