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We LOVE cocktails! I am not sure if you guys have noticed that from all of our super professional Snapchats…. but we do (@PursuitAdventur if you’re interested…). And we were more than pleasantly surprised to find all kinds of new and wonderful cocktail bars in Europe. It felt like when we lived here back in 2012 there were no cocktail bars to be found and that a vodka redbull was the height of cocktail artistry. Today though, that has all changed and the cocktail scene is BOOMING in Europe and across the globe and that makes us immeasurably happy. So in honor of all the wonderful cocktail bars we present to you the Top 7 Cocktails Bars in Europe!
Top 7 Cocktail Bars in Europe
The Jerry Thomas Project
Vicolo Cellini, 30
This speakeasy popped up in 2010 and SOMEHOW WE HAD NO IDEA! Having just found this information out, I am now very disappointed in ourselves, but Alex and I rectified that mistake when we returned to Rome in December 2015. We knew we had to visit once we discovered that there was a legitimate speakeasy in Rome created in honor of the cocktail god, Jerry Thomas, who basically wrote the bible on cocktails in the late 1800s.
The bar is down a small alley not too far from the bustling Campo dei Fiori and if you weren’t looking for it you would walk right past, except for the group of people waiting outside. In order to be admitted to the bar you must buzz the proper name (Dr. Jerry Thomas) and then answer the bi-weekly question to gain entrance. Once you have gained access to the small candle lit bar you will be lead to either your table or the bar and given a membership card* and the menu. Soak in the ambience of the small smoke filled and candle lit room as jazz and shakers compete over the din of raucous conversations. This bar truly transports you back in time.
The drink collection is absolutely amazing and we would be hard pressed to choose a favorite cocktail here. All of the cocktails were exquisitely made and both the gin cocktails and the agave cocktails were stellar. Perhaps my favorite was the Improved Aviation which was made up of Tanqueray, lemon juice, lavender syrup, violet liqueur and rose bitters. It was the perfect cocktail for me to embody the 1920s. Overall, every drink we had here was fabulous, although be prepared to wait for your drink because they take their time to handcraft all of their cocktails but then again as one of the few bars in Rome open until 4am you have time 😉
*Membership clubs in Rome exist in order to operate later than 2am and to also allow smoking inside. You usually have to pay a small fee but once you pay you are a member forever so don’t lose your card!
1 Rue de la Forge Royale
I think we are eternally grateful to Edna and Joe for introducing us to Red House in Paris. I don’t know how my life could have gone on without being introduced to the best, and I mean the BEST, frozen strawberry daiquiri I have ever had in my life! Now, why on earth would I claim that this cocktail bar has the best strawberry daiquiri ever, let alone on a fancy cocktail menu? Well, for starters Red House is probably the most down to earth cocktail bar ever and they make their daiquiris fresh with fresh French strawberries only when they are in season and never with a gross premixed sugar bomb. We generally would not order frozen strawberry daiquiris but when they are made fresh there is nothing so refreshing especially when Paris is going through a heat wave!
If you are here outside of strawberry season, never fear. Red House’s cocktail menu rotates seasonally and they always have some amazing choices. I would know this because Edna regularly will snapchat us and taunt us with all the awesome cocktails they are having at Red House.
To give you an idea of some of the cocktails they have let’s run through some of their most recent menu:
Green Door: rum blanco, falernum, lime, orgeat and absinthe
Parisian Pearl: gin, mint, lime, prosecco and absinthe
Red House Old Fashioned: rye, drambuie, pimento dram and cardamon
Orangutan: monkey shoulder, vermouth, campari, curacao and bitters
Also if you happen to be in Paris on the 4th of July they always have an awesome party. This year they had a crawfish boil! You can always count on a Texan to throw a good 4th of July party in Paris! (Yes the bar is owned by a Texan)
We stumbled upon Dogma and it just added another level of love of Antwerp for us. This cocktail bar is exquisite in the details and you can even get an interactive cocktail. Their menu is handwritten and illustrated in a small book which you can peruse at your leisure and you should, just for how much fun the artistry of it is. It also may take awhile because there are so many different amazing cocktail options. Alex and I eventually decided on two, the Aix en Provence and the Tall Dragon.
