Ordering a gin and tonic at The Ritz-Carlton, Macau is quite the affair. First, Giuseppe Carillo rolls the Five-Star hotel’s heaving gin trolley over to your group. Then the bouffant-haired mixologist specialist with a boyish smile wordlessly studies each person and makes a snap recommendation to suit that palate. His predictions hit the spot—a yuzu-forward Ki No Bi gin from Kyoto selection for a citrus fan and Iron Balls from Thailand for someone seeking a taste of the exotic.
Once he receives approval, Carillo gets to work, expertly measuring out proportions, cutting up fresh fruit, swirling cinnamon sticks and coaxing the fragrant oil from an orange rind. As he concocts the G&Ts, he regales the crowd with stories about the gins and life in glitzy Macau.
The tableside trolley, the warm and knowledgeable service, the chanteuse belting out standards in the background and the personalized cocktails all add up to a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s why The Ritz-Carlton Bar & Lounge landed on Forbes Travel Guide’s 2019 list of the World’s Best Hotel Bars.
The best-of list comes from comprehensive data gathered by the company’s inspectors, who stay at the hotels anonymously and evaluate them based on up to 900 standards for the guide’s annual Star Ratings, which were unveiled in February.
Being named one of Forbes Travel Guide’s Best Hotel Bars wasn’t just a matter of serving top-notch drinks or having a certain atmosphere; the venues had to demonstrate an exceptional beverage program, presentation and service. Winners made the data-driven list by scoring top marks on bar standards related to elements of luxury. For example, inspectors checked to see if the beverages had a distinctive presentation, the snacks were high quality, the napkins were linen or cotton, and the overall bar experience was impressive.
The bars also had to achieve near-perfect scores on food and beverage quality standards, which measure things such as whether the cocktails are well-balanced and served at the right temperature.
Get acquainted with the top hotel drinking destinations below.
The Ritz-Carlton Bar & Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, Macau
Perched on the 51st floor of the hotel, this glamorous, low-lit bar draws lots of locals with its warm, wood-filled space; lofty views of the sprawling Galaxy Macau complex; and luscious drinks like Padua Punch (Aperol, pisco, Riesling, lime juice, simple syrup, orange juice, bitters and egg white).
Britain’s oldest-surviving cocktail bar wrote the primer on classic drinks (1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book). Visit the icon to try something vintage (White Lady with gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, egg white) or new (Electric Lover, a “Purple Rain”-inspired tipple with glitter—get the recipe here).
Oriental Lounge, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Gaze out across Tokyo to Mount Fuji from the floor-to-ceiling windows of this sophisticated 38th-floor lounge. To drink in the view longer, order a Manhattan, Scotch egg with truffle mayonnaise and katsu sando (pork cutlet sandwich).
Il Bar, Bulgari Resort Bali
Watch the sky erupt into violet over the ocean during sunset at this alfresco bar. For a proper sundowner, try the Bulgari Cocktail (concocted with Beefeater gin, Campari and orange, lime and pineapple juices).
Bistrot B Lounge • Bar, Rosewood Beijing
During the day, impeccably dressed executives head into the neutral-hued bar in Beijing’s business district for caffeine, but at night they go there to loosen their ties, graze on spicy almonds and roasted macadamia nuts, and order rounds of Old Fashioneds.
The Club Bar, The Peninsula Beverly Hills
Hollywood power players fill the tan leather chairs in the California-birch-lined bar. Work the room while sipping a Blossoming Indigo (made with Empress gin, cucumber, lemon juice, rhubarb and tonic—see the recipe here) and snacking on manchego, kettle-cooked potato chips and marinated Kalamata, Manzanilla and Liguria olives.
Rowes Wharf Bar, Boston Harbor Hotel
The handsome bar boasts Boston’s largest scotch collection, but it also takes pride in crafting cocktails like the Irish Rose (a mix of Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey, Boston Bittahs, angostura bitters, simple syrup, smoked rose buds). Either way, you can’t lose.
