Tales of the Cocktail 2011 Coverage – Classic Hotel Bars: Seminar Notes

IMAG1166.jpgLast Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Classic Hotel Bars seminar, moderated by Simon Ford. Joined by panelists Dan Warner, Ago Perrone, and Max Warner, Ford led the audience on a historical survey of the greatest of the world’s hotel bars, from the Pre-Prohibition “Gilded Age” United States, through the American bartender’s “Exile in Europe” during the 1920’s-30’s, and finally to the contemporary hotel bars that just might become the “greats” of tomorrow. The seminar was covered a great deal of detail and moved at a quick pace, so here are the notes I was able to take:

Simon Ford:

  • how many cocktails, and books of cocktails have been spawned by the world’s famous hotel bars and their sometimes equally famous bartenders?
  • Charles H. Baker:
    • gained fame for his travels around the world and his tales of the drinks he had
  • Jerry Thomas:
    • once worked at the hotel bar at the Metropolitan
    • eventually died in a hotel bar as well
  • Harry Johnson:
    • German, efficient
    • Pabst Grand Circle Hotel
    • Occidental Hotel
  • Hugo Enslin
    • Wallick Hotel
    • Last cocktail book before Prohibition
    • Bar was a dump, but it was great
  • King Cole Bar
    • Famous Mural
    • depicts a king who farted
    • you can tell with way the stench travelled by the look of courtiers faces
  • Prohibition
  • Bartenders went abroad
  • Harry Craddock supposed served last legal cocktail before sailing to London to work at the Savoy

Famous Bars:

1874: The Criterion

  • 1st European Hotel to have an “American” Bar
    • American-style drinks
  • Home to first literary meeting of Holmes and Watson
  • Leo Engle moved there near end of 19th Century
    • trail blazer” set standards
    • wrote book, may have ripped off Jerry Thomas

1889: The Savoy

  • Benchmark of all hotel bars
  • had a woman bartender on staff
  • Harry Craddock there
  • Johnny Johnson
  • 1st true luxury hotel
    • electricity, speaking tubes, private baths
    • Ritz and Escoffier were brought in to consult
  • Whistler, Monet, Wilde all stayed there
  • Needed a “game changing” bar to match their standards
    • American Bar
    • American drinks to lure tourists on booze cruises

At this point in the program, the first cocktail, the “White Lady” was served

The Met Bar

  • Cocktail culture had changed, moved out of the Hotel to some degree
  • Raucous, Sex, drugs in the bathroom
  • impossible to get in (unless you were a bartender!)
  • Celebrity hangout
  • Stories of Tom Jones closing out the place with a round of “It’s Not Unusual” while the staff swept up

2009: The Dorchester

  • Italian mafia bartenders?
    • Bartender profession not seen as “respectable” in the UK
    • People just didn’t work in hotel bars
    • A lot of bartenders coming in from the continent to fill the void
  • luxurious place, garish, oppulent
  • amazing drinks
  • 15 British pounds a cocktail

Max Warner took over at this point

Cocktail #2 was served:

  • Connaught House Martini

1908: Dukes Hotel

  • The Quintessential Hotel
  • cocktail/martini bar
  • Was once a hunting lodge for Henry VIII
  • Became reknown in late 50’s/60’s
  • Alexander Pelatzi
  • Ian Fleming drank there
  • The Queen famously went there for Martinis and Armangac
  • Lady Di drank went there for tea after divorce was finalized
  • Salvatore Calabrese worked there.
  • 3,000 martinis served a week
    • 2 Martini limit was enforced there
    • person once got so tanked they thought the luggage checkroom was their hotel room
  • There’s a martini club in London that requires a receipt from the Dukes in order to be admitted

St. James Hotel

  • Origin of James Bond Name – on bond street, “james” hotel name
  • Vesper cocktail

2009 – The Langham

  • 120 million renovation of a worn out Hilton Hotel
  • great ritual, glassware
  • originally built in 1865
  • revolutionary at time
    • en suite bathrooms
    • hydraulic elevator
  • “The Artisian Bar”
    • refurb found the original artisian well
    • known for rum, largest collection of Genever
    • Mark Twain drank at original bar
    • Charlie Sheen
    • Sherlock Holmes (again in the books)
    • Golden Eye had scenes there
    • up for 3 TOTC awards

The Connaught

  • Max W’s favorite bar
  • Best cocktail design & service
  • Had an “American Bar” before refurbishment
  • The seminar finished off with Ago Perrone demonstrating the Connaught’s tableside Martini service and a hatefest on the Raffle’s Hotel’s denegrated version of the Singapore sling




  1. […] For some-more info on a Savoy, check out a prior underline on the “Classic  Hotel Bars” seminar. […]

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