If it’s old world charm you’re after, or you simply fancy yourself as being a little bit posh, I highly recommend drinking in hotel bars.
To be clear, I’m not referring to the tragically grim bars found in 3-star hotels around the world, filled with dusty bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label. I’m talking about proper ones, the ones where denim is frowned upon, and where the waitstaff wear waistcoats. Think of the bar from Lost in Translation and you’re getting there.
Why so great? The high barrier to entry.
I suppose you could walk in off the street, and indeed I have. But in most cases the people who are drinking in hotels are also staying there. A five star hotel has a five star price tag and a reputation to uphold. Bad behaviour of the kind that alcohol exacerbates is generally not welcome. Women are mostly not leered at by drunken idiots. People are very rarely punched. Standards of dress are subtly enforced and people’s actions tend to follow suit. I got very drunk indeed in a hotel bar in Hong Kong, but because I was well behaved and only staggered a little bit, there was not the slightest problem.
Most importantly hotel bars are quiet. I’ve never liked crowded and noisy places, even as a teenager, so hotel bars are my dream. Everything is comfortable, tables are situated far apart, and shouting to be heard is actively discouraged. This means that you can have a conversation with your companion without wanting to stab everyone around you.
The price tag means that there is also usually a good selection of drinks along with knowledgeable and attentive staff. A barman in Cairns (of all places) once made me a drink with bourbon and dry ice that smoked like a dying bonfire and it was delicious. The drinks don’t come cheap but I think they encourage a healthier drinking culture, because you’re not slamming them down to escape the oppression of too many people and too much noise.
Next time you’re going out for a drink, may I humbly suggest the bar of the biggest, poshest hotel you can find? You may enjoy it rather more than you expect.