By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 01, 2011 at 5:06 AM

"Bar Month" at is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs -- including guides, the latest trends, bartender profiles and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

"A good bar in an old hotel goes along way to situating you in a strange city," says Thomas Connors, the Chicago-based author of "Meet Me in the Bar: Classic Drinks from America's Historic Hotels" and a frequent visitor to Milwaukee and its hotel watering holes.

"Although it's a place of transients, it can make you feel like a local. Because great old hotel bars were, and continue to be, rendezvous points for the people who live in that city. Just listen to the conversations around you, watch how the waiter greets that big guy in the dark suit. A great hotel bar is as much a landmark as city hall, the public library, local museum, or stadium. When I'm traveling, hitting the best hotel bar in town is always on my itinerary."

A lot of hotel bars fly under the radar of the hometown crowd because they are one-dimensional and simply cater to travelers. But the best hotel bars serve clientele from home and abroad in an atmosphere that is alluring to all.

For some, like Connors, the hotel bar conjures up a classic space, like the lobby lounge in The Pfister.

"(It) means an old hotel bar," he says. "A place with a sense of history, a place that doesn't try to be interesting or cozy or cool. Cool is the last thing I want in a hotel bar. I don't mind seeing men in jackets, women in pearls -- well, you know what I mean. A place where the bartender really knows how to pour a drink, a place where the waitstaff know what service is -- like refreshing that bowl of munchies you've devoured without being asked. Dim lighting is good. Dark wood is good. A place that can be either a retreat or the perfect spot to talk shop."

Others, perhaps crave a more cutting-edge vibe, like the ambience on offer at the bars in the InterContinental.

Below, the editorial staff shares its favorite hotel bars in Milwaukee and beyond and we asked Connors to chime in with his best-loved examples, too. Please add your picks at the end using the Talkback feature.

Thomas Connors
Author of "Meet Me in the Bar: Classic Drinks from America's Historic Hotels"
Milwaukee pick: The Pfister lobby lounge
The lobby bar of The Pfister is and will always be my favorite hotel bar in Milwaukee. For years, it has served me well as office and escape. It's a beautiful room with great service. And whether I'm practically the only one there on a weekday afternoon, or jockeying for a chair on a Saturday night, the place never disappoints. I may not live in Milwaukee, but I'm never a stranger when I'm at The Pfister.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, New York
The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. It combines both an away-from-it-all ambience with a distinct buzz. The room, with its fanciful Maxfield Parrish mural is a trip in itself and the presence of assorted power brokers and media types generates a quintessentially New York vibe.

Renee Lorenz
Milwaukee pick: Blu at The Pfister
Ambience plays a big part in my opinion of any bar. As far as hotel bars go, Blu has it in spades. Especially at night, the views overlooking downtown from The Pfister's 23rd floor bar are stunning (though the view from the ladies' room windows comes close). The regular live music is always the perfect volume as either the main attraction or the background to conversation, and it doesn't take long to find a comfortable place to sit. Plus, have I mentioned the view?

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Riviera Maya hotel swim-up bars
Due to my extensive lack of travel during my of-age years, I haven't had much of an opportunity to vodka up my vacations. It could just be the winter-induced cabin fever talking, but one of these days I'm going to check out one of this Mexican resort's swim-up bars. I saw these lovely little creations when I was out in Vegas, but I'd much rather get my drink on without running the risk of doubling down on a blackjack hand.

Bob Purvis
Staff Writer
Milwaukee pick: Metro Lounge at Hotel Metro
If I am drinking $5 martinis there had better be someplace nearby that I can sleep, the Metro Lounge at Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St., takes care of both quite nicely. The place has a very comfortable lounge vibe, and with its Downtown location you get a nice mix of travelers, business folk, and Downtown dwellers you get into some interesting conversations.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Pappy & Harriet's at The Pioneertown Motel, California
Located about an hour east of San Bernardino in California's Inland Empire, this high desert honky tonk draws top notch musical talent like Bonny Prince Billy or Calexico. The bar anchors a long stretch of Old West movie sets built in the 1940s that includes Pioneer Bowl an antique bowling alley frequented by Gene Autry in it's prime that is still open on the weekends. The Pioneertown Motel out back offers simple and affordable wood cabins to sleep off a night of partying, or to stash your stuff during a day trip to nearby Joshua Tree National Park.