The Aix en Provence was my favorite and I loved that it was interactive. It starts with you rubbing lavender all over your hands, and then the cocktail is created table side complete with burning thyme and pine nuts. The cocktail was perfectly balanced and hit all the right notes, it had the sweetness of honey balanced out with acidity of the lemon and the thyme; in essence it was a perfectly refreshing cocktail for a summer afternoon. Plus there was the bonus of every time I sipped the cocktail the essence of lavender that lingered on my hands added another sensory element to the drink. Alex’s cocktail was a summer twist on a classic gin and tonic with Hendricks gin, cucumber, ginger and rosewater.
The bar has an upscale, lounge vibe with exposed brick, dark wood and red and black settes. While the vibe is upscale the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. So pop in grab a drink or two and enjoy a chat with the incredibly knowledgable bartenders. Who knows, they might just give you a few more recommendations for other cities on your trip!
We stumbled upon Noel, the Holiday Bar, in Athens, after a night out at a few wine bars and a tiki bar (see below) and I was completely taken by their holiday cheer. The bar was decked out in classy and elegant Christmas decor AND they were playing awesome jazz music. Usually when we are on our way home it is the music that makes us stop in for just one more 🙂 And Noel caught us. We are glad it did though because we had the best dry martini of our trip so far there! We ended up talking to several bartenders and discussing the different merits of the vermouth and gin they put in their dry martinis and even tasting the different options. We like cocktails, ok….
While we were there we also had the opportunity to try a cocktail, called The Wanderer, created by one of the bartenders, Stamatis Stamatiadas, who is in the finals for the Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition! The cocktail is a lovely combination of Bacardi Carta Blanca, an orange bitter aperitif, a tarragon-hops syrup and apple cider vinegar. If you have a chance to pop in and try this cocktail, then do it!
16A Queen Street
Bramble Bar was the one place that was consistently recommended to us when we visited Edinburgh this summer (along with Oink, oh god, the pulled pork!) and so we knew we had to make a stop there. We decide to visit on our last day so we wouldn’t find ourselves going there several times; a prudent decision but one I am not entirely sure I don’t regret…
When we finally found the bar; it is only marked by a small brass plaque and is downstairs, we were greeted by two bartenders and an empty bar. For some people that might seem less than ideal but we love empty bars which give us the chance to talk to each other and talk to the bartenders. The bar was empty because we were there in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. Beware, on weekend nights this place gets packed! We had a few cocktails here, a couple more than we planned but every cocktail we had was epic and totally worth it. You certainly cannot go wrong with their eponymous cocktail, Bramble, with gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and creme de mures.
Being voted one of the top bars in the world certainly gives this bar, it’s bartenders and it’s cocktails some panache and it is certainly an experience we won’t forget!
бул. “Цариградско Шосе” 17
Sofia was a pleasant surprise and Happy Pig certainly gave us the best first impression of the city. We stumbled upon Happy Pig just around the corner from our apartment and were enthralled the moment we stepped in. Of course, the restaurant and bar were completely empty when we arrived because we have a problem eating at normal hours. To assuage our embarrassment at being the only people in the restaurant we decided to start with some cocktails. And man, are the cocktails amazing here!
I started out with the Rakia Old Fashioned 2.0 which is a twist on a typical old fashioned using the traditional Rakia of Bulgaria and Alex had the Rakiya Julep, a Bulgarian take on the mint julep. Each of the cocktails were stellar and we loved the unique take that the bar took to make them their own.
While we sipped on our outstanding cocktails and warmed up from the chilly fall weather outside we delved into their menu. We learned that all of the ingredients at Happy Pig are sustainably grown and Bulgarian. The idea at Happy Pig is to take traditional Bulgarian ingredients and in turn support small local farmers and then present the dishes and cocktails in new and inventive ways.
We actually stopped at Happy Pig twice, as our first and last meals in the city, basically book ending our time in Sofia around Happy Pig because it was that good. The first day we decided to share some of their phenomenal starters. Alex had the duck testical salad which apparently was delicious and then we also shared patatnik, a traditional Bulgarian savory pastry filled with potatoes, mushrooms, feta and red onions and served with the ubiquitous Bulgarian yogurt, and the lentil and roasted carrot salad with a zaatar and cumin vinaigrette. While we devoured these perfect starters we also helped ourselves to more cocktails including the Sativa (Bulgarian for sense and the pun), which was one of the final ten cocktails in the Beefeater Competition for best cocktail. Apparently we know how to seek out contest winners….
