Why the best bars around the world can be found in five star hotels

I only drink in hotel bars. That isn't something I just woke up and decided one day. It comes from years of hard fought experience in the trenches.

See, I used to drink professionally. By which I mean I was paid to write bar reviews for an online publication I won't mention here. It wasn't a bad job. I'd hang around in bars drinking drinks and taking notes.

The point is, I was exposed to all kinds of drinking establishments; local pubs, dive bars, trendy cocktail bars and hipster joints. Hotel bars win hands down - every time.

Here's why.

The service is better

Five star hotels pride themselves on their customer service. Which means they have to assume everyone who walks through the lobby is a paying guest with a suite upstairs.

And since guests come in all shapes and sizes, jeans and a t-shirt will get you the same welcome as a suit and tie. Walk into your local hipster dive wearing the wrong thing and you'll be met with cruel taints and sideway glances.

Soap opera ambience

Hotel bars are wonderfully over the top. All that dark mahogany, faux luxury, and dim lighting is like a fever dream from The Bold and Beautiful. So you may as well roll with it, and adopt a drinking persona to match.

The world is a stage and you're now playing the role of Senior Coconut, "a wealthy but arrogant heir to an Argentinian horse ranch." Or whatever floats your drunken boat.  

Home is where you sleep

Going home is for people with children and responsibilities. If you're seven rounds and two cheese platters into a mid-week bender you can just call down to reception and have them organise a room for you. The laundry service means you'll have a freshly pressed suit and shirt ready for you the next morning.


And in the meantime there's room service and the mini bar.

People watching

Hotel lobbies attract all types. The best ones to observe are the swingers who meet other couples in the lobby for a polite drink before they go upstairs. They'll usually have an unspoken signal for their partners to indicate a 'yay' or 'nay' for any sexual dalliance - but that's a whole other article.

The point is you'll see a far more diverse collection of people in your hotel lobby than the local RSL.

Quality of drinks

True story, I once asked for a Manhattan at a newly opened 'theme' bar.  The bartender asked if I wanted to try his house version, and since I'm not a monster I said, "yeah sure." I knew I had made a terrible mistake when I saw him reach for the Schweppes Agrum mixer, and it all went downhill from there.

Suffice to say, I did not return.

Affordable luxury

Luxury used to be something only a select few could afford. These days you'll find Louis Vuitton in upscale suburban malls, where anyone with a few hundred bucks can buy a little something, something. Drinking in hotel lobbies is much the same. You don't have to spend several hundred dollars on a room, just treat yourself to a cocktail or two in the lobby.

Conversation friendly

Maybe it's my age, or all those years I spent inside bass bins at dodgy raves, but my hearing isn't what it used to be. That means going out involves a lot of yelling in people's ears, and then nodding politely while their reply is drowned out by bad acoustics and poor life choices.

So if I want to catch up with friends and hear what they have to say about a given topic, a hotel lobby provides the appropriate level of background hum.

The snacks are better

If you're paying $20 for a drink, you want all the extra freebies you can wrangle. Hotel bars understand this, which is why they'll put out a selection of mixed nuts to greet you. This is 'nice' and makes you feel welcome.

Yes, the salted snacks are designed to make you thirsty so you drink more, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.