The bewitching hour in the desert begins around 5 p.m., when the rosy gold glow of the sun creeps down behind Mt. San Jacinto. Across the valley, cocktails start to stir at lounges in the desert’s most sought-after resorts.
Woven together by the decidedly mellow mood and seamless integration of indoor/outdoor spaces that are synonymous with the desert lifestyle, a variety of experiences unfold for the well-heeled seeking libations and chill time among luxurious surroundings.
RIVIERA PALM SPRINGS
The legendary Riviera Palm Springs presents all the glamour of retro Palm Springs, updated with modern flair. Located on 24 acres north of downtown, it is home to two sleek lounges, each known for its distinct identity.
The Starlite Lounge’s sleek, sparkling bar commands the mezzanine of the resort’s grand entrance and winks at arriving guests with its wash of reddish-orange light and prismatic chandeliers. Across a lobby area filled with cozy seating vignettes, a 30-foot video wall flashes a digitally remastered homage to the area’s cinematic history and mystique.
This is where dressed-to-thrill, pre-dinner crowds come to sample mixologist David Nepove’s Noble House signature-crafted cocktails like the Puesta del Sol made with Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and St. Germain elderflower liqueur or where a nightcap can be found alongside late-night munchies in the form of small-plate calamari fries, barbecue nachos, fois gras stuffed medjool dates, and Parmesan risotto croquettes.
Patrons seeking more privacy can meander a few steps into the billiards landing, where singular couches beneath grand mirrors and stunning metallic artworks are conducive to conversation between turns shooting pool.
Farther into the resort, tucked away on the outskirts of the sprawling pool area, is the Sidebar Lounge. The tiny bar with its cosmopolitan, black-and-white interiors provides sexy pockets of dimly lit booths around more visible highboy tables. Resident bartender Vivian Solomon serves up a mean Manhattan to distinguished gentlemen sealing deals before the younger L.A. crowd swoops in, adorned in copious amounts of bling and transferring the room into a swank social scene long past the stroke of midnight.
The adjacent outdoor patio invites stargazing around sparkling fire pits on bed lounges. It is a favorite end-of-the-night hangout for sighting members of young Hollywood, which have included Francis Bean Cobain and Hillary Duff.
VICEROY PALM SPRINGS
The young and outlandishly hip opt for the Hollywood Regency-style Viceroy, behind Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs.
The chic, 1940s Palm Springs-inspired boutique hotel’s Citron bar welcomes guests into a citrus lemon and crisp white-colored space electrified with the feel of perpetual daylight.
Regulars can easily whittle away hours over Stella Artois beer and fashionable bruschetta, tartare, and charcuterie plates and venture to the lounge chairs by the pool for all-hour people-watching and a perpetual designer sunglasses parade.
Home to a few of Lindsay Lohan’s famous meltdowns, as well as international trust-fund babies of the annual Coachella music festival set, it has been called a mini Chateau Marmont for its surreal sense of time suspended in the arms of glorious, getaway play days. Guests and locals converge here for the decadent Dangerous Margarita or cool Le Citron Bleu martini by bartender favorites Buddy Dennington and Jonathan Saindon.
On Sundays, a DJ takes over the lawns, providing an outdoor pool party where buckets of sparkling wine and plates of French beignets with banana curd are kept flowing for sunbathing revelers.
COLONY PALMS HOTEL
The Moroccan-inspired Colony Palms Hotel’s past as a 1930s speakeasy and brothel whispers alluring sweet nothings into the ears of its present-day guests. The architecture blurs the lines between the indoors and outdoors throughout, offering guests an unparalleled view of the St. Jacinto Mountains from any perspective.
Full of swagger, this four-star boutique destination is known for its Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar that reigns like a jewel, seducing guests beyond the poolside terrace. The ultra-swank purple, sage green, and gold interiors transition gorgeously into lush landscaping around the pool area, lending a sense of being transported to a hideaway on the French Riviera.
Members of Hollywood’s music and movie industry flock to the property to escape the daily grind. A homogenous mix of gay and straight guests, impeccable in Prada slacks and Gucci loafers, perfect the art of lazing while enjoying exquisite cuisine and creative cocktails. Fried avocado with lemon remoulade and pickled cabbage is a popular accompaniment to long afternoons getting lost in a world without time.
JW MARRIOTT DESERT SPRINGS RESORT & SPA
The massive Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert is known as a business traveler’s destination. But it simultaneously offers a sense of respite through distinctive touches like the interior waterways that can be traversed by gondola and rooms facing inward in levels hung with verdant green vines.
Young professionals and members of the East Valley elite enjoy the spacious Lobby Bar here, where they mingle with the commuting Southern California business set over an after-work drink. A vast, open central space, the bar blends sophisticated and contemporary splashes of bold red light into its earth-toned interiors that reflect the colors of the natural desert surroundings. Populated from late afternoon into the evening, it has the upbeat and exciting feel of a big-city hotel bar, absent hurried attitudes or competition for prime seats.
A sushi bar, located just steps away, serves handcrafted rolls that go well with the signature margarita drinks made with fresh lime.
HYATT GRAND CHAMPIONS RESORT
The wealthy, conservative, and sporty sets frequent Agave Sunset, the lobby lounge at the Hyatt resort in Indian Wells. Situated in the middle of an oasis of world-class golf, the hotel bar offers sprawling seating areas in front of palladium windows with tranquil views of the greens.
Corinthian leather chairs and multiple wall-mounted LCD screens offer patrons all the comforts of home while they enjoy delicious items off the progressive taco menu.
An unpretentious and casual atmosphere permeates the classy space where men feel as comfortable in pressed, khaki shorts coming in from a fresh game as the women do in the glitzy sandals and slinky T-shirt dresses of an active resort lifestyle.
Agave Sunset is also known for its expansive tequila bar, crowned by its signature private-label tequila. The super-premium creation is a single-barrel tequila created by Mexico’s Herradura distillery.
Watercolor sunsets, an extensive wine list, and occasional bouts of smooth jazz further accentuate the scene.
RENAISSANCE ESMERALDA RESORT AND SPA
Next door at the Renaissance Esmeralda, Stir Lounge is home to a scene in line with a “stir-it-up” mentality. It’s the place to go for well-dressed, adventurous types open to spontaneity and go-with-the-flow flexibility.
Late-afternoon patrons are privy to magnificent mountain and palm tree panoramic views through the large windows behind the lavender-lit bar that disappears into blackness as night falls and fun-loving, smashingly coiffed revelers arrive. This magical transition from day to night goes well with the signature Desert Rose Martini, hinting of the bisection between work and play.
Diversity sets the scene here, where bartenders treat everyone like a celebrity. A revolving roster of live entertainment that includes jazz, acoustic sets, and DJs caters to the something-for-everyone atmosphere. One night may include the presence of a local crooner debuting his latest CD among glasses of scotch, while another may feature a live funk saxophonist fueling a packed dance floor into the wee hours.
Sports bars, pubs, and other cocktail venues offer a welcome ambiance when you’re in the mood for a casual day or night out. But when you’re looking for elegant surroundings, Coachella Valley resorts answer the call with sophisticated flair.