Suffice to say, we couldn’t get enough of Happy Pig. The cocktails are unique and inventive and we didn’t have a subpar one here. They were all seriously delicious! I am drooling right now thinking about this place. Also if you would like to come here for a full meal you won’t be disappointed in their dinner menu either! What Happy Pig does best is taking traditional Bulgarian ingredients and presenting them in a new, modern and fresh way through both their cocktails and cuisine. You couldn’t ask for a better introduction to Sofia than this!
Baba Au Rum
Although we were only in Athens for 48 hours I think we managed to do the cocktail scene justice between Noel and Baba Au Rum. Baba Au Rum is a tiki style cocktail bar complete with Elvis and a Blue Hawaii themed bathroom! How can you not go to this bar?
Oh ya, the cocktails are fantastic too. Their cocktail menu is more like a book and is exhaustive in the diversity and deliciousness of their tiki cocktails. Alex and I decided to stick to the bar’s classics our first round with us ordering a zombie and the baba au rum respectively. Their signature cocktail is a delightful daiquiri full of imperial rum, sherry, vanilla and oak. Alex’s zombie was as delicious and as potent as you would expect it to be. It was an enticing mix of five different rums, fresh juice, and bitters and served in an iconic tiki head. All of the cocktails we had here were intense and alcoholic for sure, but not overwhelmingly so. They had just the right amount of bite which balanced out the sweetness of drinks.
These cocktails are perfect for a hot summer evening in Athens or to warm up on a cold winter’s evening!
Bonus: London Cocktail Bars
We have added London as a bonus because they have such a huge and varied cocktail scene. During the two weeks we spent in London we checked out a few different cocktails bars and while we did not experience an “aha” cocktail moment at any of them they are still certainly worth mentioning.
129 City Road
First up is Nightjar, a dark underground speakeasy style bar, which we visited with Edna and Joe. We had several different cocktails here ranging from an odd cardamom cream and alcoholic drink served in a teacup, a cocktail served in a conch shell, and one served out of a glass bird. They were interesting and unique for sure and their presentation was flawless and over the top (in a good way) but we weren’t blown away by any of the actual drinks. So it’s definitely worth checking out for the wackiness and the ambience but expect to pay a pretty penny (especially if you aren’t on the pound) for a decent but not amazing cocktail.
65 Rivington Street
The second cocktail bar in London was Callooh Callay, a very subtle Alice and Wonderland themed bar so subtle in fact that it took us looking up the bar on foursquare to figure it out. They also have a secondary bar in the back which you need to walk through the “looking glass” to get to. Although if you can’t get into the back bar you can always walk through the wardrobe to get to the restrooms. They have a wide variety of cocktails here and if you feel like coming here a lot you can even take the menu home with you because with every drink you order you get a sticker and once the menu is full you get some kind of prize. The cocktails were quite delicious and they had a Harrison Ford named cocktail so I was sold. It also was delicious with a combination of Ford’s gin, Lady Grey syrup, lemon, apricot liqueur, and Peychaud’s bitters.
Duck and Waffle
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate
The final bar we would DEFINITELY recommend but isn’t on the “official” list is Duck and Waffle. Duck and Waffle is an amazing experience and the only reason it didn’t make the list above is because it is more of a breakfast, lunch, dinner, after hours place for food and cocktails. The cocktails here are innovative and delicious but the true star is the eponymous dish, the duck and waffle. Once you have ascended to the 40th floor and taken a seat while gazing over London at 2:30am all you will want is a duck and waffle and a cocktail and Duck and Waffle is here to comply. Open 24 hours a day Duck and Waffle is the place to go for an after hours snack and perhaps one last cocktail. If you are lucky the nights will be short too so you can watch the sunrise over London!
*Note do not skip around the restaurant. It is apparently frowned upon. Just ask Alex….
And those are the top 7 cocktail bars in Europe! What do you guys think? Any we missed? Any we have to go to? We love “researching” so let us know in the comments! Cheers 🙂
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