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From left: Sidney's Grille at the Hotel@MIT, Bar 10 at Westin Copley and Spire Bar at Nine Zero Hotel. (Globe Staff Photo / Dominic Chavez (Sidney's and Bar 10); Evan Richman (Spire))
UP FRONT

Check-in time

Here’s something you probably don’t hear very often: ‘‘I feel like going out tonight. Where’s the nearest hotel?’’

If you haven’t explored the bars and lounges in the city’s hotels, you’re missing out. Hotel bars can be hip, alluring, and mysterious, or they can be as casual and comfortable as your own living room. Maybe it’s the sofas and chairs arranged to prompt conversation, or maybe it’s the courtesy extended simply because you could be sleeping upstairs. Maybe it’s the unparalleled people-watching: Are these folks out-of-towners or locals? What brought them here? And is that Sharon Stone sitting over there near the big potted plant? Whatever the attraction, hotel bars can offer you and your friends an enjoyable diversion from your usual watering holes.

Herewith, some of our favorite hotel bars in Boston and Cambridge, from obvious choices to spots off the beaten path. From the classy to the romantic to the casual, there’s one for every mood — and usually with a drink to match. Enjoy your stay.

THE BRISTOL AT FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BOSTON 200 Boylston St., Boston. 617-338-4400.

SIGNATURE DRINK: Chai tea martini (Stoli Vanil vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, chai tea, cinnamon) $12.50.
SIGNATURE GUESTS: Billy Joel, Sharon Stone, Shaquille O’Neal.
ATTIRE: A mix of suits, people in theater attire, and girls in magenta flip-flops.
VIBE: Boylston Street bustles outside, but inside, the tinkling of piano keys and soft murmur of conversation provide an elegant respite. The giant mirror behind the long bar enhances your sense of self-importance, which can come in handy if you want to project the same kind of mover-shaker vibe as the high-powered exec sipping scotch next to you. Sink into one of the earth-tone sofas and chairs and enjoy a tasty, revamped menu. Come here to impress someone, but stop by the ATM first.
BEST PLACE TO: End the evening when you really don’t want it to end.

CUFFS Jurys Boston Hotel 350 Stuart St., Boston. 617-532-3828.

SIGNATURE DRINK: Mary Kelly martini (raspberry-flavored vodka, crème de cacao) $10.
SIGNATURE GUESTS: Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Boston 2004 staff for Democratic National Convention.
ATTIRE: Eddie Bauer or Abercrombie & Fitch.
VIBE: Pleasantly loud and mighty friendly, with lots of locals. The bar plays off its location in the former Boston Police Department headquarters, with cop-themed drinks and tables shaped like X’s that force people to talk — like on a jury or in an interrogation room, I suppose, only without the pressure and harsh lighting. But you’ll soon forget about all your unpaid parking tickets in this inviting, cozy room with tall chairs and nicely nostalgic music from the likes of Talking Heads and Duran Duran. An outdoor patio helps you cool down in the summertime, and the martinis come in personal silver shakers.
BEST PLACE TO: Take a new co-worker.

SIDNEY’S GRILLE The Hotel@MIT 20 Sidney St., Cambridge. 617-494-0011

SIGNATURE DRINK: Tech-tini (vodka, chambord, pineapple juice, blackberry garnish) $9.
SIGNATURE GUESTS: Gladys Knight and the Pips
ATTIRE Silicon Valley chic: ties and jeans.
VIBE: This Hilton-run hotel is affiliated with MIT and has the robotic models and flat-screen computers in the lobby to prove it. The bar adopts some of that playfully geeky theme with Starship Enterprise-like martini glasses (the bartender informed us he only had two) and $2 ‘‘byte size’’ small plates. Happily, there’s enough groundbreaking chemistry in the cocktails to please any mad scientist. The delicious small plates (which change weekly based on seasonal food items) include roasted mushrooms with barbecue onions and chicken sausage with quince and cranberries. One evening, MIT staffers stopped by for a pint after work, and every bar stool had someone chatting, drinking, or engaged in the very low-tech act of reading a newspaper.
BEST PLACE TO: Drink and work on your laptop without feeling dorky.

SPIRE BAR Nine Zero Hotel 90 Tremont St., Boston. 617-772-0202.

SIGNATURE DRINK: The Bostonian (Maker’s Mark bourbon, Spire’s own dried-fruit-infused vermouth, orange twist) $12.
SIGNATURE GUESTS: Scott Wolf, Jake Gyllenhaal
ATTIRE: Black, gray, black, and black.
VIBE: Sleek, hip, and beautiful. And those are just the people. The candles and dim lighting aim for elegance, but the hipness factor seems to outweigh any intimacy. It can be a little intimidating — you may feel like you have to ask permission to be here — but once you settle into one of Spire’s leather chairs and order a drink, you’ll start feeling right at home. You may want to order some food to accompany your impressively strong beverage; the turkey club is $14, but it’s thick and satisfying. (Note to waitress: We know that frites are fries.
BEST PLACE TO: Enjoy a cocktail before a night on the town.

BAR 10 Westin Copley Place 10 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-424-7446.

SIGNATURE DRINK: Espresso martini (Bailey’s Irish cream, Frangelico, Kahlua, espresso) $12.
SIGNATURE GUESTS: Jessica Simpson, Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie.
ATTIRE: J. Crew casual.
VIBE: Red chairs, dim lamps, and a swanky look make this a lounge worth discovering. It’s surprisingly down-to-earth, with a friendly waitstaff. Families mix with boisterous conventioneers who seem overjoyed to have ditched whatever gathering they were stuck in. The menu has some Mediterranean influences such as red-pepper humus, but there’s also steak frites and pan-roasted Atlantic salmon. The martinis are ridiculously strong. Do not leave before sampling at least one espresso martini, better known as ‘‘dessert in a glass.’’
BEST PLACE TO: Take a friend with whom you want to be more than friends.

CHOPS LOUNGE The Fenway Howard Johnson Hotel 1271 Boylston St., Boston. 617-267-8300.

SIGNATURE DRINK: Zombie (Bacardi rum, Hiram Walker cordials), $5
SIGNATURE GUESTS: None that the manager could remember.
ATTIRE: Come as you are.
VIBE: We’re told this lounge, located off the lobby of a modest Howard Johnson’s, gets packed during baseball season, but when the fans leave, it’s quiet enough for the bartender to sit on a stool and study for class. Chops serves as the bar for the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, so the drink menu features Mai Tais and other sweet-tasting concoctions. We’ll return when the Sox do.
BEST PLACE TO: Drink without being seen.

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