It’s where Jack Torrance, lit from below by a fluorescent countertop, exchanges ominous words with Lloyd over a bourbon on the rocks.
It’s also where Bill Murray’s Bob introduces himself to Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte over a whisky at the famous New York Bar in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt.
We could go on (so why not? Pretty Woman, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, basically all the James Bonds). There’s a reason hotel bars are such a popular setting for filmmakers.
They’re a place for characters in transit. A place for them to connect with others over a cocktail. There’s an anonymity that comes with being away from home, too, which lends itself easily to the covert.
We romanticise hotel bars in real life, too, especially those where famous types were known to indulge in a Martini.
The American Bar at the Savoy in London was one of the first establishments to introduce American-style cocktails to Europe. There Sinatra took his Martinis in a particular fashion: very dry and very, very cold.
While the Australian hotel bar doesn’t have the long history of celebrities, politicians and scandals that its European and American counterparts do, we are slowly emerging with our own, modern version.
“In the past, hotel bars have most often tended to be a bit placeless, aimed at hotel guests who were passing through en route to meetings or grabbing a drink before dinner,” says Tal Thorne, restaurant manager at Monster Kitchen and Bar.
You know a hotel bar is great when the locals like being there as well.”
Five Australian hotel bars to try
Monster Kitchen & Bar, Hotel Hotel – Canberra
This sophisticated, darkened lounge isn’t just packed with out-of-towners – you could easily find that half its clientele is local. And why not? It’s a stunningly smart space by Molonglo Group with a host of co-consipirators. There’s a McConnell in the kitchen (Andrew’s brother, Sean), and you can get a Lyneham (made with Tanqueray gin, capsicum, black tea, lychee and lemon) until 1am. Check, check, check.
Dinner by Heston, Crown Complex – Melbourne
Technically, it’s a bar in a hotel complex. The name implies a destination for fine dining, but not many know there’s an equally excellent cocktail bar at Dinner by Heston, complete with a plush lounge and impeccably groomed bartenders. Try the see-through Bloody Mary, made with clear tomato consommé and Worcestershire-infused vodka.
Stingray, QT – Gold Coast
Named after the short-lived Thunderbirds spin-off, the Californian-inspired Stingray attracts a friendly, well-dressed crowd up for a dance as the night goes on. It’s also north enough of Cavill Avenue to deter thonged weekenders. If you opt for a tequila flight, venue manager Jeff Clifford will join in with some educational pointers.
The Clare Bar, The Old Clare Hotel – Sydney
Instead of opting for a tasteless modern overhaul, The Clare Bar’s design is a nod to the building’s history. Illuminated panels in mustard, orange and brown are reminiscent of the ’70s. Decorative spotlights evoke the glory days of Hollywood. Cocktails are by the crew at Kensington Street Social, so expect classics such as its Dill or No Dill, made with Tanqueray gin, cucumber, dill, elderflower and lemon. And its Mr Black Martini, made with Ketel One vodka, Mr Black coffee liqueur and house-infused coffee. There’s a rooftop bar and pool above the hotel, too.
Henry Deane, Hotel Palisade – Sydney
The Public House downstairs is an excellent and historic pub (and fresh from a refurbishment only last year). But head onwards and upwards to the pinnacle, the rooftop bar Henry Deane. The soft couches, the view of the harbour and cocktails such as the Pickleback (house-blend pickle juice and Tanqueray gin), add up to a bar to settle into for the evening.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.