At these bed-and-beverages, alcohol isn't limited to the hotel bar
My love of gin is relatively recent. Whether it's the result of maturing tastebuds or the discovery of decent tonic water, I've now realized that a well-mixed gin and tonic is a thing of beauty. So, when the opportunity arose to create my very own gin, I leapt at the chance.
The Distillery is a new hotel solely dedicated to the art of gin on London's Portobello Road. Down in The Ginstitute, a cozy basement filled with antique bottles, fraying recipe books and leather booths, workshops are held for gin lovers to learn how to bottle their own blend. The Distillery invited me to visit the property and try the experience.
After a history lesson in the bar (and an excellent martini), snifters of botanical distillates were passed around for tasting and eventually added to a base gin. I knew exactly what I wanted in mine — a smoky top note from Lapsang souchong tea, strong citrus bursts from bergamot and pomelo and a hint of heat from pink peppercorns.
There's an air of competition when the finished gin is passed around for a group tasting, but for me, the real moment of panic came when I had to name my creation. I opted for the rather lame Ginspiration over my first idea, Ginny Weasley (and still feel pangs of regret).
The Distillery isn't the only place where guests can pick up a new skill — or barstool bragging rights. Alcohol-themed hotels are starting to pop up all over the world, whether you want to make your own wine in Argentina or soak in a hot tub full of beer in Ohio.
Perfect for: Gin aficionados
The hotel: Under one roof, guests can enjoy tapas and a cocktail in GinTonica, make their own bespoke gin in a specialist class and then settle in for the night in one of the three bedrooms on the top floor — each with retro record players and premixed cocktails in the minibar.
The alcohol-themed activity: Workshops in The Ginstitute take three hours (110 pounds/$142), and you leave with your own blend as well as a bottle of its Portobello Road brand. Four different cocktails are served throughout the evening, so go easy on the tastings.
The Dogfish Inn
Location: Lewes, Delaware
Perfect for: Beer lovers on a budget
The hotel: The Dogfish Inn, a motel converted into a haven for beer lovers, opened in 2014. Run by the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, the inn is kitted out with memorable touches like wool Dogfish blankets and screen prints of beer labels. But you can't actually buy their brews onsite – for that you'll need to visit the brewery, a 20-minute drive away, or pick up a six-pack locally.
The alcohol-themed activity: Hotel guests can book a package that includes a private brewery tour and tasting ($45 per person) or a Grain to Glass tour ($30 per person) for access to areas that are off limits to other brewery visitors.
Casa de Uco
Location: Mendoza's Uco Valley, Argentina
Perfect for: Wannabe winemakers
The hotel: While vineyards have long offered accommodations — be it a rural farmhouse with a few vines or a sprawling, luxurious manor on a winery — oenophiles will appreciate the more immersive experiences offered at Casa de Uco. Guests here can spend time at the winery, drink house wines at the hotel and ride horseback through the vines. If you fall in love, and have unlimited funds, you can buy your own plot as well. Book the Laguna suite if you want to soak up the views from a freestanding bathtub.
The alcohol-themed activity: The resort has a Wine Barrel Program, a hands-on experience where guests can make their own wine – from picking the grapes to designing the labels. The expert oenologists on hand ensure that the wine produced is top-notch.
Doghouse Hotel & Brewery
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Perfect for: Craft beer devotees
The hotel: Earlier this year, Scottish brand BrewDog successfully crowdfunded a campaign through Indiegogo to open what it's calling the world's first crowd-funded craft beer hotel. Investors contributed a total of $324,072 for specific perks like VIP tours, hotel stays and the opportunity to design their own barrel of sour beer. The hotel is slated for a 2018 opening.
The alcohol-themed activity: There will be beer fridges in the shower, spa treatments infused with hop oils and even beer-filled Jacuzzis.
The Ramble Hotel
Location: Denver, Colorado
Perfect for: Serious cocktail enthusiasts
The hotel: Bartenders and mixologists have begun to achieve celebrity status and certain speciality cocktail bars have a cult-like following. One of the best examples is Death & Co, a New York cocktail bar that opened in 2006 to almost immediate acclaim. The bar will open its long-awaited second location within The Ramble Hotel in 2018. Why Denver? Cofounder David Kaplan went to high school in Colorado and sang the city's praises to the Denver Post. "Every time I've been to Denver over the past few years, I've just been blown away by the restaurants, the cocktails, the liquor shops," Kaplan said. Death & Co will operate the lobby bar, room service, the cafe, private bar and outdoor courtyard.
The alcohol-themed activity: Details are still sparse, but guests will have access to the reservations-only bar on the second-floor mezzanine — instead of the two- to three-hour wait that's common at the New York outpost.
Correction: May 15, 2017