Jeff Sherman
Milwaukee pick: Branded at The Iron Horse
The easy pick is Blu.  Perched atop The Pfister Hotel, it’s simply so unique that it has to be mentioned.  I also love Clear at the Intercontinental.  It’s Downtown location and fun vibe are great.  But, if forced to pick my absolute favorite, I’d go with Branded at the Iron Horse.  It’s classic, not too trendy and always full of fun, good people.  Great food too.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Hotel on Rivington
Honestly, have you ever met a hotel bar that you didn’t like? Again, there are many that could make this list.  We splurged on our last NYC trip and stayed two nights at the Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side.  It’s very cool and full of jaw dropping views and amazing décor.  The Sunset Lounge on the roof rocks, as does the funky CV Club.

Molly Snyder
Associate Editor
Milwaukee pick: Envoy at The Ambassador
I adore the historic Ambassador Hotel, 2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., and have always enjoyed myself at the Ambassador's bar. About six years ago, it was renamed Envoy, and for two decades I have enjoyed having drinks before or after shows at the Eagles Ballroom / Rave. Envoy usually has Guinness on tap, a laid back atmosphere and a diverse clientele. I prefer being there, however, when the televisions are turned off so I can really kick up the nostalgia and try to imagine what it felt like to drink there when it opened in 1928.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge & Tiki Garden, Minneapolis
The tiki theme came and went, but Psycho Suzi's in "Nordeast" Minneapolis has been and always will be the definitive tiki-themed bar (and restaurant.) Now in a new location, there are three indoor bar areas and a great summertime patio, providing plenty of room to bend your elbows while slurping down a Virgin Sacrifice or a Fu Manchu. Plus, as the Web site reads, during the winter months you can "get lost in a Malaysian paradise during a Minnesota snowstorm."

Bobby Tanzilo
Managing Editor
Milwaukee pick: The Pfister lobby lounge
It's hard to beat the view and the cashews at Blu, atop The Pfister hotel, but for a classic American hotel bar experience, the lobby bar in Milwaukee's most historic hotel is unbeatable. There's a pianist and a giant fireplace, smoking room style furniture and dusky lighting. The staff is chatty in a reserved way and the snacks flow continuously. It feels classy and friendly at the same time. That's not an easy balance.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Sheerwater at Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, Calif.
My cousin and I had drinks outside at Sheerwater -- more a restaurant than bar, but a full bar and cocktails are available -- and it was a one of a kind experience. The Hotel del Coronado was the setting for "Some Like it Hot" and according to Rand McNally is perhaps America's most historic hotel. Grab a seat facing the sea and order something with a little paper umbrella for the full effect.

Andy Tarnoff
Milwaukee pick: County Clare
I like a lot of Milwaukee hotel bars, really. From a martini at Hotel Metro to a cold one at Iron Horse or Miller Time Pub, I am supportive of any place inside a hotel that doesn't feel too "hotely." But over the years, I've never had a bad experience at County Clare, even if the bed and breakfast upstairs barely counts in making this a true "hotel bar." I've never been to Ireland, and I'm told that most pubs there are quite a bit more cozy that Milwaukee's replicas. But that doesn't take anything away from this Downtown Milwaukee gem.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite hotel bar in the country. I've had the privilege to stay at HVH, but every year I come back as a customer. Like a desert oasis, this place oozes class in a Sinatra sort of way. Coupled with a Trader Vic's on the property, Hotel Valley Ho is a must-see when visiting the Phoenix area.

Andrew Wagner
Senior Staff Writer
Milwaukee pick: Bar 333 at The Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
I'm going to be honest, I've only been to Bar 333 -- located in the Hyatt Regency Downtown -- once (maybe twice), but it's predecessor, though the name escapes me, brings back a lot of fond memories of good times with friends during the years at Holiday Folk Fair and other events or conventions held in town which allowed me to catch up with friends from all over the country. It wasn't anything fancy, just a special place that reminds me of some of my favorite memories.

Beyond Milwaukee pick: Player's Sports Bar, Hilton-Philadelphia Airport
The day I was supposed to return to Milwaukee after the first two 2008 NLDS games, I ended up getting delayed for several hours. Luckily, I had enough notice and was able to hang out in my room for awhile at the Hilton-Philadelphia Airport. When I finally did have to check out, I went to grab a bite at the in-hotel bar. I don't know if it was the cheap drinks, talking baseball with an insurance salesman from Utah or the fact that for some unexplained reason, the bartender had a few bottles of the "new" Schlitz in the cooler, but I've rarely felt more comfortable in a bar. And yes, I know ... I need to get out more.