My long-time editor and colleague Liz Froment recently visited the Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island. I knew this place was a perfect fit for Slightly Pretentious from the moment she said she was going. A beautiful hotel that also has placed a focus on its cocktail education program? Sign us up!
Liz spent two nights there and provided a full rundown of her experience. Take it away, Liz!
For generations, Newport, RI, has been a summer playground for the rich and famous. From the Gilded Age mansions dotting Bellevue Avenue to Jack and Jackie Kennedy watching the America’s Cup, Newport is a hidden gem.
It combines the best of historic feels and modern amenities. It serves as the perfect home base for a few days exploring everything Newport offers — from cocktails to a tee time at Newport Country Club (well, if you have the connections, at least).
Less than 90 minutes from Boston and just over three hours from New York, it’s an easy drive on 95 in either direction and makes for a perfect weekend or mid-week getaway.
Want to get the inside scoop? Let’s do it.
First Impressions of Hotel Viking
Since I grew up just south of Boston, I’ve been to Newport on countless day trips. One spot I’ve always had my eye on was Hotel Viking. It was built in 1926 and is smack in the middle of the historic section of Newport and looks stately. I’ve always wanted to stop and explore it.
Last week, I finally made an effort to visit.
Bottom line? I was not disappointed (understatement).
Walking into the open and airy lobby, you can tell they’ve taken a lot of care to keep the original architecture intact while adding in modern design. In Rhode Island, beach themes are super popular, but the Hotel Viking lobby gave me that rich blue and white of an ocean look without it feeling over the top.
The main thing that caught my eye when I walked in was a huge old-school key box wall right behind the front desk, which was original to the hotel.
Check-in was a snap. One thing about Hotel Viking is that everyone was really friendly. Regardless of the time of day, where I was headed, or who I saw, every employee I encountered had a smile and greeting for me.
When I had questions about things in the area and tips about where to grab a bite or something to see, the front desk staff was happy to point me in the right direction and asked how I liked things afterward.
The Rooms at the Hotel Viking
Hotel Viking has three types of rooms: luxury Mansion Suites, each named after a nearby mansion, one bedroom and junior suites, which sleep four to six guests, and standard guestrooms, which can accommodate two to four guests, depending on the size.
My room was a Bellevue King Suite, featuring a king-sized bed and a pull-out couch. These rooms are 600 square feet and sleep 4-6 people. There are only three on the property, so I lucked out.
When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the size. It was large and well-appointed.
I had a comfy king-sized bed, large TV, and a reading nook with a wing-back chair in the main room.
Then I passed through open French doors and had an entire living room setup, complete with a couch and two chairs, plus a big desk and another large TV. There was also a fully stocked Keurig machine. Each room had its own digital heat and AC thermostats.
My group chat was very impressed with the look and layout.
The couch in my room could be pulled out to another bed to accommodate more guests since I also had….two bathrooms. The bathrooms were the same; each had the sink in a separate area, including closet space, a safe, and an ironing board.
I also loved that the windows in my room opened a few inches so I could enjoy that fresh salt air.
The shower part of the bathroom(s) didn’t quite have the up-to-date feel as the sink side. But it was very clean and had a super hot shower with lots of pressure. As someone who loves to take a scalding shower, I had to turn it down twice.
That comes in handy when you want to relax after a long day of activities in the area.
Hotel Viking Spa Fjör and Pool
Sean cannot believe this since we all know how much he loves a few hours at the spa (ok, maybe you don’t know this – but he does!), but I am not much of a spa person. However, just because I didn’t spend time at Spa Fjör, I would be remiss not to mention it.
Since the hotel does a lot of weddings, the spa is a popular draw. I perused the menu on display in my room and saw it offers many services, including body rituals, massages, facials, and baths. And, there’s also an infrared sauna.
One cool feature is a smaller room tucked in the back with a giant glowing salt wall and a few comfy chairs. So even if you didn’t want to spa, per se, you could sit in there and just absorb the vibes. And let’s face it, who doesn’t need that lately?
Down the hall from Spa Fjör is a good-sized indoor pool with a hot tub. The room with the pool was large with really high ceilings and lots of light. There are plenty of lounge and deck chairs and a few cabanas, which I thought was a nice touch.
On the way to the spa and pool area, hook a right, and there’s a semi-enclosed courtyard that, in season, has Adirondack chairs and fire pits, so you can relax and enjoy a book (and a cocktail) out there too.
Dining at the Hotel Viking
There are a couple of dining options at the Hotel Viking. Some are available based on seasonality. In-room dining is also an option.
Top of Newport
Since I was there in March, which is between seasons, I couldn’t check out the roof deck bar and lounge called Top of Newport. In season, it offers a menu featuring different cocktails, wines, and beers, plus a selection of light bar bites. If you’re there when it’s open, definitely take advantage of the sunset views.
I did take advantage of the other options, though.
