The Bar at Hotel Kabuki is now open! To celebrate, we sat down with Shel Bourdon: National Director of Bars for Two Roads Hospitality to learn more about her and the inspiration behind The Bar at Hotel Kabuki.
What was your inspiration when developing The Bar at Hotel Kabuki’s cocktail list and what we can look forward to drinking?
My inspiration for The Bar at Hotel Kabuki came from its design. When you walk in, it feels like a living room: it’s modern, there are beautiful floor to ceiling windows that give you a view of our Japanese rock garden and koi pond. The Japanese influence is subtle, so when it came to the cocktail program I wanted the vision to come from someone who embodied the space. Someone who understood the complexities of high-end spirits and does not make cocktails that are overly precious. Cue our Bar Director, Stephanie Ann Wheeler. Originally a rum nerd (a la Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago) with a strong affinity for Japanese whiskey, Stephanie spent approximately 2 years in Japan studying Japanese culture. When we were developing the space – I thought wow – “if Stephanie was a bar, this would be exactly her.” So I sent her the concept deck, and 2 weeks later she flew to San Francisco and moved here just 2 weeks after that. Her cocktails are beautiful, balanced, and bright, just like the space!
What are some key elements of a great bar?
A friendly bartender, a warm room, and delicious cocktails!
What are you hoping guests will take away from the experience?
We hope that locals will embrace the bar. It doesn’t feel like a hotel bar exclusively for hotel guests, and we want the neighborhood to embrace the space. We have happy hour from 4pm-6pm consisting of specialty highballs, coffee all day, and outlets positioned around the room to act as a perfect out of office oasis.
What makes The Bar at Hotel Kabuki different from other bars in San Francisco?
I think about the journey of the guest through their day. San Francisco is a crowded city, much like New York, so after waking up in a small apartment and spending a day in an office, I know I’m looking to spread out. So many of the bars I’ve been to in San Francisco are petite and dark. The Bar at Hotel Kabuki is different in that you can spread out, relax, and enjoy the lush greenery of the courtyard that brightens up even the greyest of San Francisco days.
What made you decide to become a bartender?
I realized early on that I love people more than I love cocktails, but there is something really special that happens when you craft someone a delicious drink using fresh citrus and serve it in a beautiful glass.
And lastly, what is the best bar you have ever been to?
Ooooh this is tough, because at this point I have a favorite bar in each city. I travel every week, so having a go-to bar that feels like home is important to me. In Miami that bar is Sweet Liberty, in Chicago, the Sportsman’s Club, in Los Angeles, The Walker Inn, in San Francisco, Wildhawk, and when I’m home in New York, you can find me at Nitecap. The arrival experience is so important: how a bar makes you feel from the moment you walk in sets the tone for the entire experience. No bar does it better than The Columbia Room in DC.