Hotel bars are oft-unappreciated gems with staffs engrossed with hospitality and a love of all things local. Because hotels draw in strangers from across the globe, their bars offer solace where your local watering hole cannot — your identity as a stranger.
Of course, that’s not enough to make any old hotel bar worth a new venture. Like a good, strong cocktail, a sound hotel bar is made from the fusion of several ingredients, and that means it must meet a few necessary provisions. The atmosphere is expected to differ from the top watering holes around town. Music can’t be bumpin’. Intimacy is paramount — if you were looking for a raging dance scene, you would have found it at the hipster hotspot across the way. There must be a healthy ratio of bottoms to seats — planting yourself at the bar should be easy, but, like the hotel itself, too much vacancy makes any bar feel a little eerie.
That said, thanks to CVG and Cincinnati’s burgeoning tourism scene, we’re in no shortage of hotel bars from which to choose. Selections ranges from swanky to seedy, posh to gaudy. Sip on a $15 cocktail, or throw back a few beers. Pop on pumps, or come with bedhead. Here’s a handful of must-visit Cincinnati hotel bars.
The Happiest Hour
The Cricket Lounge at the Cincinnatian Hotel has a bangin’ happy hour that’s tough to beat in such a prime spot downtown, let alone a hotel bar joint.
Find deals from 4-7 p.m. every day of the week, including Fridays and Saturdays. That includes half off wine glasses, winos! Count on bartender Boz (nicknamed after ’70s guitarist Boz Scaggs) to liven up the bar with his bubbly being. The atmosphere at Cricket Lounge is ornate enough to be well-suited for a post-Aronoff stop, but just casual enough to seem unpretentious (strobe lights line the stairs). The Victorian-esque décor might seem better suited for an older crowd, but an abundant craft cocktail list and live jazz offerings enliven the atmosphere. (601 Vine St., Downtown)
Threesixty Restaurant at The Radisson will remind you what you love about Cincinnati after you trek up 18 stories to explore the skyline at this once-famed Covington restaurant. It’s lost a bit of its customer base since Over-the-Rhine’s revitalization, but the view is a must-see for longtime Cincinnati residents. Don’t bother coming on a less than radiant evening — pick one full of stars or sunshine to make for an extra-intimate drink out. Plant yourself at a cocktail table facing the glass walls and let the view go full circle. The décor might be a bit stuffy (chef and manager Josh Munchel is planning a design overhaul), but the stucco ceilings won’t look quite so tacky after a glass of wine or two. Besides, there’s so much more to look at. (668 W. Fifth St., Covington)
The Fancy Factor
The Bar at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza lives up to its swanky reputation — come here too underdressed and you might feel intimidated. What the Bar at Palm Court brings to the table in the grandeur, with its marble staircase, elaborate muraled ceilings and ornate décor, it matches in the quality of its products. Cocktails crafted by the Palm Court’s own bartender Erin Ennis explore your entire pallet; the Bourbon Blackberry is garnished with fresh, plump blackberries and a dash of paprika. “We like to use presents from Mother Nature,” Ennis says with a smile.
Although the Bar at Palm Court has become somewhat of a hotspot for the younger Cincinnati crowd, possibly thanks some of the good press its big sister, Orchids, has garnered, the crowd is still pleasantly diverse. “There’s always someone to talk to … it’s a great place to meet people outside your comfort zone,” says Ennis. (225 E. Sixth St., Downtown)
Southerby’s Pub at the Mariemont Inn truly looks like a page torn from a Charles Dickens novel — the exposed brick floors, wide-set fireplace, solid wooden blinds and rafters make you feel a little like you’re having a brew in an old English farmhouse with Pip and company. The location is perfect; lots of locals pop in after perusing Mariemont Square or catching a movie. Southerby’s boasts a TV always locked on a sports game and a solid craft beer list, plus the opportunity to order food from The National Exemplar in a far more relaxed setting (the carrot cake would go deliciously with an IPA). (6880 Wooster Pike, Mariemont) ©