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Yes, we know the governor of Indiana is a jackass. And as a serious participant in the Indiana business community, my company is not happy with the exclusionary stupid laws recently enacted. But it’s not like we can just pull up stakes and leave. So we sometimes have to go to Indy.

Last trip out, NPS gave the Alexander a shot with mixed results. This time, we found a better room (3044) and had a much better shower. Much less hamster cage. Much more bathroom kung fu. If we find a higher floor version, we will have what we actually want. Oh, and about that morning newspaper…

3044 has style at the Alexander

3044 has style at the Alexander

3044 bathroom console (includes unused TV)

3044 bathroom console (includes unused TV)

Bathub AND large glass shower cube

Bathub AND large glass shower cube

Not only was the shower glass, it had great shower pressure and plenty of hot water. YES!

Hallway

Hallway

Homage to the American TV

Homage to the American TV

I was so beat when I got to the Alexander, that I did not even go to the fabulous bar for a night cap. Slept like a log. Maybe next time.

Four shower heads for the Alexander. So much better than the awful Conrad!

In other Indianapolis news, other than a stupid jackass governor, the Libertine has moved to new fancier and hipper digs. Still the same great cocktails though.

Arriving too early for the event and just in time to squeeze in a cocktail, my companion and I were served by Benjamin Moran. After the event, three hours later, we returned for more. Here is the as yet un-named Libertine Experiment One:
2 oz Ford’s Gin
.5 Cocchi Torino
.5 Gran classico
.25 Dry curaƧao
1 dash angostura
2 droppers scorpion grapefruit tincture (in house)
Stir down. Big rock. Grapefruit peel garnish for nose.

The Libertine Experiment One by Benjamin Moran

The Libertine Experiment One by Benjamin Moran

Benjamin was nice enough to make this for me even though his shift was over. But not to fear, Colin Lime was in the house to take over. Colin made us an Indiana Diamondback:
2 oz Bonesnapper Rye (local)
.75 Green Chartruese
.5 Demerara syrup (1:1)
2 dashes Angostura
3 dashes lemon bitters
shake. serve over big rock. lemon peel garnish.

Then it was back to Bloomington and the Grant Street Inn, but not before stopping in at the Irish Lion again for a Sazarac with Hendry.

The noplasticshowers verdict on the Conrad finally reached its tipping point during the last visit (ten thumbs down). But we need to stay in Indy at least once a year, and we need a place to stay!

Our first experience at The Alexander, a fairly new hotel near Monument Circle (and right across the street from Lilly), was a mixed bag. So close! And yet not quite where it needs to be. So much better than the Conrad; but so not at the level of a Kimpton.

A litany of small nits and nots: 1) housekeeping knocked on my door at 8:12am to see if I was gone (the computer probably knows and I was just stepping out of the shower), 2) no morning newspaper? (not even USA Today?!—just a joke), 3) the shower pressure is poor (and you know how we feel about showers), 4) management came to see about a delay during checkin and did not solve the problem?! (managers who simply go to get more staff need to roll up their sleeves and do some work), 5) the gestalt of the building has more in common with suburban mall fake hipster than real art (not as bad as this indigo mess, this Florida mess, or this thing in Norway, but approaching it), 6) the password for the front desk system was divulged live and out loud and joked about (hey, that computer knows my credit card number, that is not a joke).

Beyond the level of nit is the standard issue hamster cage architecture. I was assigned room 6041 which other than being way way way down the hall from the elevators is exactly the same as all of the other rooms. Better than a Marriott hamster cage, but only by reference to surface style stuff! Yuck. Looks like better rooms to ask about might be 6001 (big suite), 6045 (corner facing right way) and 6044 (corner facing wrong way).

Here is 6041 (and all the rest of the 42 numbers not yet covered).

6041 hamster cage

6041 hamster cage

That's pretty much the sum of it.

That’s pretty much the sum of it.

There are some very nice touches though. Power on the bedsides (and USB too). Euro power adapters on the desk with HDMI, serial, USB, etc. Super good free wifi.

Of course wifi is free.  But that is rare in Indy.

Of course wifi is free. But that is rare in Indy.

The bathroom situation is uncluttered, but not very glam. Fixtures too cheap and water pressure too low. This may not be fixable in the model.

IMG_1043

Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

One of the many style touches has a bit too much Marriott for my tastes.

Good?  Bad?  We can't tell.

Good? Bad? We can’t tell.

The best and most surprising part of The Alexander is its superior bar Plat 99. Though we don’t really dig the architecture at all, the drinks are fantastic. Watch out Kimpton, these guys are coming on strong! I was served by DC barman William Mohring who was willing to play and had a nice body of knowledge. He served me this:
The (Indianapolis) Diplomat
1 oz bulleit bourbon
1 oz bonal
1 oz black seal rum
.17oz all spice dram
[2 drops white creme de menthe]
stir down, serve over rocks with 2 luxardo cherries

Impressive back bar at Plat99

Impressive back bar at Plat99

As a final verdict, The Alexander seems to be the only place to stay in Indianapolis that we can tell anyway. But in the end this hotel is only a high three showerheads place at most. Maybe some of the nits and nots can be eradicated (hopefully they are not too entrenched in the Dolce model). We look forward to finding out.

