My parents’ best bar memories are nostalgically nestled in shiny, slick hotel bars across India. By the time I (ahem) reached the legal drinking age, the haunts of preference were standalone establishments. Sure, the hotel nightclubs were exciting. But the grand memories were formed at the standalones. Less stuffy, no dress code, raucous banter, eclectic neighbours, and might I go to the extent of saying….a better cocktail programme?
Imagine paying twice the price for half an exciting concoction around uninspiring company. Hmm….pass.
But hold up…the times, they’re a-changing.
Is it in response to the current surge in cocktail culture? Or is it playing catch-up to the pool of talent playing hooky at standalones? Or is it a ‘ghar vapasi’ where seasoned professionals are building inventive menus with quality ingredients, nuanced technique, slick flair and twists, and the signature hotel standards of hospitality?
Maybe, all of the above.
“The bar has become a place where a hotel seeks to entertain the community. Banquets and catering can get you a couple of pieces of business a month, but that’s about it. So the bar is the main intersection point between a hotel and the place where it’s located. We work hard at making ours somewhere that people want to visit and then return to again and again,” Richard Cooke, Toronto Shangri-La’s general manager, says in an article published in NBC News.
If you, like us, are looking to give hotel bars a second chance, scroll down for the best hotel bars in India, listed in no particular order.
TLM’s Top 10: Best Hotel Bars in India
Copitas, Four Seasons, Bengaluru
Copitas, perched atop the Four Seasons Hotel in Bengaluru, offers stunning skyline views and a celebration of simplicity in its drink offerings. The modern, opulent bar features marble, plush cushions, and an artful wooden decor, along with a well-stocked bar for custom cocktails. The gin and tonic selection adds variety to the experience, complemented by Indian hotel hospitality, snacks, and cigars.
AER Lounge, Four Seasons, Mumbai
AER, designed with a yacht-inspired aesthetic, offers a 75-seater space with nautical stripes, deck-style seating, and Art-Deco decor. Corsica-born mixologist Alexandre Renoue leads the cocktail scene with 12 drinks inspired by the sky’s moods. The menu also includes hand-picked wines, craft beers, rare spirits, and a variety of bar-friendly food.
Blue Bar, Taj Palace, Delhi
The Blue Bar, located at the Taj Palace Hotel, offers an energetic and elegant atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating. Chic interiors with bright purple lighting and a long bar showcasing a fine liquor selection define its ambience. Signature cocktails, including the Leftfield and Open Sesame, crafted by mixologist Nicholas Hawkins.
The Cheroot, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai
Cheroot is located in the ITC Grand Chola hotel, offering a quiet and personalised experience where captains craft drinks tailored to your preferences. It also features a selection of cigars, including the exclusive Armenteros line, making it an excellent place for a relaxed evening with speciality drinks and cigars.
Bar Palladio, Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, Jaipur
Bar Palladio stands out as a lavishly designed fantasy space serving as both a bar and a performance venue. Owned by Barbara Miolini, a Swiss-Italian who once worked at Villa Cipriani before relocating to Jaipur a decade ago, this establishment beautifully combines the ambience of prewar European cafes with its own unique charm.
Harbour Bar, Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Bombay boasts timeless old-world charm, with its iconic Harbour Bar being the city’s oldest licensed bar. Offering stunning views of boats and yachts on the ocean waves, it has a historical link to the American prohibition era, and its signature cocktail “From The Harbour,” created to celebrate the end of prohibition, remains a lush and captivating choice. Alongside engaging stories behind the signature cocktails, the bar offers a delectable menu curated by the renowned Golden Dragon and Wasabi by Morimoto restaurants, featuring items like deep-fried tofu and exquisite sushi rolls crafted with high-grade black garlic and black truffle, making it a contemporary classic and a place to unwind.
Golf Bar, ITC Maurya Sheraton, Delhi
This bar exudes an unmistakable old-school gentlemen’s club vibe with its cricket-themed decor and extensive range of whiskeys. The bar also offers a variety of bar snacks and features bluesy jazz music, attracting a diverse clientele, often including large groups of hotel guests.
Amrit Sagar, Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
The elegant bar is famous for its excellent assortment of aged wines, liquors, and cigars. It offers a pleasant indoor-outdoor atmosphere with a laid-back and inviting charm. Amrit Sagar is a skilful blend of different design elements and luxurious textures.
1911, The Imperial, Delhi
This stylish bar pays homage to its rich historical location, offering a dramatic and retro ambience. With a remarkable horseshoe-shaped bar, skilled bartenders craft hand-crafted cocktails to the beat of high-tempo music, reminiscent of the 1930s glamour.
The Junction, Taj Bengal, Kolkata
This railway-themed bar located at Taj Bengal has a selection of cocktails, wines, and spirits from around the globe. Whether you’re a connoisseur of exceptional single malts or prefer silky liqueurs, their carefully curated collection caters to all tastes.