You want a drink, some good conversation, and maybe a bite. What you don’t want is to wander the streets looking for a decent spot, only to step into a promising front and instead encounter a substandard drinking establishment.
How much better it is to know the best spots beforehand. Instead of wasting time walking the streets or scouring the Internet, you go straight to the prime locations.
Some of these cocktail bars facilitate such a good, memorable experience that they can become a city destination in themselves. Here are a few of our favourites.
The Dead Rabbit, New York
Named after the 19th-century Irish-American street gang, this place is steeped in casual New York charm, and gritty-chic New York style.
The best spot for cocktails is in the upstairs parlour. You can choose from one of the thirty cocktails on offer by thumbing through the comic-book-style menu… you’ll get a few chuckles in while choosing your pleasure.
The bartenders are knowledgeable, outgoing without overdoing it, and shake drinks like their lives depend on a good blend. Try the Hat Trick, with rum, banana, lime and Peychaud’s bitters, or the Smart Alec, with Calvedos, aquavit and celery bitters. Either choice is a good place to begin the evening… you may even find a new cocktail favourite.
Harry’s New York Bar, Paris
Not in New York, but want a little of that New York ambiance? You can get good French food in New York, so why not a Big Apple experience in Paris?
Harry’s is not just unique in its style. It is simply designed after traditional New York drinking holes. This place used to be in Manhattan! It was taken apart, shipped over to Paris, and reassembled there. In a way, a drink at Harry’s in Paris really is a moment spent in historical New York.
Not enough pedigree for you? How about this: it is said to be the place that invented the Bloody Mary, the Sidecar, the Monkey Gland and the White Lady.
It can’t have been cheap to move a whole bar to France, although the experience is worth it, it will come at a price. Expect to pay between 12 and 15 Euros for a good cocktail.
Victoria Bar, Berlin
New York’s historical underbelly has now become chic and high-end, but it’s not the only city to see its historically-rougher areas rise up over time. The Victoria Bar, on Berlin’s Potsdamer Strasse, was one of the first steps on the street’s rise into trend-setting popularity. It not only pushes for progress, it also has the pedigree and street cred to back it up.
A drink here includes some pretty impressive atmosphere, as pictures by Martin Kippenberger and Marcel Dzama grace the wood-panelled walls and the overall effect is one of retro-elegance with a laid-back, almost casual attitude. Make a nod to all things formal with a Prince Charles, a delicious combination of Champagne, cognac and apricot brandy – but you’ll do so from a very relaxed state of mind.
Linje Tio, Stockholm
Sweden is known for attention to details, and eating from what’s in-season – why should their best cocktail bar be any different?
In summer, the drinks on offer will include flavours of sweet fruit and floral notes that seem to bring the long-patient sunshine indoors, while winter delights are sweetened with salted caramel and bitter balances that will warm you regardless of the dark and cold outside.
Every detail is carefully curated to produce the best in flavours and the best in atmosphere. Even the ice cube in your drink is hand cut from an actual iceberg… can you get that anywhere else?
Black Pearl, Melbourne
In a prime spot on Melbourne’s famous Fitzroy Street, The Black Pearl has been the spiritual birthplace of many of Australia’s top bartenders and mixologists, and that’s no accident.
If you visit, go straight to The Attic, the upstairs section with its ever-changing cocktail menu, offering up a new and different selection each week. The drinks are a delight to the senses. The fragrance and elegance of each creation will be the first impressions you get, but the true genius of quality and artistry of each cocktail is in the taste. From light, refreshing and fruity, to dark, bitter and bone-warming, these examples of liquid art will have you in your seat, with a smile on your face, right up to their 3am closing bell.
Baltra Bar, Mexico City
Mexico brings to mind tequila, cervezas, and a lot of spicy foods; what it’s not known for is high-quality cocktails. However, if you’re there and you want a truly excellent drink in a top-notch cocktail bar, then head straight to Baltra Bar.
Competition is high among the resident mixologists, and you get to be the judge. Try The Last Word, a gin cocktail with mint pastis, sherry and lime, or instead try some excellent fortified wines or botanicals. The only reason the taste won’t bring a smile to your face, is that you’ll already be smiling – the presentation of each creation is a work of art; your eyes will delight as much as your taste buds. Enjoy.
Connaught Bar, London
We would be remiss if we didn’t include something from our own, cocktail-rich country. Connaught isn’t the only top-tier cocktail bar in the UK – far from it – but it is one of the very best.
The mixologists here are as much performers as they are chemists and hosts. Every movement, flavour, colour and sound seems choreographed to delight and entertain the patrons. Platinum silver leaf wall panels, table candles and elegant lighting combine to set the mood, and the flavours of lavender, cardamom, vanilla, liquorice, coriander and vanilla are only a wisp of the tools available to the master mixologists that inhabit the glittering bar area, their natural habitat.
A Destination’s Destination
You may not travel to a different country for the sole purpose of visiting a cocktail bar – though this list makes us wonder ‘why not?’ – but regardless of where your travels take you, it is nice to seek out and try the best that local cocktail culture has to offer. A trip to a truly top-tier cocktail bar can serve as a kind of destination of its own, even in the midst of another holiday, and is a thing to be savoured in the mind for years to come.
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Contact us on +44 (0)1730 711010 or email [email protected] if you’re interested in visiting any of the above bars in combination with a city break. Cocktails are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!