Get a glimpse of the sun sinking into the Pacific while nursing a nutty Liquid Sky (with Don Julio Blanco, housemade almond Tajín simple syrup, lime juice and orange bitters—pick up the recipe here) and munching on tequila-lime-marinated almonds.
Z Bar, The Peninsula Chicago
On sizzling nights, cool off at this chic rooftop terrace with The Z (a combination of mint, cucumber, Italian bergamot rosolio and Koval gin). And when chilly weather arrives, warm up by the fire with daikon frites (daikon fingers with Chinese sausage, garlic chives, radish and white soy).
33°North, Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, California
Southern California’s ever-present sun begs for a tropical tipple like the Beached Quail (with Smith & Cross rum, Wild Turkey 101, orange curaçao, pineapple, cinnamon syrup and lime juice—try the recipe). Bring it to the patio and toast to the gorgeous sunset.
Bahri Bar, Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Dubai
Live bands and DJs pump soul and jazz into this bar that overlooks the waterways and the Arabian Gulf. Soak up the scene while partaking in a mezze platter and a Behind the Times (Glenfiddich Project with date-honey syrup and aromatic bitters).
Le Bar des Bergues, Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
Mere feet from Lake Geneva, Le Bar des Bergues lets you imbibe while admiring the blasting Jet d’Eau and soaring Mont Blanc. You’re guaranteed drinks as good as the view: it’s helmed by Sophie Larrouture, who became Switzerland’s best bartender when she won the World Class competition in 2016.
The Bar, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto
At The Bar, illuminated waterfalls trickle and a weekend jazz band livens the crowd, but your attention will be on cocktails featuring local ingredients, like the popular Genuine Care (a fusion of gin, sake and sencha green tea produced in Kyoto, plus yuzu jam and zest, grapefruit, chamomile-pineapple syrup and liquorice bitters), and indulgent dishes like Japanese caviar and kuroge wagyu burgers.
To take in the Swiss Alps, visit this rustic-modern watering hole, order a fruity Hattori Hanzo (a blend of sake, apple juice, peach liqueur and rose syrup—get the recipe here) and peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the mountains. Or venture out to the terrace for a closer look.
M Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Zip up to the 25th floor for a rooftop hot spot overlooking glittering cityscapes and Victoria Harbour. The sultry, dimly lit space shakes up lavish libations (like the Bespoke Champagne Cocktail with Rémy Martin Louis XIII, Krug Grande Cuvée and gold flakes) and serves fare from Five-Star chef Pierre Gagnaire.
Ritz Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon
Visit this crimson-hued bar for a low-key vibe and bold drinks with local ties, like the vodka-based 18 3838, whose ultra-violet shade pays homage to the city’s jacaranda trees, and Gorreana Ice Tea 1883, a tribute to Europe’s oldest tea plantation in the Azores.
The Executive Lounge, Hotel 41, London
The elegant bar showers hotel guests with complimentary food, like tea-smoked duck and plum jam, croque monsieur and a freezer of Jude’s Ice Cream in flavors like gin and tonic. Cap off your snacking with an espresso martini.
Connaught Bar, The Connaught, London
The silver and gray bar channels Gatsby glamour. Go for a nostalgic number (such as the Champagne cocktail Fleurissimo, which honors former guest Princess Grace of Monaco) or an original option (like Illumination, which has Bacardi 8 rum, Michoacan mezcal, Sangue Morlacco, chocolate malt Chablis, Galliano L’Aperitivo, cardamom bitters and fig molasses).
Martini Bar, The Villas at AYANA Resort, BALI
There’s more to this open-air Bali spot than martinis. Sidle up to the glass-topped bar for the Grilled Chicken Colada—rum-infused pineapple, coconut puree, vanilla syrup, pineapple juice and housemade chicken stock arrive in a whimsical drumstick-shaped vessel.