This hotel is very nice, especially if you are a lady of a certain age.

But they have fatal flaws. Lets list them just for fun.

FLAW 1: They apparently do not have a computer. So they have no idea that I like the “high 03” room category. In fact, they seem to have no idea that I have been here before at all. Hey Hilton, everybody else has computers these days and CRM systems. You should get one!

FLAW 2: Maybe they are trying to save money, because if they charged themselves for Internet access on the computer that they don’t have, they would go bankrupt. There is just no excuse for no free net in 2013.

Argh.  Internet, water and oxygen cost $$ at the Conrad.

Argh. Internet, water and oxygen cost $$ at the Conrad.

FLAW 3: There is nowhere to plug in your ipod here in room 1021.

This speaker no ipod jack.

This speaker no ipod jack haveth.

When I checked in, the checkin woman at the front desk seemed put off by my pointing out that they should have a computer and know what kind of room I like. (The hotel is overrun by Canadians from Eli Lilly in for a sales confab who apparently took all of the good rooms.) Oh well. She was not friendly at all. Then the room keys failed multiple times. But super friendly Jacob Barnes did what he could to salvage the situation. Jacob to the rescue! Good work Jacob, you should get a job at a better hotel chain.

But wait, there’s more.

FLAW 4: At exactly 3:15am this morning, some carousing party animals showed up on the 11th floor above my room. They made huge amounts of noise until 4:15am. Rude yes, but they were drunk and having a good time. Hotel management remained blithely unaware. I tried to put a pillow over my head.

Here is the rectangular bliss that is room 1021.

1021 is tight but well appointed.

1021 is tight but well appointed.

No more showerheads for the Conrad Hilton. Next time I am in Indianapolis, I plan to try the Alexander.

Never fear, all is not lost; the Libertine is still just down the street. Superior mixology and excellent fun, even when overrun by Canadian pharmaceutical types.

Barman Randy Gray kept his wits even while under complete deluge. Even Chef Paul got in on mixing drinks (which was kind of a riot to watch). Randy made time for this experimental beverage which we will call the ho hum (it still needs work)
1 oz hum (too much)
.75 cynar
.5 montenegro
.5 fernet branca
.5 lime
Absinthe rinse on glass. Stir down. Strain.

I have never heard tell of a drink with such a crazy variety of bitters. And it was almost good. We’ll see what we can do to make the ho more respectable at the home bar.

Bacon flight: 3 types, jowl, duck, regular

Bacon flight: 3 types, jowl, duck, regular

Bacon flight. Nuff said.

This posting written and posted over a cell phone wireless net.

Hiltons? You can have them all. But if you have to come to Indy, you might as well stay at the Conrad. It’s the highest most five-star link in the Hilton family, and it has everything required by the moneyed graying class.

CIMG0360

Room 1503 looks strikingly familiar. But this time I had to pay to get upgraded to a suite. Alas. No Hilton kung fu in noplasticshowers land.

Bed room is separate from the...

Bed room is separate from the…

sitting room.

sitting room.

or the couch

or the couch

Nice shower cube with a very strange shower head device thing.

Glass cube good.

Glass cube good.

Weird shower head?  Not so much.

Weird shower head? Not so much.

No free net. No free water. No free upgrade. The Conrad is hereby demoted to three showerheads. You guys can do better than that!

Stick it in the bathtub.

Stick it in the bathtub.

Hopefully a visit to the Libertine next door will lift my spirits. Well something about spirits anyway.

Indeed, we concocted a Hum Cocktail as follows:
1.5 hum
.75 Lime
.5 Angustora
.5 Campari
top with soda

The Libertine is a blast.

You're not in Kansas, Toto, you're in Indiana.

You’re not in Kansas, Toto, you’re in Indiana.

In a knockout blow, Shuttle America (one of United’s many subcontractors operating United Express) defeats Mesa Airlines (the absolute worst United Express subcontractor) almost without lifting a finger.

Shuttle America? New Embrear jets configured to store luggage and seat people comfortably. Mesa? Canadair regional jet where if you are lucky you may be able to fit your laptop bag. Mesa needs new regional jets. A CRJ700 may be better than a J-41, but that comparison was from the ’90s.

Shuttle America? Happy intelligent flight attendants. Mesa? Surly not too swift fight attendants who know their company sucks.

The unanimous decision goes to Shuttle America. Avoid Mesa at all costs.

In other news, the Granite City restaurant in IND terminal A ranks among the worst airport restaurants still alive today. Just plain bad food. Their bar scrapes so low that they don’t even have a bottle of Campari (!) meaning the classic fallback Negroni is not to be procured.

We have been forced to identify a new even further down the list backup cocktail for use when you are stuck in a bar in a ’70s time warp when martinis were only bad gin and people stored the vermouth bottle in the same room but didn’t open it. Without further ado, the White Lady:
2 oz gin (in this case Bombay Saphire ?! hah)
1 oz Cointreau (I suppose this could degenerate to Triplesec in an emergency)
.5 oz lemon juice (squeeze it yourself from pre-cut wedges)

Try going to the Granite City bar and then boarding a Mesa CRJ700. Not so good.

