Our Town: Lewers Lounge

An old favorite is new and improved.

photo courtesy: halekulani

Lewers Lounge is back, and better than ever. After two months of renovations, the venerable jazz hideaway officially reopens on May 8, with the King of Cocktails holding court behind the bar to mark the occasion.

That would be Dale DeGroff, the internationally renowned mixologist, and the Halekulani’s new director of beverage arts. Once the head bartender for the Rainbow Room in New York City, DeGroff now jets around the world as a consultant, showing bars how to make the best cocktails in town.

Over the past few months, DeGroff has overhauled the Lewers drink menu, banishing soda guns and mixes and giving the staff a crash course in gourmet drink-making.

The new collection of cocktails relies instead on fresh, natural ingredients, to delicious effect. The Blackberry Julep features a real berry marinade, the Ginger Lychee Caipirissima contains real muddled lychee, and fresh lime juice and ginger beer makes the Añejo Highball go down entirely too easily.

The classics have not been forgotten either. Both the gin martini and the Manhattan we tried on a recent visit were pretty well perfect.

The entertainment has been juiced up, as well. Lewers is never going to be a dance club, but old favorites such as Bruce Hamada, Jim Howard and Noly Paa now hold center stage in the Lounge, instead of being tucked into the back corner. In fact, the whole layout has been improved, with cozy banquettes breaking up the room for more privacy, and new decor that flaunts the newly sophisticated atmosphere.

“You need to offer the guest an experience, not just a drink,” says DeGroff, who’s not done with Lewers yet. Next on his to-do list are seasonal menus and an expanded selection of classic cocktails. And if you’re there on opening night, order the Flame of Love, a DeGroff signature that features a dramatic, flaming orange-peel garnish.

Lewers is open nightly from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. with entertainment from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, 923-2311. Valet parking or complimentary self-parking.