Around the World in 10 Bars
Trendy, classic, historic or quirky, there are watering holes here for travellers of all stripes.
The bars on this list are an eclectic assortment, from one which offers a serial killer-inspired cocktail to another that has hidden passages. Photo by Gruizza/iStock.
105, 61 Praxitelous 30, Athens
The Greek capital is home to this chic yet playful bar with a cocktail menu that changes every year, where each cocktail is handcrafted by the owner-bartenders in their ‘kitchen lab.’ Their current menu called Genesis is inspired by art and Greek words. From syrups and cordials made from vegetable or fruit water to fermented or preserved ingredients, there’s immense attention to detail. Take, for instance, Chaos, which features craft buckwheat vodka, Samos Vin Doux dessert wine, caper leaves, beeswax and hops-infused olive oil. Bigger parties can also book the private ‘Room’ with a pool table and a personal bartender.
Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, London
Voted the World’s Best Bar in 2017, this botany-inspired cocktail bar at the Mondrian Hotel in London is known for its unusual plant and root-infused concoctions such as tomato wine, cucumber honey, pine nut vermouth and cedar sap. Their latest cocktail menu, Vices of Botany, is divided into four parts: Faith, Lust, Currency and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Sample this: Lonely Heart Killers, a plantation rum concoction with tonka and lily, is inspired by voodoo-practising American serial killer Raymond Fernandez.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet Street, London
London is home to some of the trendiest bars, but for pure historic value, none of them can measure up to this Fleet Street landmark. One of the oldest pubs in the city (it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666), it is filled with a series of interconnected small rooms (some with fireplaces), weather-beaten ceiling rafters and furniture and a long line of literary connections (the bar was once patronised by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse among others). Grab a pint here next time you are in London.
Museum Hr Giger Bar
Château St. Germain, Gruyères
There are bars under the sea, inside caves and baobab trees. Then there’s this alien masterpiece designed by the late Swiss artist H.R. Giger, best known for his Oscar-winning designs for Ridley Scott’s 1980 classic, Alien. While the museum in this 400-year-old medieval château houses the most comprehensive display of Giger’s works, the eye-popping bar is covered by double arches of vertebrae that criss-cross the vaulted ceiling. Bone-coloured chairs with alien spines and floor plates engraved with strange hieroglyphs complete the decor. Their standard bar menu may not be quite as out-of-this-world, but if you are a sci-fi fan, it’s worth a visit.
955 W Fulton Market, Chicago
The brainchild of renowned chef Grant Achatz, this revolutionary cocktail bar has an “ice chef” who is responsible for sculpting 39 flavours, shapes and sizes of crystal-clear, no-bubble ice. Cut on hoists by saws or sculpted by ice pick, the role of the ice is not just to cool, but also to impart an evolving flavour to your drink. Plus, there’s no bar. Drinks are made in a fenced-in ‘cocktail kitchen.’ Try their signature In the Rocks—whisky housed in a sphere of ice, released by the strike of a hammer. But be prepared to shell out $20/Rs1,300 as a deposit when you book a table.
The Flatiron Room
37 W. 26th St., New York City
This sophisticated whisky bar has won Anthony Bourdain’s approval. With its vintage leather sofa seating, rolling library ladders, 100-year-old reclaimed wood floorboards, and a velvet-curtained stage for live jazz performances, it’s easy to see why. There’s, of course, the matter of their whisky selection, said to be one of the most extensive on the East Coast. Pouring a dram of everything from limited edition Islay malts to Japanese single malts and Indian brands such as Amrut and Paul John, Flatiron draws a more mature crowd.
579, Fuxing Middle Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi
For a bar with a secret entrance, Speak Low is terribly popular. Split across four levels, all with hidden passages, customers have to first walk through Ocho, a bar tools store, to access a boisterous East Village-style bar on the first level serving familiar cocktails and bar snacks like pickled eggs topped with aioli.A bookcase at the back of Ocho slides open to reveal a secret brick passageway and stairs that open out to a classier space serving non-traditional cocktails like the Speak Low, a matcha drink paired with dark chocolate slivers. Higher up, behind a map opened through a secret button, is a members-only chandelier-ed lounge that serves rare, high-end cognac, armagnac and whisky. Needless to say, the higher you go, the more you pay.
16-18 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin
Dublin’s oldest microbrewery, which opened in 1996, is also its liveliest with live music and a packed three-storey pub with rustic wooden décor. All their stouts, lagers and ales are brewed on the premises. Apart from the award-winning Plain Porter, don’t miss the Oyster Stout, made by throwing in fresh shucked oysters into the conditioning tank as well as their seasonal favourite Chocolate Truffle Stout, a creamy stout with a distinctive chocolate aroma and taste from the use of high-cocoa-solid chocolate added to the copper and chocolate essence.
Obispo, Old Havana, Havana
This 200-year-old bar with a story to match was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite spot in Havana. Legend has it that the then-bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert invented (or rather, perfected) the daiquiri and came up with a special one for his favourite patron which is still available today. Called Papa Doble, this variation includes two-and-a-half shots of white rum, lemon juice, half a grapefruit and six drops of maraschino. It’s a tad touristy but next time you are in Havana, get a selfie with the life-size bronze statue of the writer leaning at the bar. Incidentally, a freshly made daiquiri is placed in front of it every day.
38 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
At this cutting-edge modernist cocktail bar, customers are encouraged to choose their drink by smelling strips of scented paper rather than by looking at a menu. Their new Sensorium Menu, which is designed to trigger memories through aroma, was developed in collaboration with a leading perfumery. The cocktail Geosmin, for instance, is inspired by the fragrance of petrichor and uses vodka distilled with Geosmin and topped with an edible ‘bread rain cloud’. The Campfire, on the other hand, is designed to evoke childhood memories with a mix of marshmallow milk, burnt syrup, edible ash and gin.