I always stay at the Conrad when I come to Indy. It’s probably your best bet, though Indy gets more and more interesting each time I visit. One of these years there will be a real boutique hotel here with hipsters and everything.

Meanwhile, you can be part of the Hilton chain and be treated like the corporate number you are. What a drag.

I was first assigned a room nowhere near as good as the one they put me in last time. Why? Because the Hilton people have no idea what they did for me last time. Not even their computers remember. So back downstairs it was to switch to room 1403 (a suite on one of the corners). 1403 is a very nice room.

The living room section with very nice windows (they should open the curtains).

Looking from the couch back to the 80s style desk peninsula. Desk peninsulas are no longer in style.

Or rather, set of rooms. There is a living room area, a bedroom, a large bathroom and a smaller bathroom with some halls connecting everything. Reasonable layout.

Nicely appointed bedroom.

And real plants…which is a welcome addition suitable for old lady hotels.

Nice plants on every table.

Here’s the problem with Hilton as a chain. They have no idea I have been here multiple times. They offered me water on checkin and when I requested sparkling had it “sent up” for a major fee (what a bait and switch ripoff). And the last straw relegating them to “wrong generation” status…Net costs an arm and a leg.

That’s right. Here in America where business hamsters at the Courtyard by Marriott get free Net, Hilton wants to charge me $41 and change for 3 days of (not so hot) Net. Net should be like electricity and oxygen…part of the deal. Only little old ladies and people in a previous generation are willing to pay for Net these days, mostly because they did not grow up with it. Pathetic. Hilton, get a clue! Even Paris knows that Net is necessary (and she is no genius).

At least the bathrooms are good.

Guest bathroom through two doors.

Master bathroom from the glass shower cube.

Plus the shower is great. Bring your own soap and shampoo though unless you want to smell all flowery (need I say…like a little old lady?).

Glass shower good.

Final verdict? Nice place—for your parents. Four shower heads and several extraneous surcharges for the Conrad. Maybe they will use the margin to buy a real CRM system.

Now on to the really great news. Mixology has arrived in Indianapolis! After a well constructed dinner at R Bistro with absolutely exceptional service, we drove back to the center of town for a drink or two at The Libertine.

Two separate barkeeps (actually, one barkeep and one certified mixologist) served us, neither of whom wanted to be named yesterday (this is not San Francisco is it?). I had an interesting concoction that has yet to earn its label. We’ll call it the Indypendant…though since Jonathan made it, maybe the Fernet Hum Drink is a better name.
.5 oz lime
.75 oz Hum which was a new one on me
1.5 oz Fernet

Yes, the Fernet dominated the drink. Not quite ready for prime time, but interesting nonetheless. I will have to get some Hum for my bar and play around with it.

Tonight we went back and I did some work with the Hum. Turns out that the barkeeps were Jonathan Stern (soon moving to SLO) and Michael Gray (who is actually a certified card carrying mixologist…whatever that means). Here are the drinks I came up with. The first needs some adjustment but was not too far off.
New Mexico
1.5 Rhum agricole
.5 Hum
1 lime juice
2 grapefruit juice
.5 simple syrup (an addition by Jonathan that was definitely necessary)

And the one that is a keeper.
Radical Moderate
1 Willett rye
.75 Hum
.75 Dolin’s sweet vermouth
dash orange bitters (bitter truth though Reagans #6 would be better)
luxardo cherry

Brian had a Jonathan concoction.
Cynar Stinger which if you were a mixologist and not a barkeep would be called a Bitter Sting
1.5 cynar
.375 White Creme de menthe
Lime squeeze (big)

On night one I also sampled some Vieux Carre Absinthe from Philly which was very nice. (I asked for sparkling water and simple syrup treatment. The brown sugar cube they used was a bad idea. Oh well.)

Night two was a blast. The Libertine will be a mandatory stop on any future Indy trips.

And a final piece of mixology news. Must try out The Rail in Bloomington (apparently introducing mixology to that storied college town). I hesitate to include their Facebook link (ouch…need website please).

Indiana is getting better and better. Sadly, we may just have to stop using the term mixology. See?

The Conrad is part of the Hilton chain, but it is a very nice hotel. It’s about as good as things get in Indy. I have to come here once a year, so it is good that I found a decent place to stay.

In fact, last time I was here they gave me a beautiful suite and I have been asking for the same treatment ever since. It seems to be working.

Here is the sitting room.

And as you can see, the shower has no sign of plastic whatsoever. These glass and marble cubicles are cool.

So it turns out that big chains do have something to offer on occasion. I’m pretty sure I would be hard pressed to find a mixology bar in this city though. Maybe in Bloomington (which is about an hour down the road) where Indiana University is. Meanwhile if you stop off in a vowel state instead of flying over them as usual, stop in at the Conrad.

The Conrad earns a 4 showerheads rating. Just not hip enough for a 5, but a very nice place indeed.