In the red

Release Date: 2009-02-04

The Grand Hyatt has been mired in legal disasters and overruns, robbing it of its mojo. What’s done is done — or rather, what’s undone still isn’t done — but I tried to keep that thought out of my mind. For the moment, I was less concerned if they could complete the building on time than if they could fix a drink on time.   

The Grand Hyatt actually has two bars to choose from: the Terrace Bar on the river level and Bar Rojo upstairs. I only caught a glimpse of the Terrace `reviewed August 20, 2008; see “Hiding in Plain Site”` and was amused by a guy in the corner channeling Jose Feliciano on the classical guitar, which was a nice touch.   

My expectations for the hotel were admittedly low, but the design and atmosphere are much better than I anticipated. The space is epic. The décor recalls Miami (minus the pink flamingoes) with a nostalgic touch of 1968 Mexico City modernity.  Overall, it’s fairly spectacular, though cavernous and detached.   

We sat at one of the many unusual crucifix-shaped tables. They seem like religious iconography masquerading as furniture, but it is distinctive, even if no one was exactly sure how to navigate the seating arrangement. A suicide-counselors convention was in town, but that didn’t seem to be killing anyone’s good mood. Unlike many hotel bars in this tourist destination, Bar Rojo does a brisk business and presents a sophisticated atmosphere, which is another way of saying there aren’t lassos and rodeo gear adorning the walls. 

I had been contemplating approximately six old-school drinks in the back of my head, so I left it up to chance and rolled a dice. For this week it would be a Negroni. Equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, it’s an apéritif dating back to early 20th-century Florence, Italy. An aristocrat named Count Camillo Negroni added gin to a drink known as an Americano, and the Negroni was born. It has a strong herbal and bitter taste that could catch many people off guard. Unlike a whiskey, which is felt in the gut, a Negroni is tasted first in the mouth and then the nose as the botanicals stimulate one’s sense of smell. It leaves one feeling thoughtful rather than sloshed, and just sober enough for dinner. 

If you’re thinking about sticking around for dinner, read Ron Bechtol’s review of Achiote Café, “Spicy in Name Only,” August 20, 2008, online at


The Vibe
Mexico City Modern

Best Use
After-work happy hour or one-liner laboratory where you can experiment picking up conventioneers

Expensive: cocktails start at $7 and go up

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