Drink in History at 5 Classic US Hotel Bars

Sep 25, 2015

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Hotels do their best to make guests feel right at home, but it’s their bars that often inspire us to feel far away — or even transported to another era. Following her picks for great US hotel rooftop barsTPG Contributor Kelsy Chauvin takes a look at five historic American hotel bars that are worth a peek … or rather, a sip.

The US Grant Hotel
The US Grant Hotel’s Lounge: serving gender equality since 1969. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

The Grant Grill Lounge, US Grant Hotel — San Diego, California

History shares a cozy banquette with herstory at the Grant Grill, which was literally an old boy’s club until the 1969 women’s “invasion” (some call it a simple “sit-in”), which changed the restaurant’s gender policy. Decades later, the former speakeasy Lounge remains one of the most classically suave bars in town, complete with Art Deco details and live music on the weekend. Most importantly, this outfit offers a cocktail menu so robust it would make a bootlegger blush — including its own 100-Day Barrel-Aged Centennial Manhattan, created to commemorate the hotel’s 100th anniversary in 2010.

The US Grant is a Starwood Category 5 hotel, with rooms starting at $219 or 16,000 points per night. Remember that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and/or its business version, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express each offer annual elite credit of two stays and five nights, bumping up your SPG Platinum status.

Warm up inside Seattle
Warm up inside Seattle’s classic Polar Bar in the Arctic Club Hotel. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

Polar Bar, Arctic Club Hotel — Seattle, Washington

Here you can almost smell the old money that built this gorgeous society club building in 1917. Times were good back then, flush with a gold rush economy that inspired well-moneyed men to erect stunning spaces like the Arctic Club and its velvet- and leather-clad Polar Bar. But don’t get too mesmerized by gazing at the fireplace all night while clutching a fine smoky bourbon — leave time to wander up the marble staircase to behold the vaulted Tiffany stained-glass ceiling in Northern Lights Dome Room.

As a Doubletree by Hilton, the Arctic Club Hotel starts rooms at a nightly rate of $186 or 50,000 Honors points. Automatically bump up your HHonors elite status with the Hilton Honors Card from American Express, the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and/or Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card. Note that the Reserve card also provides two free weekend nights annually at any Hilton property — like, say, the Arctic Club Hotel.

The Plaza
The Plaza’s Rose Room is the ultimate Manhattan classic. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

Rose Club, The Plaza — New York, New York

If “grandeur” were an actual interior décor term, the Rose Club would be its showroom. Formerly known as the Persian Room, this plush, posh lounge once hosted musical legends such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Liza Minnelli, and you’ll still find their photographs lining the walls. You can come here for live jazz every Wednesday or any time you’re hankering for fine wine or a classic cocktail in a quintessentially Manhattan hotel bar.

Nightly rates at The Plaza start at $645 and rise steeply from there — but fortunately, you don’t have to be a guest to visit the Rose Club. At this Fairmont-managed property, however, know that the Fairmont Visa Signature Card offers two complimentary nights when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening an account, and earns you 5x points for every $1 spent on-site — including your bar tab the Rose Club. The hotel is also listed with American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, which allows cardholders of the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express version to book through the Amex FHR travel portal to receive a room upgrade (when available), late check-out, complimentary daily breakfast for two and a $100 food and beverage credit.

Get a dose of sunny California at El Encanto
Get a dose of sunny California on the deck at El Encanto’s Lounge. Photo by Kelsy Chauvin.

The Lounge at Belmond El Encanto — Santa Barbara, California

Judging by its latest, well-polished incarnation, the El Encanto’s Lounge may seem like any other chic Santa Barbara gathering spot. But this storied hotel dates back to 1920 when its bungalows played host to stars from Hollywood’s golden age (hello, Gable and Lombard), as well as later luminaries like Barbra Streisand. Its hilltop lounge surely lured them in for cocktails and enchanting ocean views. Now you can drop by as well, either for afternoon tea or something stronger from the signature cocktail menu.

Nightly rates start at $425, but you can book the Belmond El Encanto through the Visa Signature Hotels portal with a Visa Signature card (e.g., Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Hyatt Credit Card, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, US Bank FlexPerks, etc.), to receive perks like a room upgrade and late check-out (when available), complimentary breakfast, VIP guest status and a $25 food or beverage credit.

Head to Maggie
Head to Maggie’s, whether Lake Placid calls for sweater or shorts weather. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

Maggie’s Pub, Lake Placid Lodge — Lake Placid, New York

Although Maggie’s is the ultimate upstate pub for winter chills, complete with deep armchairs, board games and a crackling fireplace, it doesn’t have to be sweater weather to appreciate the old-school vibe of this refined, rustic lodge. The property started as a family retreat back in 1885 and morphed into a hotel by the 1940s, but it had to rebuild its arts-and-crafts stylings after a fire in 2005. Today the hotel and Maggie’s Pub serve guests keen on majestic nature views with their well-made toddies in hand — especially while kicking back in Adirondack chairs in the middle of their namesake mountain range.

Nightly rates start at $424 for a cabin and $509 for a Lakeview Suite. However, since Lake Placid Lodge is listed with American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, cardholders of the The Platinum Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN can book through the AmexFHR portal to score a room upgrade (when available) and complimentary lunch or dinner for two at Maggie’s Pub, among other perks. Cheers!

Which are your favorite historic bars in America? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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