Artesian, The Langham, London
As bars keep pushing flashy presentations and complex cocktails that make for good Instagram fodder, this beloved haunt is bucking the trend and paring back. Minimalist tipples like Michter’s bourbon and pear let the quality ingredients shine.
The Bar, The Peninsula Manila
Bedecked in checkered flooring and wood walls, the bar gleans inspiration from an old Cuban cigar factory (it’s the hotel’s smoking area). Sample pica-pica (finger food) like pork sisig croquetas (balls of creamy béchamel and crispy pork) and Sriracha butter duck wings, and sip on the Batangas Old Fashioned (get the recipe here), which swaps in Maker’s Mark infused with Kapeng Barako (a Filipino coffee variety).
The Bar, Royal Mansour Marrakech
When you’re in an opulent hotel owned by the king of Morocco, you know that the bar will be a stunner. The space doesn’t disappoint, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors coated in rose-gold leaf bearing white-gold foliage designs that create infinite reflections. Imbibe like royalty with a flute of Royal Mansour (Champagne Billecart-Salmon infused with fresh raspberries and Sahara honey).
MO Bar + Lounge, Mandarin Oriental, Miami
Reach for The Made and the Born (with gin, bourbon syrup, Florida citrus, bitters and nutmeg—grab the recipe here) and the ceviche roll at this posh lounge. Then sway to live Cuban jazz or Spanish guitar, or simply enjoy panoramas of the water and the skyline from the wall of windows.
Europe’s highest hotel bar delivers breathtaking London views. But peel your eyes from the 52nd-floor vistas to take in the Hong Kong Saudade—a fruity spin on the caipirinha made with Abelha cachaca, HKB Baijiu, peach liqueur, white peach purée, agave syrup, peach bitters and lime juice (try the recipe here).
The St. Regis Bar & Wine Vault, The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Miami
This modern gem gleams with black marble floors and antique mirrored walls. Wine is the drink of choice in these sleek surroundings. The impressive vault carries 2,500 bottles from 450 vineyards and 14 different countries.
Caffè Parigi, Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa Milano
Escape from the bustle of Milan at this dreamy Paris-inspired bar, which has a hand-painted ceiling, inlaid parquet, abundant art and a private garden. A refuge within the green space, the Winter Garden is where to linger over Aperol spritzes during aperitivo (Milan’s riff on the happy hour).
You’ll want to stay a while in the tufted chairs fronting the fireplace at the inviting Le Bar. Sip the delectable Lips Like Sugar (with saffron-infused Patron Silver, Aperol, grapefruit juice, green lemon, beer syrup and aquafaba—make it with this recipe) while you warm up.
Le Bar du Bristol, Le Bristol Paris
During the day, the stylish bar offers seasonally changing cocktails and gourmet bites like king crab spring rolls and black truffle pizzetta from respected chef Eric Frechon. But at night (Thursday to Saturday), it transforms into B.A.D. (Bristol After Dark), with DJs and debauchery.
Ritz Bar, Ritz Paris
The hotel’s first bar debuted in 1921 to cater to guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It delightfully remains in that era, with Art Deco décor and sterling service. For a taste of the modern, order the Kaffir (an amalgam of mezcal, kaffir syrup, maraschino, Bénédictine and angostura).
Les Ambassadeurs, Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel
Under a painted blue-sky ceiling, the luxurious bar is swathed in marble and gold. Catch the daily live music; nosh on black truffle and Comté finger sandwiches, and foie gras and orange wine jelly with ginger bread; and sip bubbly—Les Ambassadeurs serves more than 100 different kinds.
Pop into the cheekily named bar for a Cloud Nine (Belvedere vodka, St-Germain, lime juice, mint, cucumber, simple syrup and egg white—snap up the recipe here), regional fare like empanadas and churros, and live music. Don’t miss the striking Sonoran sunset from the terrace.
