(USA TODAY) -- Always like to make sure you know about the best hotel bars in the USA, even if it means waiting in line?
If you answered yes, then you might want to check out Nightclub & Bar magazine's first annual "best hotel bar" award. The magazine just gave the title to the W Hotel's POV bar in Washington D.C. - one of the District's hottest bars.
The time was right to add "best hotel bar" to the magazine's revamped and expanded list of 2010 award categories, said Donna Hood Crecca, the magazine's editorial director.
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"Hotel bars have really changed in the last couple of years," she told me. "In the 1930s, '40s and '50s, the hotel bar was a pretty swank place to be. Then for a few years, it kind of got away from that. But now, hotels are investing in their bar programs, and the hotel bar is back to being a destination. Some of them rank among the hottest bars in the country."
Among Nightclub & Bar's judges in charge of picking the No. 1 hotel bar: Dale DeGroff, a leading mixologist in the USA credited with pioneering a gourmet approach to classic cocktails and a four-time James Beard Award nominee. That's a hint that you can expect a seriously fashionable cocktail, whether a basil tangerine gimlet or a new twist on an Old Fashioned.
Here's a sampling of the 13 other bars that considered themselves hot enough to enter the contest (or were entered by someone who likes them):
Milwaukee: Bar 333 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Chicago: Bar Novo at the Renaissance Chicago
San Diego: 207 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
Chicago: Bar: 676 at the Omni Hotel in Chicago
New York: Hudson Bar at the Hudson Hotel in New York
What makes POV such a hotspot are the cocktails as well as the uniquely Washingtonian views that include the White House from a distance, jetliners landing and taking off from Washington National and the Washington Monument.
POV has two sections with two distinct moods: an indoor bar with with a toned-down, low-light feel, and the ever-popular outdoor terrace section, which is closest to the Treasury building and the White House. The busiest nights to go (or, for some, avoid) would be Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. You can expect to find the loudest scene on the outdoors terrace, where a cocktail can cost you a cool $15.
As for the winning hotel bar...POV brings a touch of Los Angeles and New York to (in comparison) stodgy D.C., complete with velvet-rope wait lines. When it's too packed at POV, visitors must wait downstairs in the lobby behind velvet ropes before being escorted into one of two tiny elevators to reach the top of the historic building.
Part of POV's appeal is the cocktail menu. W Hotel GM Ed Baden told me that the bar's team incorporates ice - whether hand-carved spheres or large columns - into the cocktails so that they don't melt right away and dilute the drink. One popular signature cocktail: Dark and Stormy made with fresh squeezed ginger beer and rum.
The POV team's now working on new cocktail concoctions for spring - and they're getting ready for the expected warm-weather rush. "This time of year, as we go into spring, it definitely is the more sought-after destination," Baden said. "People will do anything to be outside."
Reaching POV, however, requires either patience, planning, money or all of the above. You can get front-of-line access to POV by being a guest at the W, or booking part of the bar as part of a business meeting, bat mitvah or wedding. Some people even book rooms at the hotel just to have guaranteed access to the bar, Baden said.
What's the best path for non-guests? Baden said the best way to secure access is to make a reservation on OpenTable.com, just as you might a restaurant.
Written by Barbara de Lollis
USA TODAY & usatoday.com