While other bars are trying to get younger and cooler, the St. Regis Hotel is going the opposite direction with its St. Regis Bar. The country house-style Library Lounge was tarted up in 2008 for the opening of adjoining restaurant Adour: Think black walls, purple sectionals and a drink menu focused on “molecular mixology.” For those of us who went there to drink the best Sidecar in the District, it was like watching a longtime friend try to dress 20 years younger after a tough divorce. But the modern edge was mostly removed — sorry, “redesigned” — right before the inauguration. The new look draws its inspiration from the hotel’s origins in 1926: The curve of the marble bartop is echoed in the high-backed bar stools, and a reopened doorway allows views of the lobby’s colorful carved wood ceiling. It’s not all retro — check out the extended gas-burning fireplace or the chandelier decorated with a rough pyramid of Swarovski crystals — but overall effect is timeless.
Surprise, surprise: There’s a pre-Prohibition cocktail menu starring a Sidecar, an Old-Fashioned and a French 75. Everything is simple, delicious and made with higher-end spirits. As at many cocktail bars these days, these cocktails are served with giant, crystal-clear blocks of ice. The staff boasts that it’ll take an hour for that rock to melt into my Manhattan.
The St. Regis remains one of the priciest cocktail destinations in town: Drinks start at $15, and a flight of three Irish whiskeys, including the 38-year-old Knappogue Castle, costs $32. But sitting at one of the Chesterfield chairs, with sunlight streaming through the domed windows, a $15 Sidecar feels like an affordable luxury.
-- Fritz Hahn (Feb. 21, 2013)