BYE-BYE, MINI­BAR HELLO, MAXI BAR

To in­crease food and bev­er­age mar­gins, in­ter­na­tional ho­tels are turn­ing in-room cock­tail ser­vice into the new must-have trend for seen-it-all trav­ellers

The Sunday Independent - - ECONOMY - KERRY ME­D­INA

HO­TELS are turn­ing to new bar ex­pe­ri­ences to keep lux­ury cus­tomers on their toes and in­crease favourable food and bev­er­age mar­gins.

En­ter in-room cock­tail ser­vice. While in-room din­ing has been on the de­cline – show­ing a 3 per­cent dip from 2016 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to hospi­tal­ity in­sights firm STR, hote­liers are re­al­is­ing 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 more like a home bar.

“As the mother of a 6-year-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 the Darcy, and a mixol­o­gist will spend 30 min­utes cus­tomis­ing 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 (R248) a pop, plus a $50 ser­vice charge, avail­able from 4.30pm to 9.30pm.

At the min­i­mal­ist but preppy The God­frey Ho­tel, Bos­ton, on Sun­day morn­ings from 10am to 1pm guests can buzz the bar and re­quest the Bloody Mary Cart, a Mad Men-in­spired brass-and-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, even maple-glazed ba­con.

The ho­tel’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Paul Sauceda, says the of­fer­ing – priced on a 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. At Ma­hogany Bay Re­sort & Beach Club, Belize, first-time hote­lier Beth Clif­ford tried “dress­ing cock­tails” – ones im­bibed while get­ting dressed for din­ner – at in­te­rior de­signer Amanda Lin­droth’s home in the Ba­hamas.

She loved the con­cept so much that she brought it to her ho­tel in Belize, whose main build­ing was dec­o­rated by Lin­droth as a con­tem­po­rary take on Bri­tish colo­nial de­sign.

From their white clap­board cot­tages, guests can or­der such $8 to $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 4pm to 6.30pm with op­tional hors d’oeu­vres (and a manda­tory 10 per­cent ser­vice charge).

As for Clif­ford’s dress­ing cock­tail of choice: it’s 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.

At the Pulitzer Am­s­ter­dam, styled tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Am­s­ter­dam’s 17th-cen­tury canal, 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.

At Bisha Ho­tel, Toronto, 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 pro­gramme.

Since its open­ing last year, the Bisha Ho­tel has stood out for its Stu­dio Munge fur­nish­ings, in­clud­ing bar carts – a throw-back to retro Hol­ly­wood glam­our – crowded with 375ml bot­tles of Belvedere and Ket­tle One vodka, Hen­nessy cognac and Tan­queray gin that are priced without the typ­i­cal mini­bar mark-up.

Should the one bar cart prove in­suf­fi­cient, the two-floor Bisha suite has one in the kitchen and a sec­ond in the up­stairs bed­room. | Bloomberg

AT TORONTO’S pre-em­i­nent in­ter­na­tional, five-star Bisha Ho­tel, the new in­te­rior sets the stage for a cock­tail ex­pe­ri­ence of note.

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