Three iconic hotel bars that aren’t just for tourists.
There is something intrinsically sophisticated about going to a ritzy hotel for a drink.
Often complete with ornate fixtures, angular modern furniture, and that glass bowl of green granny smith apples no one ever seems to eat, stopping into a hotel bar for a nightcap after dinner is about as representative of a romantic bygone era as pressing flowers into a handwritten thank you card.
But why is this? Getting boozy at a boujee hotel is a staple of the big-city zeitgeist.
Just because you’re not able to afford to stay at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy its over-the-top offerings. It makes sense that some people might feel out of place waltzing into a upscale hotel they have no intention of sleeping in, but the entire purpose of a hotel is to show off the best the city has to offer, whether it be through extravagant decour, an outstanding beverage service, or a friendly, inviting staff (who, chances are, are unable to discern you from a hotel guest or a rando off the street).
While there are dozens of amazing hotels around Columbus that offer up an unforgettable, iconic atmosphere with delectable cocktails, we chose the three that we feel are the best in the business (and also because if we went to more than three in one month’s time we would wind up in the poorhouse. Journalist wages, ya know?)
The Keep Liquor Bar
The Leveque Tower | 50 W Broad St.
Erected in 1927, the Leveque Tower is arguably Columbus’s most iconic skyscraper. With a towering 47 stories, late Art Deco style architecture, and a wonderfully colorful glowing top, it’s every bit as Columbus as Buckeye football. But for decades, this architectural treasure has lain dormant, until top-to-bottom renovations made way for a boutique hotel and a new restaurant and cocktail bar, giving us a reason to step inside the historic landmark outside of sheer curiosity.
With French-style cuisine, a cozy, dimly-lit atmosphere, and acclaimed chef Jonathan Olson in the kitchen, it’s no wonder why The Keep has found so much success in its first year. But we came for the drinks, so what better way to start the night than with the titular cocktail, the Leveque 75? A mix of Watershed Bourbon barrel gin, lemon, simple syrup, and cava makes for a fancy twist on a simple gimlet. Like most top notch cocktails, getting the ice just right is instrumental. If you are looking for another spin on a classic, go for the Old Fashioned, where they infuse their ice balls with bitters, or the Rat Pack Hooch, where they infuse blood orange rind and crystallized ginger inside the ice, topped with cognac and Jim Beam Black. Once you are properly buzzed, we recommended making your way to the top of the parking garage where you can find one of the best views the city has to offer.
Soul At The Joseph
Le Meridien | 620 N High St.
It’s extremely fitting this boutique hotel is set in the heart of the Short North Arts District considering that it doubles as an art gallery, borrowing a wide variety of prints and paintings from the Pizzuti Collection. Walking in, you are greeted by a series of circular pop art prints that line a grand stairwell leading to a mezzanine that looks over the mid-century modern inspired lobby.
The bar is found on the ground floor, boasting a geometric patterned flooring, a marble slab bartop, and angular wooden fixtures. Add in a retro-inspired neon sign and you get a crisp, clean, yet old school vibe—a setting that seems suitable for Don Draper and his entourage.
But what shines most at Soul is their inspired cocktail program. Considering a good chunk of their clientele is out-of-towners, they are adamant about offering local flavors. At the forefront of this ideology is The Neighborly Love: a mixture of OYO Pumpernickel Ryle from Middle West, Watershed Four Peel Gin, tiki bitters, and bonal, topped with a floral garnish from a local topiary and a stick of Ohio honey—a final touch that is meant to offset the bitterness of the drink. While slightly gimmicky, the honey stick does its job surprisingly well, giving the cocktail a bit of balance without overpowering the mix of gin and whiskey, a combination we had no idea that we even wanted to exist until we took our first sip.
The Whiskey Bar & Grill
The Westin Great Southern Columbus | 310 S High St.
Originally built in 1897 and once known as “The Great Southern Hotel,” the Westin blends history with modernity seamlessly with vaulted ceilings, silk greenery ornamenting the walls, and a central panel forming a magnificent dome in the lobby. If you are looking for a true Overlook Hotel experience, take your glass of bourbon to The Grand Ballroom—an intensely large space with a series of seven stained glass panels that decorate the tops of the walls, each representing a menu of what would be served on the specific day. Fun fact: when the Great Southern was uninhabited for a brief period of time in the 80s, one of the stained glass menus was stolen and sold. Over a decade later, after the restoration process, the missing piece to the collection was found over 50 miles away and returned to its proper home.
The Whiskey Room is a brand new concept out of the Westin, replacing Thurber’s Bar and Grill just last month, though there are fortunately still a series of prints by legendary cartoonist James Thurber left hanging on the wall. As you can imagine, The Whiskey room offers a wide selection of bourbons and whiskeys from around the world, from a $10 to a $200 pour and beyond. But our bartender, Aaron Andrews, had another cocktail in mind—a spin on the dirty martini, which in our opinion, is the perfect pairing for such a grandiose atmosphere. Dubbed the Holy Toledo, his creation starts with the typical base of gin and vodka, replacing the vermouth with Tony Packo’s pickle juice and a splash of jalapeno juice, creating an delightful explosion of pickled flavors. After a brief chat about the history of the hotel and his love for The Shining, Andrews took us to the Grand Ballroom to show us why his love for cocktails and classic horror meshed together for a perfect career. westincolumbus.com