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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12, 2006—Since the days when the Founding Fathers gathered in local taverns to voice their dissention and hatch a new Republic, Americans have had a love affair with pubs and bars. Many of these watering holes can be found in historic hotels across the country, where movers and shakers have mingled with tradesmen and tourists. Through war and peace, prohibition and segregation, these hotels have been the perfect host, offering cold drinks and convivial conversation. Whether you like your history straight up, or with a twist of humor, National Trust Historic Hotels of America invites you to belly-up to some of the country’s legendary bars. Enjoy a signature cocktail, soak in the flavor of yesteryear and sample a salty tale or two as you raise a toast to some of America’s great gathering spots.
View some of the Historic Bars Signature Cocktails Recipes
The delectable yet distasteful-sounding Aspen Crud was created during the days of Prohibition when the J-Bar in the Hotel Jerome, Aspen, Colo., was converted to a soda fountain. Crud was the code word instructing the bartender to add several shots of liquor, usually bourbon, to the rich milkshake served at the bar-turned-soda fountain.
The Cruise Room at The Oxford Hotel in Denver opened its doors on December 6, 1933, the day after Prohibition was repealed. It was christened the Cruise Room as it was designed to replicate a lounge on the luxury liner the Queen Mary. The walls were, and still are, adorned with bas-relief panels that depicted “toasts” from countries around the world. Germany’s entry paid homage to none other than Adolf Hitler. The panel was removed when the United States entered World War II.
Although Prohibition was abolished in 1933, remnants lingered in many states in the form of “blue laws.” Until the state of Washington repealed one of its remaining restrictions in 1976, lounges were strictly forbidden from being viewed from the outside lest the temptation of seeing a bar and bartender mixing drinks would lure an unwilling person inside for a drink. Oliver’s Lounge in the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle emerged as the city’s first “daylight bar,” opening for business with large floor-to-ceiling windows and 300 panes of glass showcasing street-side activity.
In 1887, Hermann Kampmann, general manager of The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, decided that the hotel’s new bar should be modeled on the House of Lords Pub in London. An architect was dispatched to England and returned to replicate the original tavern, down to the paneled cherry wood ceilings and booths, French mirrors and decorative glass cabinets at a cost of $60,000. It was in this bar that Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of his Rough Riders, the storied cavalrymen of the Spanish-American War.
In 1888, the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., opened to great fanfare. Owners Elisha Babcock H.L. and Story secured all liquor rights in town so that no other businesses could serve alcoholic beverages. The bar itself was almost 50 feet in length, with a ninety-degree angle at one point and a forty-degree angle at another. Constructed by the Brunswick Company in Pennsylvania, it was shipped fully assembled around Cape Horn. The spacious gentleman’s bar was acclaimed for its size and adjoined the men’s billiard room (in keeping with Victorian times, no women were allowed in the bar). This historic venue has enjoyed enormous popularity over the years, surviving Prohibition thanks to its close proximity to Mexico, which kept the bar well-supplied. During World War II, the Del’s bar saw increased action when the resort housed many Navy pilots who trained nearby. In fact, the hotel manager later admitted that bar receipts—and bar receipts alone—had kept the Del financially intact during the otherwise impoverished war years. Today, the original 118-year old bar is located in the Babcock & Story Bar, offering cocktails and light fare, indoor and outdoor seating and spectacular ocean views.
The bar at The Driskill in Austin, Texas, captures the spirit of Texas justice. It was there in 1934 that Frank Hamer and the Texas Rangers hatched plan to capture notorious outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. During the meeting, Hamer agreed to aid the Rangers by setting a trap at a nearby mail drop, ultimately resulting in the demise of Bonnie and Clyde.
The Silver Dollar Bar opened in The Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 1950. It boasts a serpentine, mahogany-rimmed bar, inlaid with 2,032 un-circulated 1921 silver dollars from the Denver mint. The bar’s classic Western design also includes thirteen leather murals by Western artist Paul Clowes, each inspired by an actual event in Jackson Hole’s colorful history. The bar remains a popular gathering spot and draws an authentic mix of senators, cowboys, skiers, community leaders and politicians.
A local hot spot and a landmark in Paso Robles, Calif., the Cattlemen’s Lounge at the Paso Robles Inn is an authentic western bar and lounge—a great place to learn about Paso Robles history and culture. At least twice over the years, the lounge has seen horses ridden up the stairs and into the bar. A local patron known as “Grandpa” saddled up in 1956 followed by his grandson in 1976. As might be suspected, this is a family tradition that is strongly discouraged by the management!
The Algonquin Hotel in New York has been a gathering place for luminaries for decades. In addition to a drink menu that pays homage to the hotel’s literary roots, with offerings such as the Slush Pile Martini, The Parker, My Fair Lady and The Vicious Circle, all cocktails are served on napkins inscribed with Dorothy Parker’s quote, “I love a martini–but two at the most. Three, I’m under the table; four, I’m under the host.” Now, the Algonquin offers guests a chance to capture their share of the limelight with the Martini on the Rock. The drink carries a $10,000 price tag and includes a private meeting with the hotel’s preferred jeweler to select the perfect piece of “ice.” At a pre-arranged time and place within the hotel, your signature drink will be poured – and memorably garnished.
