The Galleria's White-Collar Hotel Bars Mean Serious Business

You know the Derek is gearing up for a big Valentine's Day.
"We'll take two Nipple Up's, a Fraggle Rock and a Pipe Stripping, please. And light on the ice, if you will."

You can tell quite a bit about a bar from the drink names on the cocktail list, and this one runs to four pages. Names like "The Jed Clampet" [sic] or "Black Gold" seem fitting given the clientele. We're at least three drinks in, and have yet to see someone order a good, old-fashioned beer.

The menu at Hotel Derek's Vin Bar was recently revamped, adding flights of craft beer to the ever-expanding list. It makes sense. Craft beer is trendy right now, and Hotel Derek is a place that follows trends to a T, even if this crowd seems rather disinterested.

A host of men in power suits and their female counterparts -- big hair, skintight dresses -- are splayed about the modern chairs in the room. Their dark attire contrasts well with Vin Bar's sleek, hip design, staining the bright orange bar chairs a much more serious color. The women surrounding us slink and flirt, and their clouds of perfume and jingling expensive jewelry add as much to the atmosphere as the quietly thumping house music.

From the ladies' attire, no doubt straight off the racks of Dior's latest ready-to-wear line, to the wisecracking cocktail list, every carefully chosen component of Vin Bar pulls unabashedly from the latest trends. The entire place is pretty: the patrons, the well-shaken drinks, and the bar itself. The atmosphere begs us to follow suit, so we order a Diesel Downhole, a stiff drink comprised of whiskey, bitters and ginger ale. It sounds like a naughty oil pun.

Since its 2002 inception, Hotel Derek has always pushed to remain on the cutting edge, often changing its bar décor or even its entire restaurant to ensure a steady stream of elite clientele, local or otherwise. Over the years it's also become quite infamous for its rowdy Thursday crowd, which has been rumored to take full advantage of the unisex bathrooms after a few stout V Door cocktails. A recent remodel has proven just as successful as the other Hotel Derek rebirths. Relatively early on a recent Saturday night, the bar was packed with patrons eagerly handing over their AmEx cards to cover the rounds of $14 cocktails without batting an eye.

But keeping up with the Joneses at the Derek can get a little pricey. Perhaps it's the cost of admission to the trendy crowd at any hotel bar. We opted to dismiss ourselves from Vin Bar's purgatory to check out the scene at Hotel Derek's Westheimer neighbor, W XYZ bar at Aloft.

Story continues on the next page.

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