Gone are the days when ordering a drink at a hotel bar was an activity reserved for killing time. Hotel bars, even those at nicer properties, were for many years more or less homogenous, often featuring bland, conservative decor, canned music and a fairly predictable selection of beers, wines and cocktails – certainly not the sort of place you’d want to spend a Saturday night. But with craft cocktail culture taking hold in cities across the globe, it was only a matter of time before hotels began to take notice and get on board.
Today’s hotel bars harken back to the classic cocktail lounges of the 1940s and ‘50s, to the era of Conrad Hilton, when the music was live, everyone dressed to the nines, and bartenders reigned supreme.
Jared Bracci, resident mixologist at NoLo Bistro + Bar, The Stonehedge Hotel & Spa’s signature bar and restaurant, has created innovative bar menus for several local hotspots including M.C. Spiedo in Boston and Stella Blu in Nashua, N.H. He thinks hotel bars started getting their groove back with the launch of Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ W Hotels brand back in the late 1990s.
“Each W Hotel has a trendy restaurant and bar – some of them even have nightclubs,” Bracci says. “They were so good that [W Hotels’ bars] began attracting locals.”
As part of The Stonehedge Hotel & Spa’s recent renovations and rebranding, the former Left Bank Restaurant and bar have been completely reimagined and revamped under the name NoLo, short for North of Lowell — appealing to locals and hotel guests alike who appreciate inventive, hip, seasonally-inspired cocktails and cuisine.
“Customers these days expect better quality than in the past,” says Bracci, whose goal is to bring Boston-style urban sophistication to the bar while also helping NoLo develop a unique regional identity and character.
“Our cocktail menu is based on the Merrimack Valley,” Bracci says. “We use as many locally made spirits as we can get our hands on, and many of our signature drinks are named after notable people from the region.”
“Betty Davis Eyes” (muddled blueberries, Ciroc apple, Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur, cranberry juice, soda, apple wedge) and “Daniel Webster’s Mule” (Tito’s Vodka, fresh lime juice, ginger beer) are just two examples from Bracci’s cocktail menu.
“I think the quality of the locally made spirits we use is much better than what hotel bars have used in the past,” says Bracci. “In addition to our new cocktails, we can make old fashioned drinks much better quality, too. That’s another reason hotel bars are better these days. Better ingredients make superior cocktails.”
Follow The Stonehedge Hotel & Spa on Facebook to find out what Jared will be shaking up next: Facebook.com/TheStonehedge.