Drinking with tourists at Montreal hotel bars

We checked out some local bars that most Montrealers have never seen the inside of. Some of them are great finds. Others, not so much.

Hotel Bar Loews Vogue

La Societé at Loews Hôtel Vogue


A hotel bar in your own city may seem like a strange choice of watering hole. The water isn’t cheap, at least not at the places you’d actually want to hang out in. The aesthetic can be unreasonably brown and leathery, the atmosphere muted and disconnected. It is, after all, a room full of strangers.

These are tourists — they’re a captive audience, or maybe just a lazy one. But why should we choose to spend our toonies downtown or in Old Montreal, where hardly any of us live? Well some of these spots are high-quality bars, an escape from the same old scene that may even make you feel like you’re on vacation, for the price of a metro ticket (and a $14 cocktail).


The Intercontinental's Sarah B
Absinthe at the Intercontinental’s Sarah B


1255 Jeanne-Mance

Smack in the centre of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Hyatt’s SIX Resto Lounge is a sprawling space where, we imagine, one can escape the throngs during festival season. When we visited for 5à7, the many banquettes and tables and bars were sparsely populated, but the booze was flowing and pre-hockey programming glowed from giant screens. We sampled the Habitat 67 cocktail, an intense cousin of the mojito: Hendrick’s gin, lime juice, sugar cane syrup, ginger, basil and 7Up.



360 St-Antoine W.

Sarah B, named after early 20th century actress Sarah Bernhardt, is a must-see. Bits of belle epoque and art nouveau decor accentuate its sharp modern angles and bright lights, not to mention a pair of plush semi-private hideaways suggesting an upscale opium den. Sarah B’s hallucinatory elements are an extension of its signature cocktail: absinthe, served the traditional way (straight, dripped through a sugar cube) or in a variety of cocktails. There are many types of absinthe available, and most if not all of them lack the drink’s infamous ingredient (wormwood). But it’s a trip nonetheless.


LH's piña colada
LH’s piña colada

LH Hotel

262 St-Jacques W.

Apart from the fact that it’s open till 3 a.m. every night, the main attraction of Botero Wine Bar is that the lobby it’s situated in is crammed with prized pieces of hotel owner George Marciano’s modern art collection — if you’re wondering who the subject of the Andy Warhol silkscreen on the south wall is, it’s him. They were buds. Piña colada is not Botero’s specialty, but we ordered it for that wannabe-on-holiday feeling, and it did the trick.


Loews Hotel Vogue

1415 de la Montagne

If you dig Dominion Square Taverne’s roaring ’20s vibe, Vogue’s resto-bar — la Societé — shares that vintage and all its charms. The stained-glass ceiling in the dining room is really something, and the cocktails are tight. Our sample beverage was the Bushfire, with tequilla, Cointreau, bitters and smokey maple, heavy on the smoke. This spot is open till midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. other nights.



1050 Sherbrooke W.

Alice Bar is cozy but swank, a modernized art deco lounge just off Omni’s lobby, with enough plush seating and bar spots to accommodate small groups and loners who want to watch the game, till midnight every night. Whiskey Wednesdays happen weekly from 5 to 9, with additional events going down Wednesday and Thursday. Our sample cocktail was the Bloody Alice, a nice and spicy house take on a Caesar.



1228 Sherbrooke W.

The lounge area at the head of the Ritz’s Maison Boulud restaurant is reserved for drinkers, and the cocktails are worth every cent of their average price of $19. The Vesper martini is the obvious snazzy choice, but the Oriental Cosmo is extra special, a delicious concoction of vodka, Cointreau, ginger, coriander and white cranberry juice served with a decorous floral ice ball.


Hotel Bar W Plateau

The W’s other bar, Plateau


1201 René-Levesque W.

La Café Bar, right beside the lobby at this downtown hotel, is different from any of the other bars on this list. It would almost make a better casual work station than hangout spot, framed by open shelves containing loads of cool coffee table books, with free wifi, floor to ceiling windows providing a busy view of René-Levesque Blvd. and half a dozen screens showing all the hockey games and hockey talk human eyes can handle. A highlight is the two-ounce-pour wine-tasting on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 à 7, where $5 gets you two vino samples.


An espresso martini at the Westin's Gazette restaurant
An espresso martini at the Westin’s Gazette restaurant


901 Square Victoria

The W’s Plateau Bar is only open after 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, but the hyper-modern hotel chain for big spenders under 40 is best known for its Wunderbar. The funky furniture, blue and lavender lighting and quasi-industrial DJ station are frankly hideous, but Wunderbar has other qualities that are hard to beat if you’re looking for a party: there’s a DJ, for one thing, you can get a decent cocktail for under $10, locals actually hang there and it’s open till 3 a.m.



300 St-Antoine W.

The Gazette restaurant is an elegant choice for a 5à7 or a nightcap, with over a dozen small tables, a conference-style pub table for groups and ample bar seating for singles. The look is modern with traditional accents, like the manly but pointless leather padding on the tables. The espresso martini was a boozy, caffeinated treat that didn’t sacrifice flavour for buzz. ■