Mini Pleasures

The minibar allows the hotel to express a personality

The hotel minibar is the time capsule of the decade. Several years ago, the most exciting items you were likely to find would have been pretzels and beer. Take another look. Today, savvy, sophisticated travelers want all the comforts of home and more. Much more. The range of minibar offerings is staggering.

"The minibar allows the hotel to express a personality," explains Andre Balazs, hotelier of the Chateau Marmont, the legendary Hollywood venue. "It is no longer just a convenience for the guest. It is an opportunity to offer them something luxurious and special in the intimacy of their room." At the Marmont, guests can purchase tea-scented candles ($130) made especially for the hotel. At The Mercer in SoHo, which Balazs considers his most luxurious property, the minibar stocks custom-made essential oils that he claims are emblematic of the Mercer experience. The AromaAid Kit ($19), with its crisp, white packaging, appears almost clinical, but inside the vials of oil are designed to transport you, with names like Relax, Sensual, Alert, and Mood Lift. According to Balazs, the different minibar products at each of his four hotels define their respective attitudes.

The culinary comforts at the Delano Hotel in Miami's South Beach go all out. You can treat yourself to one ounce of sevruga ($70), osetra ($90), or beluga ($145) caviar. Blinis and sour cream, to go with it, will be brought to your room. At the luxurious Le Toiny on St. Barts, chocolate lovers might become addicted to Petrossian Chocolate Pearls ($10) filled with Russian vodka. For the health-conscious, there are natural candies made with mint and anise from the Flavigny Monastery in France ($5). Toblerone chocolate and orange confit biscotti ($9) are baked fresh in-house for the private bar in each room at the stylish Raffles L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills. At the XV Beacon Hotel, Boston's hippest luxury hotel, try the complimentary liquid oxygen water, light up a L'Occitane aromatherapy candle ($12), or rub on the Aromathology Pulse Point balm ($11).

Travelers visiting New York City always need extra pampering. With that in mind, SoHo's newest boutique hotel, 60 Thompson, designed the mini "spa" bar, chock-full of lotions and potions from the chic Philosophy line of beauty products. Try Hope In A Jar Moisturizer ($40)—even the name makes you feel better. The Ritz-Carlton on 22nd Street in Washington, D.C., may be catering to aging politicians. You'll find men's boxer shorts ($16) as well as reading glasses ($15). What good is a vacation spent snorkeling and scuba diving in the Maldives if you have no photos to prove you were there? The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa offers a disposable underwater camera ($35). At Blakes in London, the key word is oxygen. Yes, a pressurized gas tube that emits two to three minutes' worth of pure oxygen ($35). The hotel claims it's calming and safe—and the new cure for jet lag and hangovers.

"A hotel is no more than a giant wrapper for a minibar," says a former Ian Schrager employee. Well, even if that's true, is there any better place to indulge in frivolous excess and extravagance than a deluxe hotel room?

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