As much as we dig San Antonio’s neighborhood haunts, there’s something about a hotel bar that makes even a standard happy hour feel special. Maybe it’s the ever-revolving clientele or the cushy seats, maybe it's just that they make some of the best drinks in the city. After a hectic week, booking a stay at these watering holes is almost as good as a vacation.
The numerical name of the Gunther Hotel’s lobby bar has nothing to do with the address. Instead it nods to legendary guest Robert Johnson, who recorded ‘30s blues classic “Sweet Home Chicago” in a makeshift studio in room 414. Fittingly, the bar has a cool speakeasy vibe with dark woods, exposed brick, and low lighting. The drink menu has some historical flair, too. Though cocktails like Rhino, Buttercup, and Solerno Breeze are all contemporary sippers, the names are taken out of the Johnson songbook.
While most San Antonio hotel bars put on the ritz with fancy furniture and commissioned art, this dive in downtown’s Crockett Hotel is all about taking it easy. Although a few upgrades have happened over the years, Ernie’s still has a lived-in feel with flat screens playing the latest game, neon beer signs, and the occasional Crock Pot keeping a batch of queso hot. Plus, the drinks are just as punchy as they ever were.
Parked on the terrace level of La Cantera’s Eilan Hotel and Spa, this chic hangout boasts some of the most impressive mixology in Alamo City. The classics are well-represented with a Balcones whiskey Old Fashioned and a hibiscus margarita, but the originals really steal the show. On a balmy South Texas day, nothing refreshes like the So Fresh & So Clean — a sparkler with vodka, elderflower, grapefruit, lemon, and soda.
Make sure you take your phone with you to the Hotel Havana’s candlelit downstairs bar. It's not for selfies, nearly impossible in the murky surrounds, but to read the menu before your eyes adjust. Don’t wan’t to strain your eyes? Order the daiquiri — its classic build ranks it among the tastiest drinks in the 210.
A reproduction of London’s legendary House of Lords Pub, this downtown spot is full of charming historical details like French beveled mirrors and brass spittoons. Yet, the atmosphere inside carries no traces of Victorian stuffiness. The refreshing Tricentini — commemorating San Antonio’s Tricentennial — is the must-order drink with Southern Comfort, amaretto, cranberry juice, and a splash of sweet and sour.
This eclectic lounge at the historic St. Anthony Hotel pays homage to the famously haunted locale with cocktails named after some its most famous spirits. But the bar itself is hardly spooky. Sure, the light filters can cast a phantasmagoric glow, but the sleek chrome and leather furniture would look right at home in a Manhattan loft.
This stunner in the Pearl’s Hotel Emma feels like the world’s best curated Pinterest board. Sweeping 25-foot ceilings loom overhead intimate seating groups accented with handmade textiles, marble tables, and art books to leaf through while waiting for friends. The drinks almost don’t matter but are naturally just as well-considered as the decor. Try The Three Emmas, a summer refresher made with Pearl beer and rose cordial.