Platinum List 2018: Best Hotel Bars

Bar Hemingway, Broken Shaker, Connaught Bar, Scarfes Bar

September / October 2018
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Chic enclaves, historic rooms and elegant nooks provide a plush setting for artisanal and classic cocktails.

Bar Hemingway at Ritz

Paris, France

This cozy space at the Ritz may be as famous for its legendary regulars—Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, its namesake author—as for its classic libations, overseen by head bartender Colin Field. The venerable spot beguiles guests with wood paneling, leather seating and library of whiskies.

Broken Shaker

Los Angeles, California, United States

Ultra-hip, yet relaxed, Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel has quickly become a downtown hotspot thanks to its city views, cool design and creative cocktail menu. For a real boost, try a Carrot Colada (gin shaken with Montenegro, carrot, coconut, orgeat and marjoram pink peppercorn cordial).

Connaught Bar

London, England

Impeccable service, delectable drinks and a world-renowned martini trolley lure the chic crowd to this platinum-walled watering hole designed by interior master David Collins. 

Scarfes Bar at Rosewood

London, England

A woman walked into a bar recently—specifically, Scarfes at London’s Rosewood hotel—wearing shorts and flip-flops. The first thing she wanted to know was whether she met the dress code. If you’ve ever seen Scarfes, you’ll understand why. The bar has an Edwardian gentility to it—velvet chairs, marble columns, antique books—albeit with a few modern flourishes from designer Martin Brudnizki. “We told her she was dressed for the weather, so the answer was yes,” says bar manager Martin Siska. “We don’t want people to be scared to come in.”

There’s no shortage of swank cocktail bars in London, but few are as doggedly relaxed as Scarfes. They have nightly live jazz here, and the crowds tend to be lively. As for the staff: On a recent visit my waiter gave me a hug as I left. That doesn’t happen often. This breezy approach can be traced to the man behind the name: the British satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, whose gleefully caustic illustrations decorate the walls. 

At the age of 82, after 50-odd years lampooning public figures, Scarfe has lost none of the sardonic, skewed wit that made him a star, and the bar has wholeheartedly embraced this spirit. “I remember when I got the call asking me to get involved,” Scarfe says. “At first I wondered, Is it because I’m a well-known drinker? But then I thought, If the Prince of Wales can have pubs named after him, why can’t I?” Today, Scarfe’s personality is apparent in pretty much every aspect of the bar, most visibly in its cocktail menus. 

Last year, the artist collaborated on the bar’s first celebrity-themed list, and provided more illustrations for its 2018 edition, which is superimposed on the pages of a vintage bartender’s guide, as if he had plucked it off the shelf and wantonly defaced it. The menu contains 18 caricatures of figures such as Danny Boyle, Simon Cowell and Amy Winehouse, with the corresponding cocktail reflecting an aspect of the person’s character.

If that sounds a little high-concept, so are the infusions and garnishes they use: tobacco, leather, gravy, hay, cauliflower. “We went a bit wild on ingredients,” says head bartender Greg Almeida, adding that each menu takes about eight months to create, meaning they’ll need to start work on next year’s soon. Both Almeida and Siska, sitting in the bar on a recent afternoon, stiffen at the thought. And it’s not only the recipes that require hours of slog. 

The menu design is a masterpiece of comedic elaboration, with detachable postcards and Post-it notes. In the case of Off the Market—a Prince Harry-themed cocktail tied to his wedding—a box arrives at the table bearing a hip flask of 21-year-old Royal Salute Scotch. In the Scarfes “lab,” they continue to work on concoctions like the Naturalist, named for Sir David Attenborough, which contains Star of Bombay gin infused with flowers, grass and earth. In order to avoid creating a cocktail that tastes like mud, the team experimented with a sack of soil and a rotary evaporator, eventually producing a surprisingly delicate (and, yes, slightly earthy) twist on the dry martini. 

As the cocktails break new ground, so too will the artworks. “Scarfes is like a living art show for me,” says Scarfe, who will continue to create new illustrations for the bar. “So if you want to see my latest work, you can come here. Hopefully the drink will make them funnier.” —Chris Wright
 

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