Room Service Meets The Bar

In-room cocktail service at top hotels has evolved way beyond the minibar.

West Hollyood’s La Peer Hotel (room pictured) offers all of the drinks listed on its bar menu for room service.
West Hollyood’s La Peer Hotel (room pictured) offers all of the drinks listed on its bar menu for room service. (Photo by Sarah L.M. Mengoni )

Cocktail delivery takes on a new meaning in the hotel sector, where some operators are experimenting with room service cocktail offerings for drinkers who wish to stay in but still enjoy upscale mixology. The notion of in-room drinks expanded rapidly during the Covid-19 pandemic, after guests started traveling again but were uncomfortable sitting in a bar or unable to because of mandated on-premise closures. Now, savvy hoteliers report that in-room cocktails remain popular with guests for a variety of reasons, oftentimes replacing the need for an in-room mini bar.

“People like having the option to have cocktails delivered to their room to avoid Covid concerns,” says Sarah Mengoni, lead bartender at Kimpton’s La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood, California. “On the other hand, we’ve also seen it ultimately drive guests to the bar. Some people order a cocktail to their room to drink while they’re getting ready to go out, and then they end up at the bar because they enjoyed the drink so much.”

La Peer Hotel offers its full in-bar cocktail menu via room service, with food and drinks supplied by its courtyard bar at the on-site restaurant Light. Some of the property’s popular cocktails ordered for room service include the Phoenix in Winter ($18), made with Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Lillet Blanc aperitif, Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao liqueur, and Scrappy’s Firewater tincture, garnished with a pepper slice, and the Turn Up ($18), blending Ketel One vodka, Montenegro amaro, espresso, simple syrup, and orange flower water, garnished with ground espresso beans. Mengoni says preparing drinks for room service orders is largely the same as making them for guests in the bar, though she notes there is one challenge: making sure the drink gets to the guest in a timely manner before it starts deteriorating in the glass.

“Because it takes longer between when a drink is made and when it’s delivered to guests through room service, there’s more danger of ice melting and watering down the cocktail or a shaken drink falling flat before it gets to the room,” Mengoni says. La Peer Hotel is making it work though, as Mengoni notes that room service cocktails have really grown during the pandemic. “It gives us another avenue to capture bar sales,” she adds. “And it gives guests a special experience.” In Chicago, Kimpton’s property The Gray has also offered cocktails via room service. The Gray suspended the service during Covid-19 though, due to staffing issues, but is hoping to bring it back.

San Francisco’s Cavallo Point resort (cocktail pictured) does a solid room service cocktail business.
San Francisco’s Cavallo Point resort (cocktail pictured) does a solid room service cocktail business.

At San Francisco resort Cavallo Point-The Lodge at the Golden Gate, cocktails represent about 10% of in-room alcohol sales. The property’s beverage director, Alex Wettersten, says in-room cocktail service is well received by guests, even if it isn’t a huge chunk of business. Cavallo Point is a sprawling hotel property, so he adds that there are challenges to fulfilling room service drinks orders. Oftentimes, bartenders have to use different glassware for room service cocktail orders or change a drink’s garnish.

“Guests are understanding when certain glassware that would typically be used at the bar isn’t conducive to making a successful trip from the bar to their room,” Wettersten says. “Our property is quite spread out and room service usually involves transportation via golf cart. Garnishes can be impacted because we need to cover the cocktails to protect against spillage, so the presentation isn’t always exactly how it would be at the bar.” Some of Cavallo Point’s popular drinks for room ser- vice calls include the Neblina ($19), made with Fidencio Clasico mezcal, Hanson Habanero vodka, Yellow Chartreuse, Fresno chile-infused agave syrup, and lemon juice, and the Bad Moon Rising ($18), comprising Botanist gin, coconut water, fresh cucumber, rosemary simple syrup, and lime juice.

Wettersten says most drinks listed on the menu at Cavallo Point’s Murray Circle and Farley Bar venues are available for room service, save for a couple drinks that are traditionally served in a smoked glass, which doesn’t travel well. “We strive to provide our guests the same quality and experience in their rooms as they would have in the dining room,” he adds. “We’re proud to be able to offer this private experience, where guests can enjoy the benefits of the property in a way that feels most comfortable to them.”