Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where To Drink: Cocktails @ Hotel Shangrila

The Drinks: Fancy schmancy cocktails and killer wines

The Vibes: Even when busy, there’s always a calm sense of stately airs that reigns supreme

Good for: When you want to be next to the beach, but not necessarily on it

When-to-Go: Evenings, for the sunset

With-Whom-to-Go: It gets crowded on the rooftop bar and patio, so it’s easier to grab seats for groups of two to four friends. But of course, bring as many people as you’d like.

The $ Factor: $$: the average for beer is $8; for wine, $12; and for cocktails, $14

The 4-1-1: There’s a funky old-school elevator that takes you from the ground level to the rooftop

I’ll Be Back…: To catch pristine views of the sweeping Santa Monica beach from the rooftop patio

The beach.

It’s there to frolic in its waters. To run alongside its shoreline for a killer workout. To layout on its golden sands. To play volleyball, make a bonfire, engage in water sports.

Yet sometimes, the beach is there simply to admire and bask in all its glory. And for times like that, we can head to Hotel Shangrila in Santa Monica.

It’s a classic hotel, situated on Ocean Ave., just across from the beach, with a hip art deco design and plenty of different bars to go savor a cocktail. The Dining Room, immediately to the right of the entrance, has an old boys’ club vibe to it, with dark, heavy woods, a strong, masculine bar and low, comfy seats. Suite 700 (pictured below) is a combination of the rooftop bar and outdoor patio. You can’t beat the views up there. On any given day, catch panoramic sights of the coast, stretching as far south as the Santa Monica Pier to as far north as the Malibu mountains. There’s also a lovely outdoor patio with cabanas set amongst lush, tropical trees by the pool on the ground level.

The hotel brings the same sophisticated approach that it does to its decor and ambiance to its cocktails. First, let’s discuss the presentation, because we’ve all heard it before – we feast with our eyes first. These cocktails aren’t going to just appear in front of you in any old manner. They have their own special glassware, their own unique garnishes, their own individual, distinct styles. I’m not ashamed to admit that my favorite, the Berry Apropos (pictured below – a blend of Belvedere Black Razz, St. Germain, muddled berries and champagne) won my doting affections because of how it winds up at my table. It’s poured over dry ice to make a smoking effect that lasts for a quite a while. I never knew I could have so much fun watching a drink.

Now, let’s talk taste. While some of the cocktails utilize intriguing items – like muddled red bell peppers in the St. Boniface, or lavender in The Lavendar Lush [sic], pictured below – for the most part, or at least for the handful of ones that I’ve tried, they’re still pretty conservative in taste.

Bartenders do a good job of properly merging and meshing each cocktail’s different ingredients together to for an end product that’s balanced and mellow. I know I’ve been to quite a few bars that arrogantly boast about using the finest of produce, the quirkiest of ingredients and the best of liquors, but then when you actually drink what they’ve made, it’s like, “what in the world is this?!” It just doesn’t all come together well.

But fortunately, that’s not the case here.

I have to also mention that the wines are divine. They have the standard whites and reds, but the selections are diverse and really, really good.

And, if you’re one of those people who likes to eat while they drink, all of the hotel's bars feature standard American classics with a European twist: lobster mac’n’cheese, salads, flatbreads, etc. Personally, I’m more in love with the cocktails, but I definitely will get down with the Parmesan “frites,” pictured below.

So the next time you’re looking for a low-key trip to the beach and unforgettable cocktails, I definitely encourage you to check out Hotel Shangrila.

Perhaps I’ll see you there on the rooftop soon!

Views from the rooftop!

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