For years, my passions has been anything related to spirits.
Not just spirits themselves, but everything surrounding and springing from them.
For instance, cocktails and the bars that make and serve them.
Also, the unique settings that are often offered by these bars and that make you enjoy your drinks even more.
Stepping into a bar is always a unique experience.
You often feel the vibe at once, one that says that everything is okay and it is going to be a magical evening.
This vibe is created by the people who work there, who attract other people with that same vibe who, in turn, enhance the vibe of the place.
Each and every bar in this article has a story to tell, which is certainly not always about the drinks.
Best Bars in the world
HR Giger Bar, Gruyères
The renowned Giger Bar is located in Château St Germain, the home of the Museum HR Giger, where Swiss artist HR Giger’s surrealistic oeuvre is on display. You may not have heard Giger’s name before, but you will certainly be familiar with the film Alien (1979). Giger’s design for the film’s monster earned him an Oscar in 1980.
Since its inauguration in 1998, the Museum HR Giger has been the repository of the largest collection of works by Giger. The museum bar, too, is a must for all fans of the artist. Giger himself, who sadly passed away in 2014, designed the whole interior, including the bar counter and furniture. Come and enjoy a cocktail surrounded by fantastical decor inside the belly of the beast… hrgiger.com/barmuseum.htm
Sky Bar, Bangkok
Sky Bar is on the 64th floor of the Lebua State Tower and is best known for its characteristic gold steel-and-concrete dome. This rooftop bar offers a stunning panoramic view of the Chao Phraya river and the enormous city of Bangkok. Sky Bar has made it to the top five of the world’s most unique bars on several occasions and was used as a film set for the film The Hangover Part II (2011).
Not surprisingly, the Hangovertini, made with whisky, green tea liquor, green apple juice, Martini Rosso and rosemary-infused honey, is one of the most popular cocktails on the list. lebua.com/sky-bar
Ophelia, Hong kong
Ophelia’s interior, inspired by Hong Kong’s rich and lively culture, is the brainchild of architect Ashley Sutton, who has created a surprising universe for the bar’s guests. You access the bar through an exotic-bird shop (yes, an exotic-bird shop). Once inside, you will be floored by the luxury furniture, 600,000 hand-painted tiles and state-of-the art metalwork making up the fabulous interior. But the main theme here is peacocks.
You see them everywhere in the decor, even in the smallest details, creating the ultra-luxurious feel that pervades the place. The drinks are equally colourful and exotic. The bar’s signature cocktails include the Opium Cage, a combination of Tequila Ocho Blanco, homemade watermelon syrup, rhubarb cordial and lime juice, and the Muse, which fuses Nusa Cana rum, pineapple juice, Orgeat syrup, lemon juice and cassis liqueur. ophelia.com.hk
360 Bar and Dining, Sydney
360 Bar and Dining offers visitors a breathtaking view of the city, and because it is a revolving restaurant, you will be able to see almost every corner of Sydney without having to even get up from your table. You can start dinner with a kangaroo carpaccio while watching the sun go down, and finish with a duck confit while the lights of Sydney Harbour flicker distantly in the background. Do try out a seat at the bar, too: it’s the ideal place for a special date over an Old Fashioned, accompanied by a glorious view. 360dining.com.au
Buza Bar, Dubrovnik
This bar is probably located at one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not only can you enjoy a perfectly served cocktail here, but you are also treated to a breathtaking view of the Adriatic. What more could you want? The Buza Bar is also rather aptly called ‘the hole in the wall’: buza means ‘hole’ in the Dubrovnik dialect, and to enter this magical place you indeed have to step through a hole in the wall. Note: the bar is open only during the spring and summer months. croatiagems.com/buza-bar/
AER Lounge, Mumbai
Admire the panoramic city and sea views and dream away underneath the endless ceiling of sky and stars at AER, Mumbai’s highest bar. This modern, futuristic, open-air lounge occupies the whole roof of the Four Seasons Hotel, drawing large crowds who come to enjoy its clubby ambience and lively music. The cocktail menu leaves nothing to be desired, either, but what you really come here for is the view. A must for the more adventurous cocktail drinker is undoubtedly the Fired Up, a mix of whisky, mint, pineapple and jalapeños. fourseasons.com
Alexander’s Bar, Athens
Alexander’s Bar in Athens is definitely one of the best hotel bars in the world. It boasts an inviting interior, warm atmosphere and top-quality drinks. Here you will find rare single- malt whiskies, brandies and cognacs. Just reading the drinks lists is guaranteed to make your mouth water.
Fancy a cocktail instead? Then go for the bar’s signature Napoleon Select, a blend of Dubonnet Rouge, Grand Marnier, gin and fragrant essential oil from Sicilian tangerines. The origin of the venue’s name becomes immediately clear when you enter, because behind the bar hangs a rare 18th-century tapestry portraying Alexander the Great at the battle of Gaugamela. gbrestaurants.gr/en/alexanders-bar
Rock Bar, Bali
Rock Bar has as its stage the Indian Ocean and the spectacular rock formations along the coast of Jimbaran. Guests fly to the island specifically to sample the bar’s signature cocktails and its magical ambience. They are especially fond of the martini cocktails, including the Punch Rock, Rockberry Martini and Spa on the Rock. The cocktails were designed by international bar consultant Sebastien Bonnefoi, who created them by mixing imported liqueurs with local fruit, herbs and spices. ayana.com
Located on Barcelona’s Plaça Reial, Ocaña houses a restaurant, a nightclub, and Apotheke cocktail bar, an absolutely breathtaking place that’s characterised by a passion for antiques and respect for craftsmanship. The result is a combination of various styles: old chandeliers, a wooden church floor, massive pillars and a variety of works by contemporary artists.
Impressive decor aside, in Apotheke the drinks are the stars of the night, but they share the limelight with the able bartenders. Owner Mario Grünenfelde, one of Berlin’s most famous barmen, loves to add oriental flavours to his cocktails. We suggest you ask for a Flesh & Blood, made with gin, Moroccan lavender syrup and kaffir lime leaves. ocana.cat/en/apotheke/
Beta Bar, Sydney
Beta Bar is located above Alpha, a popular Sydney restaurant. It is an initiative by the Hellenic Club, an association founded by the Australian city’s Greek community in 1924. Expect dramatic decoration, generous mezze dishes and cocktails with a hedonistic twist. Needless to say, they serve nice ouzo, and should you get hungry, you cannot go wrong with their homemade moussaka. betabarsydney.com.au
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150 Bars You Need to Visit Before You Die by Jurgen Lijcops is out now (Lannoo; £22.23).