If you’re a Columbia native, you may have bar blinders on when it comes to where you drown your sorrows or celebrate your weekends.
You may gravitate toward bars where locals hang out. If so, you may be missing out on one of Columbia’s great finds – Vault Martini Bar, a hotel bar at the Sheraton in downtown Columbia.
What once was an actual bank vault is now a cozy bar with a very cool drink menu. Originally known for its martinis named after famous bank robbers, the hip yet retro bar makes you long for a martini – shaken, not stirred.
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“This building is over 100 years old, and that’s the original wall,” noted Heather Brown, one of the Sheraton’s bartenders, gesturing to an area of brick near the bar. “So you’re in history. The vault door is like 4.3 tons or something ridiculous like that. You feel like you’re in a historical spot. It’s cool.”
Since this bar’s 25-person seating is so much more intimate than the hotel’s expansive 17th-floor rooftop bar, Brown always suggests that patrons take in the sunset on the rooftop, then come back to the Vault for a nightcap.
When it gets busy, people go sit in the lobby with their drinks. They spread out. So there’s plenty of room with the small space we have.
Heather Brown, The Vault bartender
“That’s the best way to get the full experience,” she said.
The Vault has an array of liqueurs to make any number of mixed drinks, but it’s also expanding into craft beers. Brown said they recently started carrying Palmetto Amber and Palmetto Pale Ale, both from Charleston.
“We also have Conquest IPA and Conquest Blonde from here in Columbia,” said Brown. “I hope to get River Rat. I’ve been mentioning it. I want to bring in more local. Especially since we are a hotel, we get people from different states and countries even that want a taste of where they’re staying. So it’s important that we showcase that and say, ‘This is South Carolina, drink it.’ ”
And speaking of drinking, Brown took to the bar to highlight three drinks off its new menu.
First up is the Breakfast Martini, made with Absolut vodka, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and orange marmalade.
“It’s like a citrus explosion to brighten your day first thing in the morning,” Brown said.
The Peach Basket Cooler is another one of the bar’s new palate pleasers.
“If you like lemonade, if you like bourbon, if you like peach, then go for it,” said Brown. “It’s very refreshing. You can’t go wrong.”
But a trip to this bar wouldn’t be complete without having a classic cocktail.
Brown suggested a Dark and Stormy, featuring a ginger beer with the likeness of “We Can Do It!” Rosie the Riveter on it.
“It’s like a root beer, but it’s a spicy ginger beer,” said Brown. Add a few ounces of dark rum, and you’re in business.
This the first bar menu overhaul Brown is witnessing, but she’s sure it won’t be the last.
“If you come in a year, it’s going to be new stuff,” Brown said of the drink menu. “That’s the fun. It’s not going to be the same thing every time you come.”
Seems like the Vault has cracked the code on keeping guests happy and interested. Sounds like a safe place to sit back and drink in the atmosphere – just like old times.
If you go
LOCATION: The Vault Martini Bar, in the lobby of the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel, 1400 Main St.
HOURS: 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday