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Wilson and Wilson, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, April 21 01:33 PM

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Looking to add a little dose of intrigue to your average night out? The folks at Wilson & Wilson in San Francisco are mixing up some delicious (and drinkable) mystery on a nightly basis. Hidden down a series of passageways, through an unmarked door in Bourbon & Branch bar, the newly opened Wilson & Wilson got its name from a driver's license found in a purse wedged into the wall of this former speakeasy. How's that for a shadowy origin story?

Cocktails have names like "Truth Serum" (Highland Park whisky, Amaro Nonino, brown sugar cinnamon syrup, sarsaparilla aromatic bitters, licorice root), but this is no kitschy theme bar. Here you'll find some of San Fran's most talented mixologists, and an undercover cool vibe--think Sam Spade's office, only bathed in flickering candlelight. And the three-cocktail tasting menu might just give you the liquid courage to invite that doe-eyed dame by the door for a teapot tipple-for-two. Where it goes from there, well, we'll leave that to you, gumshoe.

Photo: Courtesy of Wilson & Wilson

Beacher's Madhouse, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, April 08 03:55 PM

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Beacher's Madhouse, a 1920s-style cabaret in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, is the most over-the-top bar to open in Los Angeles in years (and this is not a city known for subtlety).

Let us show you to your seat--it's just past the sexy librarian, through a trick bookcase wall, and inside a giant golden birdcage. Order at the Midget Bar (we don't make the names, it's labeled that way in neon), where a little person will make you mini cocktails in mini glasses. Looking for table service? A waiter flying through the air on a pulley system delivers the drinks. And don't get us started on the madcap cast of contortionists, monkeys, and mini Lady Gagas onstage. Oh, and half-naked ladies, too. This is L.A., after all.

Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Eataly's La Birreria, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 25 07:02 PM

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Blizzards and ice storms and snowpocalypses are giving way to warmth, and with that, the patios and gardens of New York City will fill with sunseekers. The newest alfresco fun? La Birreria, a 5,000-square-foot beer garden set to open later this spring on the roof of the Batali/Bastianich foodtopia, Eataly, in the Flatiron District.

Copper vats will turn out microbrews created by U.S. sudsmeister Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head fame and Italians Teo Musso of Birra Baladin and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo. The unfiltered, naturally carbonated brews will be hand-pulled through traditional beer engines and paired with pizza and sausages. And there's a retractable roof, should Old Man Winter decide to make a last-ditch appearance.

Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Decker

Wood & Vine, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, March 17 06:35 PM

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Today, your average American is gearing up to throw back a green beer (or four) in honor of St. Patrick's Day. But when it comes to drinking, you've always been above average. So we suggest that you celebrate like the real Irish do, with serious alcohol and people who know how to drink it.

Sure, the new Wood & Vine in Hollywood isn't an Irish bar, but that's exactly its selling point on this most green of days. Instead of elbowing through the amateur masses, you can sip one of the bar's small-batch whiskeys from the comfort of a buttery leather armchair. And you can't help but find the craic among the pretty people who flock here for truffled duck-fat fries. Good food, good friends, good drink. Just as St. Patty would have wanted it.

Photo: Courtesy of Wood & Vine

Ray's and Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 11 07:17 PM

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Los Angeles
has its fair share of beautiful people. So it makes sense that one of the city's top museums would want to put that beauty on display. Enter Ray's and Stark Bar, the newest addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, named for Ray Stark, the late film producer and former LACMA trustee.

Ray's glass-box design, by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, makes people the exhibit. Outside, museumgoers observe diners noshing on seasonal Mediterranean fare prepared by chef Kris Morningstar (formerly of District and Mercantile). Inside, diners survey museumgoers frolicking in Chris Burden's famous lamp-post installation, Urban Light. The open-air Stark Bar offers similar people-watching opportunities as well as market-fresh cocktails. Just don't overdo it and make an exhibition of yourself.

Photo: Courtesy of Dustin Downing

Hubbard Inn, Chicago

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 04 08:50 PM

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Travel lovers can't help but romanticize Ernest Hemingway's wanderings. Three such admirers have turned that adulation into--what else?--a bar.

Located on an up-and-coming foodie stretch in Chicago's River North neighborhood, the Hubbard Inn is decorated with what owners Daniel Alonso, Adolfo Garcia, and David Mitria envision Papa bringing back from his travels. Moroccan tiles line one wall, 1940s-style oil paintings hang on another, and more than 5,000 vintage books fill the bar's carved bookcases. The food served also tips its topper to the writer, incorporating ingredients from his journeys (Cabrales cheese, Medjool dates) as well as less literal interpretations such as stout burgers and earthy bone marrow.