The Last Hurrah Bar at the Omni Parker House in Boston derives its name from the novel 1956 The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor. Although the author claimed it was a work of fiction, it bore significant resemblance to the life and career of Boston’s legendary mayor and governor, James Michael Curley. Curley reportedly considered filing a libel suit against O’Connor but was actually rather amused with the attention and eventually backed down.
A long-time favorite New Orleans hotspot and the city’s only revolving bar, the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone has lured guests in from Royal Street to take a spin on the 25-seat, bright circus-clad merry-go-round. Patrons circumnavigate at one revolution every 15 minutes, but the ride doesn’t end there. Since 1949, some of its riders most creative ideas, inspirations and business deals have been shaken and stirred to fruition here, not to mention some of the best spirits. The Goody and The Vieux Carre cocktail were first concocted at the Carousel Bar. This carousel is the only one in New Orleans that you have to be 21 to ride!
In 1927 when The Hotel Northampton in Northampton, Mass., opened, it achieved the goal of entrepreneur Lewis Wiggins of building the finest hotel in Northampton. Seeking to expand the hotel’s restaurant offerings, Wiggins acquired an adjacent building and moved the historic Wiggins Tavern from Hopkinton, N.H., to the site. Originally built in 1786 by Benjamin Wiggins, a direct ancestor of Lewis Wiggins, the tavern featured carved paneling, hand-hewn beams and antique hearths, all of which were all carefully reconstructed at the Hotel Northampton. Antiques from both the original tavern and other parts of New England were collected to further enhance the authentic flavor.
With its 30-foot long mahogany bar, the newly renovated and recently reopened Peacock Alley restaurant at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York, has a long and rich history. The restaurant salutes the original Waldorf-Astoria which was a hybrid of two neighboring hotels—The Waldorf and The Astoria, each owned by different members of the Astor family. The two hotels were joined by a 300-foot long mirrored corridor, which became a runway for showcasing the latest fashions. At both ends of that corridor were grand restaurants and it was common for the fashionable to wander back and forth showing off their splendor—sort of the red carpet of the time. Noted by a writer at the time as being akin to “many peacocks strutting,” the name stuck and the corridor became known as Peacock Alley. It became a tourist attraction and hundreds of spectators would witness the nightly parade. When the current hotel was opened in 1931, homage was paid to the Peacock Alley and a hallway off the lobby was created in its name. In the 1960s, the first incarnation of Peacock Alley restaurant opened.
Floyd’s Pub at the Windsor Hotel in Americus, Ga., derives its name from long-time hotel employee Floyd Lowery. At the time the hotel reopened in 1991 after being closed for 20 years, engineers were thrilled to discover an old safe. When opened, however, it did not reveal valuable records or money, but Lowery’s worn-out uniform. To honor Floyd’s forty years of dedicated service as a bellman and hotel operator, the hotel christened it’s newly re-opened bar in his name. Ironically, Floyd Lowery never took a drink.
Although Kentucky lays claim to being the home of the Mint Julep, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., makes a strong case for ownership rights. The oldest account book at the resort dates to 1816 and it reveals that guests were ordering “julips” at a cost of twenty-five cents or three for fifty cents. The 1832 journal of well-known Baltimore lawyer John H.B. Latrobe writes, “I saw here for the first time a hailstorm, that is to say, a mint julep made with a hailstorm around it. The drink is manufactured pretty much as usual and well filled with a quantity of ice chopped in small pieces, which is then put in the shape of a fillet around the outside of the tumbler where it adheres like a ring of rock candy and forms an external icy application to your lower lip as you drink it, while the ice within the glass presses against your upper lip. It is nectar, they say, in this part of the country.”
While iced tea may be the official drink of the south, Tar Heel Tea may lay claim to the title in the hearts of certain basketball enthusiasts. The drink was born in 2001 at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C., as part of a friendly bar competition with the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Course to celebrate the great basketball rivalry between Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Beneath its gentle appearance, this tea-colored treat packs a slam dunk.
For almost 30 years, bartender Sam Lek has been serving drinks to journalists, politicians, statesman, celebrities and tourists at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel’s Town and Country Lounge in Washington, D.C. He has developed a loyal following and receives fan mail from all over the world. Sam is revered for his award-winning martinis and delightful sense of humor, as well as his astonishing card tricks and levitation of $20 bills. A refugee from Cambodia, Sam returns there each year to bring food and supplies for villages in need.
Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historic Hotels has identified more than 200 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. To be selected for this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance. A directory of member hotels can be purchased for $4.00 by sending a check to National Trust/HHA, P.O. Box 320, Washington, D.C. 20055-0320. Rooms at any of the member hotels can be reserved by visiting www.historichotels.org or by calling 800-678-8946. Reservations made through Historic Hotels of America support the National Trust, a non-profit organization of 200,000 members that provides leadership, education and advocacy to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities.
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