Bringing that old drink back
So what is it that’s leading the shift back toward excellent hotel bar and beverage offerings? Guests, of course—guests who are increasingly educated, well-traveled, and quite spirit savvy. “Staying in a hotel should be a great experience, and having a great bar that makes great cocktails—as opposed to just a bar where you can get a drink—is part of the experience,” says Chef Ken Frank, owner of La Toque restaurant in The Westin Verasa Napa in Northern California.
That’s why properties of all sizes—from quaint B&Bs and boutique hotels to 1,000-room concepts by major players like Marriott and Hyatt—are elevating their beverage offerings to match, or even surpass, local establishments.
“We have to have the credibility to match the food; we have to have a stronger beverage game because it’s a total experience. Today’s consumer is looking for both,” says Greg Griffie, senior vice president of food and beverage for Davidson Hotels & Resorts, which has more than 45 worldwide properties in its portfolio. “They want to start with great cocktails that lead into fantastic wines, coupled with a great service and food experience.”
Many of Davidson’s standout beverage outlets are cocktail-forward, partially because Griffie says cocktails run a better profit margin than wines by the glass. “We’re developing cocktails that are well-balanced, with half that are recognizable and half that are more modern, cutting-edge, and experimental,” he adds. “We want to sell consumers cocktails, but we want that cocktail to lead to wine sales as they pair wine with their dinners. That’s where we really see the business interest come to play, and not just the experiential piece.”
Craft cocktails are also the highlight at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, sister concepts in Hawaii with eight food-and-beverage outlets between them. Beachside restaurant Hau Tree specializes in mai tais with a twist—a frozen concoction made with pineapple-infused coconut rum—as well as a signature cocktail called the Fredrico, featuring Bacardi, Jack Daniel’s, and pineapple and guava juices.