Of course, no Hemingway tribute would be complete without booze--and lots of it. Here you'll find one of Chicago's best bourbon selections, new takes on classics like the Manhattan, and the author's namesake drink, made with 10 Cane rum, maraschino liqueur, and lime and grapefruit juices. Raise a glass (or eight) to big Papa.

Photo: Courtesy of the Hubbard Inn

Moore & Giles Meehan Utility Bag and Bar Rollup

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, March 02 08:32 PM

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You're a person who knows a good cocktail. And you can't always trust the average bartender to do right by you. So instead of leaving your libations to fate, bring 'em with you in this new bag by Moore & Giles. The hallowed Virginia leather-crafters teamed up with famed New York mixologist Jim Meehan to design this rugged looker, a weekender bag that converts to a portable bar.

Going on a business trip? Leave the hooch at home and use the compartments to accommodate your laptop, clothes, and PDA. Heading for a weekend in the woods? Throw in the divider and tote six bottles of booze, a cutting board, and all the tools of the tippling trade.

Photo: Courtesy of Moore & Giles

The Sebastian, Vail, Colorado

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, February 17 04:32 PM

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The Sebastian (formerly the Vail Plaza Hotel & Club) is perfectly placed if you're all about the après-ski rather than the slopes. The hotel, which sits at the gateway to Vail Village, reopened in January 2011 with 107 plush rooms, a spa, and valets for everything (so you can avoid schlepping a single piece of gear). In the restaurant, Block 16, chef Sergio Howland marries Maine lobster with braised veal cheeks, but you might be more interested to hear that the hotel bar has one of the largest Scotch collections in the Colorado Rockies.

And while you're there--

Eat here:
Atwater on Gore Creek
Chef Adam Votaw's clubby dining room overlooking a slope-side stream specializes in savory meat and seafood crowd-pleasers, such as soy-glazed beef short ribs and mustard-crusted diver scallops. Leave room for dessert: Pastry chef Felicia Jablonksi adds a scoop of house-made fig ice cream to the sticky toffee pudding and pairs coconut sorbet with the flourless chocolate cake.

Play here:
Adventure Ridge
If riding a bike over the snow and through the treesat night, with only a headlamp illuminating the path aheadis your kind of thing, then head straight for Adventure Ridge. This adrenaline junkie's dream at the top of Vail Mountain is actually pretty child-friendly, too, with a long, multilane tubing hill, trampolines with bungee harnesses, and pint-size snowmobiles for kids ages 6 to 12.

The Dandelion, Philadelphia

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, February 11 04:15 PM

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The Beatles. Deep-fried candy bars. Colin Firth. Our neighbors across the pond have given us many gifts over the years. But this weekend, we're giving thanks for Britain's greatest export, the gastropub.

Philadelphia now has one to call its very own, courtesy of Stephen Starr's the Dandelion. This new watering hole hits all of the haute-pub highlights: cask ales, creative takes on hearty Brit classics (rabbit pie with cipollini onions, oyster mushrooms, and grain mustard), and hangover-curing morning fry-ups. The interiors feel lived-in, with two carved wooden bars, tartan-covered stools, and a mishmash of quirky ephemeraceramic dogs, souvenir plates, a life-size plastic cow. In other words, it's exactly the kind of place you'd raise a pint to.

The Istanbul Edition, Turkey

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, February 07 04:01 PM

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Istanbul is fast becoming one of Europe'sand Asia'shippest cities. And though there's no lack of luxury hotels, few tend to embody the modern sophistication of the city's cutting-edge nightlife scene.

That's why we're counting down the days till the March opening of the Istanbul Edition (the second property in a collaboration between megahoteliers Ian Schrager and Marriott). The hotel is all understated urban glamour, with loftlike rooms of polished rosewood and bronze. There's a two-story, 18,000-square-foot spa with sexy couples' beds suspended from the ceiling. And they're courting local tastemaker types with buzzy nightlife. The Web site is now open for booking. Get clicking, party people.

The Rose Club, The Plaza, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, February 01 02:27 PM

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If you prefer your whiskey like your steakrare and Americanhurry to the Rose Club at the Plaza hotel in New York City. Through February only, the Rose Club will be serving the full range of rare whiskeys by Brown-Forman (the distiller behind Jack Daniel's, Old Forester, et al.), a few of which date back to the Prohibition era.