I really liked the hotel’s built-in ready-to-go spot, Hill Market, which is open from 7 am until noon on weekdays (and 2 pm on weekends). However, since I spent a lot of my time exploring, I didn’t want to sit down for a full breakfast.
Instead, I went to Hill Market and grabbed a large coffee and bagel with jelly and cream cheese for a reasonably priced $12. Then I was able to get on with my day.
If you aren’t off to do something or don’t want to eat in your room, the market has some stools by the windows, or you could eat in the hotel lobby or bar area where there’s plenty of seating.
One Bellevue is the primary dining experience, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bar snacks throughout most of the day.
I grabbed my laptop to get some work done and enjoyed a late lunch one day at One Bellevue. I had a winter greens salad and a big pipping hot bowl of New England clam chowder (the only acceptable type of clam chowder, if I may editorialize) with crackers.
Again, I thought the pricing was reasonable; both were good-sized portions and $13 and $14.
Later, after I had consumed my weight in Laird’s Applejack during the cocktail class (more on that in a minute), I had to get some Rhode Island-style fried calamari at the bar.
You can’t go to Rhode Island and not get it. It was nice and hot, crunchy, and came with a tasty pomodoro sauce. They didn’t skimp on the banana peppers either, so a win in my book. That came in at $19.
Just off the main dining room at One Belleview, there’s another outdoor patio-type area with a fireplace for chilly nights in-season.
The Bar at the Hotel Viking
Unsurprisingly, for someone writing for a cocktail site, I spent a good portion of my time at the bar. Dan Nuebler, the bartender, was not only super friendly; you could tell he loved making and chatting about drinks.
He was a font of information, listened to my likes, suggested a few drinks, and patiently told me exactly how to make them as I scribbled down notes.
I’ll also note that both those bars and many of the hot spots in Newport are within an easy 10-15 minute walk from Hotel Viking. So it’s centrally located to try out a few cocktail spots and not worry about needing to drive or grab an Uber back.
Dan made me a few delicious cocktails, starting with a classic New England daiquiri which I really enjoyed. Forget the slushy and sweet image you have in your head; this was light and packed with flavor, a great summer cocktail.
His next suggestion was an American Trilogy, made with bottled-in-bond rye whiskey, bottled-in-bond Laird’s Applejack, and orange bitters. Three ingredients, but delicious as an alternative to an Old Fashioned.
Then I finished with a Newark, a twist on a Manhattan. But, instead of rye whiskey, it uses Lairds’s Applejack and adds in a dash of Fernet-Branca and cherry liquor. Again, it sent me reaching for my notebook to jot this one down.
Hotel Viking Cocktail Club Mixology Class
On the second night of my stay, I got to experience the Hotel Viking Cocktail Club Mixology Class. These are held most Thursdays and focus on a particular spirit.
The class costs $55, which I thought was a steal and makes it a no-brainer if you’re in Newport on a Thursday as a fun way to kick off your night. The number of guests is also limited to 12, making for a lovely intimate gathering; everyone gets a great seat. In addition, you get a tasting of spirits, can make your own cocktail, and a couple of canapes to go along with it.
Since March is women’s history month, I lucked out. Lisa Laird of Laird & Company came in as a special guest. Lisa detailed how her family’s distillery, the oldest in America, started in 1698 when Alexander Laird emigrated from Scotland to Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Her passion for her family’s business showed through. After the class, I enjoyed learning more about Laird’s and chatting with her and Jessica, the local company representative, about cocktails in general.
I love a history lesson, and this class was chock full of it, so I was in heaven — and that’s before we even got to the tasting.
We tried four tasters of different Laird offerings: Straight Applejack 86, Straight Apple Brandy Bottled in Bond, and Laird’s 7 1/2 Year Old Apple Brandy. Then we got a very special treat. Lisa gave us a taster of the super rare 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy.
I’d never had Applejack before that, I can recall, and I enjoyed these. However, the 7 1/2 year stood out as my personal favorite, though I wouldn’t turn down another taste of the 12 year!
Once we were set with the tasters and the history behind the drinks, Dan showed us how to make the cocktail of the night, called Building Foundations. It consists of lemon juice, triple sec, yellow chartreuse, with a dash of orange bitters, shaken with the 7 1/2 year Lairds and
The cocktail was created by Christina Mercado, the assistant director of food and beverage at Hotel Viking and mixologist, and I loved it. I absolutely see myself adding Building Foundations to my cocktail repertoire and a few Lairds bottles to my home bar.
Final Thoughts on The Hotel Viking Newport
To say I enjoyed my time at Newport’s Hotel Viking is an understatement. It was the perfect mini-break for me after two years of no vacations.
The service was excellent, especially the front desk staff, the bartenders, and the cocktail directors. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, I’d highly recommend dropping in to have a drink (and some calamari) at the bar.
I’d definitely recommend it to others, and I’m confident I’ll be attending another cocktail class — especially since the schedule changes with the seasons.
If you live in New England or want something that’s a bit of a getaway from New York and New Jersey and focuses on making great cocktails, this is the spot.