Illustration depicting a woman sitting on top of a mini-fridge, with a man making a cocktail inside the fridge

Credit: ILLUSTRATION BY KAROLIN SCHNOOR

“These days, the mini-bar is about personalization, which people are increasingly expecting,” says Robert Purdy, the general manager at Viceroy Snowmass (doubles from $220). The Colorado hotel now lets guests request anything they’d like in advance, via an online form, and will have it stocked upon their arrival. My fantasy item? Cold-brew coffee — Sail Away’s Horchata flavor, if you’re asking — as I’m always the first one up and don’t want the noise of the coffee maker to wake my whole family.

Reliably over-the-top indulgences are still on many menus — take the 40-pound, $500 coco-de-mer, the largest nut on earth, available at Six Senses Zil Pasyon (doubles from $1,600), in the Seychelles. But most guests, including me, are craving familiar comfort foods. Hotel Ynez (doubles from $180), in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, has provisioned its guest rooms with pints of ice cream from McConnell’s, in Santa Barbara, plus cookies baked in-house. Thompson San Antonio (doubles from $400) has amped up the portion size of items such as kettle corn. “We know a personal size is just not enough anymore,” says Ted Knighton, the general manager.

Those dreaded tiny bottles of booze — which run out quickly and require endless restocking — are thankfully on the way out. “We’ve begun to include more full-size bottles of wine and liquor, or half bottles of Grey Goose, which guests can’t seem to get enough of lately,” says Mohan Koka, general manager at Miami’s Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel (doubles from $160). Florida’s Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (doubles from $660) boasts an At Your Service Cocktail Butler, who’ll wheel up a drink cart on demand. At the Kimpton Cardinal (doubles from $190), in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, even pets can raid the mini-bars, which include bottles of nonalcoholic Bowser Beer for dogs.

Many hoteliers have doubled down on their commitment to local purveyors. Commodore Perry Estate (doubles from $600), in Austin, Texas, offers an Estate Sale arranged around the mini-bar, spotlighting finds from the city, like handmade ceramics from Soul Matter Studio, prints from artist RF. Alvarez, and incense from Noah Marion, the leather goods and sundries brand. Granada Hotel & Bistro (doubles from $250), in San Luis Obispo, California, provides cocktail kits featuring small-batch elixirs like cucumber-elderflower and strawberry-lavender from local mixologist Dominique Gonzales.

Some properties are stocking up on wellness remedies for pandemic-rattled guests, like Joali (doubles from $1,840), in the Maldives, where guests can whip up their own smoothies from bowls of fruit, nuts, and spices using the mini-bar blender. But not everyone is munching kelp jerky. Some classic indulgences never go out of style, says David Bueno, general manager of the Jefferson (doubles from $525), in Washington, D.C. “Right now, our most popular mini-bar items are Pringles and peanut M&Ms,” he says. “No judgment from us.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Mini Marvels. 

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