Over the weekend I visited my alma mater for a fraternity reunion. I was amongst friends and familiarity, so nostalgia was peak. Walking downtown with one of my best friends, I remembered how wonderful a past birthday celebration was and how much I loved the hotel's bar. So a return visit was necessary.
Location: the perfect bar should be in a wonderful location. The space for libation should either be accessibly convenient, in an unexpected place, have stunning views, or a combination of the three. Maybe it's an incredible prohibition era style bar hidden in a secret room in the middle of a hamburger joint. Or maybe it's a local wine bar in your old neighborhood post office. Or a swanky lounge in a boutique hotel full of art, style, and class.
Decor and lighting: the lighting should be bright enough to see the menu, your friends, and provide seamless ambiance. Sunglasses and squinting need not be required. The desired experience of the owner / creator should be enhanced by the decor. From the furniture materials to the way the wine, spirits, and other liquid refreshments are housed and displayed, to the art, accessories, and dinnerware / flatware / linens, everything should be in harmony.
Happy Distractions: for me, bars are more than just a place to drink. There should be another hook. Maybe it's incredible food, a gorgeous view, or the perfect setting for wonderful conversation.
Options: selections on offer should be edited, varied, and of the best quality. Gorgeous garnishes. Mixers of top quality. Maximum flavor.
The barkeep: an expert, hands down. Their gentle smile welcomes you, setting the stage for what's to come. They decipher your tastes, leading you on a journey around the culinary globe with finesse and flair. They might pepper in an opinion, fact, or story, shaking in a spice to your conversation. The service provided by bartenders is a true art - just the right amount of attention, interaction, and privacy.
The points above are all demonstrated at many places, and especially the Grand Bohemian hotel. Amongst an endless row of typical downtown bars, filled with beer stained floors and a bit too tipsy tourists, enter the stylish + swanky Grand Bohemian: part art gallery, part hotel, part restaurant and lounge, all class. A gorgeous rotunda and lobby, with incredible art and sculpture, and one of a very few Imperial Grand Bösendorfer pianos literally set the tone.
We quickly met Ivy. And I must say, she's a pure professional. Ivy is smart, skilled, polite, kind, and simply beyond. From the very first of many drinks, her ability to not only identify personal tastes and desires and shape that understanding into the most wonderful culinary journey seemed effortless. Her drink recommendations and crafting were spot on. The contribution to our conversation was that of an old friend. And the food - incredible. The perfect portion, execution, and presentation. Thin pizza crispy on the outside, pillowy on the inside, with mountains of mozzarella and mushrooms, finished with herbs and truffle oil. Wagyu beef carpaccio perfectly prepared. And the most copious crab cakes you've ever imagined, with so much crab you swear their held together with magic and angel's breath.
I love this bar. But ultimately, any time spent with your best friend, no matter the location, regardless of decor, will always be the best.