Carlton Bar & Lobby with Terrace, Carlton Hotel St. Moritz
It’s hard to pick which is cozier: sitting near the flames of two 1913 fireplaces in the wood-paneled lobby or under a blanket in the sun-soaked terrace overlooking the frozen lake and snowy mountains. You’ll feel even more snug with an Apple Pie in the Sky (made with Etter Vieille Pomme Royale, cinnamon liqueur, apple juice, chestnut honey, Louis Roederer Champagne—get the recipe here).
The Oak Room, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, Sea Island, Georgia
Look out on the golf course at this hotel-guests-only bar that turns out Southern staples (such as chicken and dumplings and shrimp and grits) to go with your single-malt scotch or cocktail. It’s enough to make you want to check into the Five-Star hotel.
The Bar, Aman Venice
Venice was a muse for one-time resident Lord Byron, and the writer inspired this tony bar facing a Grand Canal-side secret garden. While the bar stocks the city’s largest gin collection, try the Vigorous (bourbon, vanilla, chamomile, chocolate bitters, muscovado sugar and orange smoke) to pair with the cicchetti (Venetian tapas), including crispy gnocchi and baccalà (salt cod).
Bar Cristal, Encore Macau
The Macau bar sparkles with a mirror-backed bar, etched-glass accents and an ornate 19th-chandelier from France. The intimate, sumptuous surroundings call for popping open a bottle of Louis Roederer.
Sit in one of the antique Stickley chairs and savor a taste of New England at this bar with some comforting clam chowder or a fresh lobster roll, along with a maple bourbon Old Fashioned (Sapling maple bourbon from Vermont, water, bitters).
Peek at the floating fronds of Palm Jumeirah from the 27th floor of the sail-shaped Dubai hotel while savoring decadent drinks like the Burj Royale (which marries Louis Roederer Brut and Stolichnaya vanilla vodka with Chambord, raspberries and blackberries).
Atrium Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Tucked inside a 15th-century Florence palazzo, the light-filled lounge emanates Old World grandeur. Sink into the plush sofa, order from the Negroni trolley and nosh on bar bites like tempura Parmigiano or ricotta mousse with smoked duck.
Only guests of the Five-Star ranch can slip into this rustic bar for some country music and refreshments. The Bandito (made with coriander-infused añejo tequila) arrives on a cowhide coaster, alongside snacks like roasted green beans topped with toasted breadcrumbs and marinated maitake mushrooms.
The Bar at The Dorchester, London
A fixture at the popular lounge for more than 30 years, bar manager Giuliano Morandin says that patrons clamor for the Martinez (Dorchester Old Tom, Punt e Mes, Maraschino Luxardo, boker’s bitters)—the forerunner to the martini. Order it with one of Morandin’s favorite dishes, the seafood linguine.
Mandarin Bar & Bistrot, Mandarin Oriental, Milan
In Italy’s fashion capital, Mandarin Bar looks the part with black-and-white kaleidoscopic mosaic marble walls. But its courtyard goes for the natural look with greenery and soft lighting. No matter your style, seek out a Treasure Map (Veuve Clicquot Rich; pineapple, yuzu, mint and green chili pepper juice; and Williams pear liqueur).
Post Bar, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore
The underlit honey-onyx bar makes the space look new, but the white coffered ceiling and red postal boxes are remnants of the 1928 building’s former life as the General Post Office. Try the Mile Zero Cocktail (with vodka, Irish cream liqueur and Milo powder).
Bougainvillea and olive and palm trees blanket this 40-acre Moorish retreat. For the most picturesque perspective, head to Inara’s terrace to admire the pool rimmed with towering trees. Expect drinks with ingredients like mint, ginger and dates.
Koubba Bar, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Dubai
Sip a gin and tonic (there’s a menu dedicated to them) from an alfresco sofa next to the treetops of surrounding palms. As the sun wanes, arabesque lanterns light up so that you can work your way through the various G&Ts into the wee hours.