For­get the mini­bar

At fancy ho­tels, the new thing is the maxi-bar

National Post (National Edition) - - THECHATTER - Kerry Medina

Ho­tels are turn­ing to new bar ex­pe­ri­ences as a means of keep­ing lux­ury cus­tomers on their toes — and in­crease favourable food and bev­er­age mar­gins, while they’re at it.

En­ter in-room cock­tail ser­vice. While in-room din­ing has been on the de­cline — show­ing a three per cent dip from 2016 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal­ity in­sights firm STR — hote­liers are re­al­iz­ing that ex­pertly shaken mar­ti­nis, rather than well-done cheese­burg­ers, are just what trav­ellers want show­ing up at their doors. In some cases, that means dis­patch­ing a bar­tender for in-per­son ser­vice; at other times, it’s about mak­ing a room’s mini­bar feel more like a home bar.

“As the mother of a sixyear-old, hav­ing a per­fectly cre­ated cock­tail in my room cre­ates a re­ally mem­o­rable mo­ment,” says Kelly McCourt, di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing at the Darcy, which opened in Wash­ing­ton in April 2017 with a cock­tail but­ler who crafts the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture drinks from a bed­side bar cart. In Mi­ami Beach, The Nobu Ho­tel’s Bev­er­age But­ler has also been go­ing strong, fer­ry­ing a trol­ley of liq­uid wares up and down guest cor­ri­dors since just af­ter it opened in late 2016. The Cam­pari so­das he shakes are com­pli­men­tary, but the ho­tel doesn’t ad­ver­tise the ser­vice in or­der to “sur­prise and de­light” guests.

Con­sider this the next evo­lu­tion in lux­ury ho­tel ser­vice; af­ter all, why go down to the bar when the drinks can come to you? Here, the lead­ers of the in-room drink­ing pack — ex­pect to see ad­di­tional re­sorts join the ranks in the very near fu­ture.


Call the “Cock­tail But­ler” at this mid-cen­tury mod­ern ho­tel near Dupont Cir­cle, and a mixol­o­gist will spend 30 min­utes cus­tomiz­ing the prop­erty’s sig­na­ture drinks in your room. You can or­der a Darcy Dou­ble, which mar­ries soda wa­ter, gin­ger beer and Green Hat Gin with a va­ri­ety of lo­cally sourced cock­tail vine­gars, or a Call of the Siren, which puts sea­sonal twists on a blend of vodka and Pros­ecco.

The catch? You have to book 48 hours ahead – mean­ing your G&T crav­ings can’t be met on de­mand – and the but­ler will cut you off af­ter two rounds. (Af­ter that, he’s off to serve some­one else.) Drinks are $17 a pop, plus a $50 ser­vice charge, avail­able nightly from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.


On Sun­day morn­ings, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., guests at this min­i­mal­ist but preppy ho­tel can buzz the bar and re­quest the Bloody Mary Cart, a Mad Men-in­spired bras­sand-mir­ror af­fair stocked with your choice of premium vodka, gin, tequila or bour­bon. Also in­cluded are the house Bloody Mary mix and your favourite gar­nishes and ac­cou­trements: cel­ery, olives, sea­sonal pick­led veg­eta­bles, jumbo shrimp and even maple-glazed ba­con.

The ho­tel’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Paul Sauceda, says the of­fer­ing — priced on par with the lobby bar at $14 per cock­tail and no ser­vice fees — has been “re­ally big with par­ents who can’t make it to the bar on Sun­day morn­ings with kids.” This, it seems, is far more doable.


The first time hote­lier Beth Clif­ford tried “dress­ing cock­tails” — ones im­bibed while get­ting dressed for din­ner — it was at in­te­rior de­signer Amanda Lin­droth’s home in the Ba­hamas. She loved the con­cept so much she brought it to her own ho­tel in Belize, whose main build­ing (or “Great House”) was dec­o­rated by Lin­droth as a con­tem­po­rary take on Bri­tish colo­nial de­sign. From their white clap­board cot­tages, guests can or­der such $8-14 drinks as Don’s Old Fash­ioned, made with De­mer­ara syrup and vin­tage Dom Omario rum, or a grape­fruit-in­fused La­guna Spritz; they’re de­liv­ered by golf cart from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., with op­tional hors d’oeu­vres (and a manda­tory 10 per cent ser­vice charge). As for Clif­ford’s dress­ing cock­tail of choice? The Queen Bee, made with wa­ter­melon juice, lo­cal honey and mint, and a dash of Pros­ecco. “It’ll get you in the mood for din­ner with­out go­ing to the full mar­tini,” she says.


This Dutch ho­tel, part of Pre­ferred Ho­tels & Re­sorts, re­opened in Au­gust 2016 af­ter a year-and-a-half-long restyling that took in­spi­ra­tion from the Am­s­ter­dam’s 17th cen­tury canal houses. Gen­eral man­ager Alex van Gas­tel saw the ad­di­tion of 1930s-style drink trol­leys in each room as an ex­ten­sion of that tra­di­tional aes­thetic; they’re more like home bars than mini­bars. Each has an ar­ti­sanal wooden de­sign and is stocked with nips of gin, mix­ers, glasses, cock­tail-mak­ing gear and a book­let of recipes. (The drinks whip up for around $16 and are per­fect for night­caps af­ter the lobby bar has closed.) Of course, there’s also a small fridge in each of the eclec­tic rooms, where you’ll find chilled Coren­wijn jen­ever and beer for a Dutch Kop­stootje combo. “Gulp one and sip the other,” van Gas­tel jokes.


It should come as no sur­prise that for his first ho­tel, night­club im­pre­sario and restau­ra­teur Charles Khabouth paid ad­di­tional at­ten­tion to his in-room bev­er­age pro­gram. Since its open­ing in Toronto’s en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict last year, the dra­matic Bisha Ho­tel has stood out for its be­spoke Stu­dio Munge fur­nish­ings, in­clud­ing bar carts — a throw­back to retro Hol­ly­wood glam­our — crowded with 375-mL bot­tles of Belvedere and Ket­tle One vodka, Hen­nessy Cognac and Tan­queray gin that are priced with­out the typ­i­cal mini­bar markup. (The Veuve is “ob­vi­ously kept in the fridge at all times,” the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager Jac­ques Lapierre ex­plained.) Should one bar cart prove in­suf­fi­cient, the two-floor Bisha suite has one in the kitchen and a sec­ond in the up­stairs bed­room. What­ever isn’t al­ready on hand — be it ice, cock­tail shak­ers, fresh juice or gar­nishes — can be sent on de­mand by the ho­tel’s Crown Ser­vice concierge team.


Ron­ald Ak­ili is best known as the mas­ter­mind of Bali’s most fa­mous beach club, Potato Head. Now, the freeflow­ing booze that’s made the club so suc­cess­ful has car­ried over into his first ho­tel, Katamama, with a trop­i­cal Zen look on Bali’s stylish Seminyak Beach. Each room has a maxi-bar in­spired by Ak­ili’s per­sonal home bar; it’s out­fit­ted with a cus­tom bar kit made by lo­cal wood­work­ers and wrapped in hand-dyed fab­rics. In terms of drinks, the fo­cus is on house-in­fused spir­its such as cit­rus vodka, lemon­grass gin and hibis­cus tequila — plus a 200-mL hand-blown In­done­sian glass bot­tle of roasted pineap­ple arak, a rice-based spirit that’s made lo­cally in small batches by a cer­ti­fied dis­tiller. (Bot­tles start at $20.) Don’t know what to mix them with? Opt for one of the $8 pre-batched cock­tails in­stead. All you need to do is shake, pour and sip.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.