As you sink into one of the velvety sofas with a 1930s King Kentucky Straight bourbon in hand, remember that this wood-paneled bar was once a nightclub that hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. And if you really want to recapture those speakeasy days, order an Earl of Canton cocktail (Earl Grey tea with a splash of Early Times bourbon) and contemplate whether temperance made liquor taste better.

150 at The May Fair Bar, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, January 21 03:13 PM

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Conspicuous consumption may have fizzled out over the past few years, but it's certainly bubbling back up again at the May Fair Hotel in central London, with the opening of 150. The stylish watering hole gets its name from the magnums (150 cl) of Champagne on the menu, which deep-pocketed guests can order alongside specially matched small plates by Brit star chef Silvena Rowe.

The fizzy parties start at $1,000 for four magnums of Moët & Chandon Impérial, including one blinged out with the name of the host in Swarovski crystals. But the real indulgence is the $6,800 Dom Experience: four magnums of 1998 Dom Pérignon Rosé paired with canapés like pomegranate-glazed foie gras and West Mersea oysters with Sevruga caviar and Szechuan-spiced butter. Now that's what we call bottle service.

Photo: Courtesy of the May Fair Hotel

The House of Shields, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, December 29 05:09 PM

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So what if this beautiful old bar in downtown San Francisco doesn't have a clock (or a TV) to help count down the last seconds of 2010? We're hoping it means there won't be a last call, either.

The House of Shields has been around for a while--over 100 years, in fact. But it has just reopened after a renovation that's added some extra polish to the wood-paneled walls and brass statues and stripped the floor back to the original tile mosaic. Owner and chef, Dennis Leary, also runs Canteen restaurant and the much-loved Sentinel sandwich shop next door, so expect some quality eats soon, too.

Grab one of the spruced-up wooden booths for you and your posse to toast 2011...just make sure one of you wears a watch.

The Normandy Hotel, Washington, D.C.

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, December 14 11:21 AM

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Saving a couple of hundred dollars when you're staying in D.C. might feel like a drop in the ocean compared with the sums Congress is arguing over. But for ordinary folks like us, it's a big deal. The Normandy is a 75-room hotel that feels far more luxurious than the bargain rates (often as low as $109 per night) suggest. Located on a leafy side street within walking distance of Dupont Circle's restaurants and bars, the Normandy juxtaposes Old World touches like toile wallpaper with a clean, neutral palette and leather headboards. Service is friendly and efficient, and there's a host of perks (free Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffee machines in the rooms, wine and cheese receptions). It all adds up to a pleasant stay, and, dare we say, the best value in the District.

And while you're in town...

Eat here:
Bibiana
Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have all been spotted in Bibiana's buzzy dining room. So, what's the draw? Chef Nicholas Stefanelli applies a light touch to pasta dishes such as citrus agnolotti (airy pillows perked up with tangy ricotta) and buttery Maryland lump crab on a rich tangle of squid ink spaghetti. The confident yet unobtrusive service is a welcome plus, too.

Drink here:
Columbia Room
The tiny Columbia Room is part apothecary, part Japanese omakase experience. Owner and master of ceremonies Derek Brown chips ice from a wooden hangiri while holding forth on the chemistry of tinctures and the history of tiki. Tipplers tend to linger, taste-testing new recipes, mellowing out to the acoustic indie soundtrack, and ordering one last cocktail. We suggest the martini, the perfect marriage of precision (Brown uses a thermometer) and flair (that cut crystal coupe!).

Photo: Courtesy of the Normandy Hotel

The Wellesbourne, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, November 11 10:41 AM

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When the weather outside is frightful, there's nothing like a bar serving classic cocktails beside a roaring fire--someplace, in fact, like the newly opened Wellesbourne. We like it so much, we're even prepared to forget that--despite its 19th-century-manor appearance--it's in West Los Angeles rather than the English countryside.

The Wellesbourne has wooden booths with little desk lamps, walls lined with books or toile wallpaper, assorted comfy sofas, and a stone fireplace--all freshly aged for added atmosphere. Along with classic cocktails, it will soon serve traditional pub grub like Welsh rarebit and that classic Brit pudding-and-sausage combo, toad in the hole.

So what if snowflake sightings are rare in L.A.? This is the perfect place to toast the festive season with a Brandy Alexander.

Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Daniels

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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