Menger Bar, Menger Hotel, San Antonio
If anyone deserves a drink, it’s the traveler. Which is why the hotel bar is such an important amenity. It’s the place where, weary from her journey, a wandering soul marks the end of her drive/flight/walk from the office and toasts her impending vacation/sabbatical/happy hour. At a hotel bar anything can happen. You might wind up in conversation with someone you don’t know, someone from another town, another state, another world.
There are many good hotel bars in Texas, starting with one of the oldest. The Menger Bar, next to the Alamo, was created by drinkers for drinkers. Its proprietors, William and Mary Menger, ran such a successful brewery that, in 1859, they decided to open a place for their visitors to pass out—er, stay overnight. In 1887 a replica of the House of Lords pub was installed, complete with a solid cherry bar, French beveled mirrors, and polished brass spittoons. Here Teddy Roosevelt famously rustled up volunteer cavalrymen, or at least drank with them. The stuffed bull moose on the wall has seen several lifetimes’ worth of cattle-deal handshakes, dignitaries, and first-time visitors snapping photos from the balcony and reverentially perusing the Rough Riders uniforms and weaponry on display. (Really-old-timers are often spotted too: the ghost sightings are as numerous as the longnecks are cold.)
204 Alamo Plaza, 210-223-4361, mengerhotel.com
Driskill Bar, Driskill Hotel, Austin
When a newly minted oil tycoon draws up plans for the mega-ranch of his dreams, this is the bar he wants to replicate, right down to the pistol lamps and cowhide stools. The Driskill Bar, like the 1886 hotel housing it, is plenty fancy but also as cozy as your broken-in boots. Sunk into leather club chairs and drinking gingery Batinis around the glass-topped piano, the only-in-Austin mix of musicians, lawmakers, and technocrats certainly seems at home.
604 Brazos, 512-439-1234, driskillhotel.com
901 Fort Worth Ave., 866-870-8010, belmontdallas.com
White Buffalo Bar, Gage Hotel, Marathon
After hiking through nearby Big Bend, this rustic West Texas watering hole may appear to be a desert mirage, but it’s better than that. Named for the large shaggy creature mounted on the wall, it’s the kind of quiet outpost where you can while away several rounds of micheladas or fresh-squeezed-lime margaritas while shooting the bull with local ranchers or fellow big-city escapees. (Hint: do try the buffalo burger.)
102 NW U.S. Highway 90, 432-386-4205, gagehotel.com
Monarch Restaurant and Lounge, Hotel ZaZa, Houston
Brace for a fabulously dressed fray, cheekily named cocktails (Tom Ford, Darth Valentine), and a tidal wave of zebra print at this unabashedly swank Museum District joint. If bottle service isn’t your speed, weekdays are a little less see-and-be-seen, so you can enjoy your lamb lollipops and $145 bottle of rosé on the patio with fewer distractions.
5701 Main, 713-526-1991, hotelzaza.com/houston