By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Lydia showed up while we were at the pool. She pushed her rolling cart through our suite and then out onto the patio. By the time we got back, she had arranged cocktail shakers in a line with glass vials of mysterious liquids.
“I understand you’d like an old fashioned,” she said to me, before turning to my wife. “And you’d like something bubbly?”
She made my wife’s drink first, mixing lemon, gin and simple syrup before holding the cocktail shaker overhead, a flair for the dramatic. She strained the sunrise-colored liquid into a coupe glass. Opening a bottle of bubbly with a pop, she topped off a boozy-fizzy classic, a French 75.
As she made mine, I asked if there was a secret to a good old fashioned. “A lot of love,” she joked, or maybe not, because she never did reveal her recipe.
Lydia had arrived as part of an in-room bartender service offered by the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach. The place opened with horrible timing, in February 2020, just weeks before it closed along with everything else in the world. When it reopened later that year, its GM, Fernando Rivera, wanted something to differentiate the property. While many tourists might choose a hotel on Ocean Drive or Collins for their first stay in Miami, Rivera figures they might prefer on a second visit to be over here, in the quieter but still trendy Sunset Harbour.
“Maybe that next time you go to South Beach, you want to stay in a cool, calm, collected place like Sunset Harbor,” Rivera says. “But you might still want something really unique, so that’s why we came up with this idea.”
Rivera says he first saw an in-room bartender service at a hotel in Washington, D.C. He got back to Miami and immediately started shopping Amazon for rolling bar carts.
The Kimpton Palomar started offering the bespoke cocktail service earlier this year, charging $200 to $400 per hour, depending on your liquor discernment. Rivera says it’s ideal for bachelor or bachelorette parties or just a party for friends. They can set up the bar cart on one of a few baller-level balconies at the property, including one facing Alton Road that’s 800 square feet, or the one we had for the night, an L-shaped wrap-around as big as a lot of Miami apartments. As Lydia stirred (definitely not shaken) the old fashioned, the sun lowered over the Venetian Causeway, its light reflected in the canal below.
Lydia explained that she was one of the many Covid transplants, having arrived from New York City to take a bartending job at the excellent restaurant downstairs, Osteria Morini. After making us a round of drinks, she made a second one, leaving it behind in shakers, the champagne on ice, ready for us to top off.
Later, we went downstairs for dinner, Lydia stopping by to recommend a negroni for me and a nice glass of bubbly rose for my wife. She also insisted we try the cappelletti, which turned out to be undoubtedly the airiest and decadent of pillowy pasta dishes, bathed in a buttery sauce dotted with crispy pancetta.
“Good, right?” Lydia said when she stopped by the table later. “Let me know if you want a recommendation for after-dinner drinks.”
Admittedly, we didn’t make it that far. But we did have a new friend, something bound to happen when you’ve got your own in-room bartender.
Photo: Courtesy photo by Liz Mary Perez