There’s nothing like a great cocktail lounge – a place where bartenders are artisans and conversationalists. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many in existence anymore. Here are a few modern classics to enjoy.
The Cruise Room
The legendary Cruise Room martini bar is located just off the main lobby of the Oxford Hotel in downtown Denver. The Cruise Room opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Boasting Art Deco décor, this bar is 100% authentic and original.
The Cruise Room was fashioned after one of the lounges on the Queen Mary. Original chrome and neon reflect onto the wall panels depicting light-hearted “toasts” from around the world. The free jukebox entertains guests in this quintessential martini bar. Order a drink from the classic cocktail menu or enjoy a handmade martini!
1659 Wazee Street, Denver, CO 80202
Eric Alperin, Sasha Petraske, and Cedd Moses are the people behind The Varnish, an award-winning cocktail bar located in Los Angeles. You won’t find many trendy drinks here – just the classics and minimal variations that stay true to the history of drinking in a classy bar.
At The Varnish, there are about six bartenders in rotation, and each is well versed in both working the floor and shaking cocktails behind the bar. Alpern, who has experience racing sailboats, explains that when he was first drawn toward bartending, “I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to my space. Being behind the bar, thinking of it like a boat, it’s a real maritime environment.” As for the wheelhouse, it encompasses cocktails from the turn of the century to the 1960s.
The cocktail menu at The Varnish is small, and rotates about four times a year. At any given time, the menu includes five $13 cocktails, plus a bartender’s choice. The drinks are served on a tray surrounding a votive candle. “We think about what kind of glass, what kind of ice, what kind of garnish, what kind of a style [the cocktail] is,” Alperin says, “So that if you order all five of the drinks that are on the menu, and they all sat around that candle on the tray, it would look like a very original bouquet.” Sticking to the classic vision, the bartender’s choice is chosen from thousands of “tried and true classic drinks from the history books.”
118 East 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Located in the Fort Point section of South Boston, Drink is found in the basement of a former warehouse. The décor is as one would expect – exposed brick and wood. Bars line the front wall, forming three service and five seating/standing areas. Drinks are served in vintage glasses and mugs.
With a nod to tradition, Drink makes its ice from 50 pound blocks delivered by a true icehouse! The bartenders use antique ice tools to create a wide array of shapes and sizes carefully matched to the needs of each drink.
One can order all the traditional cocktails at Drink, but the real fun comes when you let the bartenders custom craft your drinks. There is no set drink menu, so expect surprises!
348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210
Artesian at The Langham
This is London’s most beautiful bar – with a sophisticated, Euro-Asian vibe! Located at the foot of Regent Street, Artesian at the Langham Hotel is filled with sexy seating, pagoda-like chandeliers, and beautiful people! The cocktail menu is extensive and the bartenders treat everyone like royalty.
The bar is named for a 360-foot deep artesian well under the hotel. The brainchild of David Collins, Artesian is a chic and contemporary escape from the ‘ordinary’ life.
Artesian is home to one of London’s biggest rum collections with over 50 labels, including some that are bottled exclusively. The collection is for more than just admiring though, head bartender Alex and his team have a huge selection of rum cocktails including classic and their own creations. Try their classed up version of a Pina Colada made with Elements 8 rum and Koko Kanu Jamaican coconut rum, shaken with pineapple juice and coconut cream – it’s like a holiday in a glass.
1c Portland Place Regent Street London, Greater London W1B 1JA, United Kingdom
Bar Veloce is a stylish lounge in the East Village that features easy-drinking wines that mostly sell for less than $10 a glass. The location is perfect for after-work or pre-movie drinks.
The décor is decidedly modern Italian, with European wines, hanging sausages, and a large wood bar adding to the ambiance. The walls are exposed brick with one wall lined with wine bottles and the other with mirrors.
The wine menu is extensive – each wine has a description of its body, flavors, and tannins. Glasses are priced from $9 – $17 and bottles range between $40 – $120. Small craft-made Italian sandwiches are offered to perfectly balance the drinks.
176 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10011