Over the years I’ve been traveling quite a lot,
these are some of the best places I ever had a drink.

Mister Cocktail

Posted on 22/06/2016 by Mistercocktail

 

For 2 weeks only, this ultra-small pop-up bar will be at a secret location in Amsterdam. To give you a hint: look for this door with the Tanqueray logo at the Amstel. Behind the door is a long alley that leads to a small old chapel that normally functions as a b&b, but now, for just 2 weeks, as a  pop-up bar by Tanqueray Gin. It’s the perfect way to start your evening with friends: G&T’s, bites and some tunes in a pretty neat setting.
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If you’re lucky to get inside you’ll get a tasting of the 3 expressions of Tanqueray Gin: their well-known London Dry Gin that was launched in 1830, the Tanqueray Ten, that won double gold medals between 2001 and 2006 in each consecutive year and their Rangpur, a lime-forward gin that caters a more modern style drinker. At the bar you can make your choice of G&T, all with Fever-Tree Tonic and a matching garnish.

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The only ‘downside’ is that the place fills up rather fast as no more than 40 people can be inside with enough space left to move around comfortably. But I’d like to see this rather as an upside as you will most definitely get that feeling of exclusivity. Better start looking for that door!

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Posted on 08/03/2015 by Mistercocktail

Last month saw the birth of the Paris Cocktail Week, an initiative by Thierry Daniel and Eric Fossard, who are also the founders of Cocktails & Spirits. At the beginning of this tradeshow about 7 years ago there were very few cocktailbars in Paris, even though you’d expect a city like this boasting the same amount of bars like London or New York. One of the bars that has paved the way for the new breed of bars is Experimental Cocktail Club, a group that has expanded to New York, Ibiza and London since and is soon opening a brand new hotel in Paris (Grand Pigalle Hotel).

Clients et bartender

Experimental Cocktail Club

 

The bars in Paris are located in 8 quartiers, all north of the Seine, making travelling between them a bit easier. Since I only had 2 days during the PCW, I decided to focus on 2 areas: South Pigalle and Haute Marais. And even then I managed to visit 3 out of 7 bars in both areas but using the Velib-bikes made navigating between them an easy job. My first night was in Haute Marais, where I excitedly got a table at La Mexcaleria. It was then that I found out that I got the wrong one, the bad one. The one I should’ve gone to was La Mezcaleria at 1K, instead I went to La Mexcaleria. If you click on the link you can see the review I wrote on this place, so I don’t have to go through the trouble of writing it here again. In short: go to the first one, do not, I repeat: do not, go to the second one.

In all honesty, I should have started with dinner in Candelaria, a cafeteria-style Taqeria with a bar hidden in the back of it. Going through the small doors in the back lead to a low bar that immediately gives that clandestine feeling. A great mixture of French heritage in spirits with Mexican liquor makes a more than interesting menu. The same owners have opened up a bar and restaurant called Le Marie Celeste and this is a completelly different experience, if only for the open character of the place (not being hidden and all). The food menu is very international, although French cuisine plays a major part, as do oysters. The drinks menu is a sign of the well-developed scene in Paris as this has been created to match the food. Last stop for the night was Little Red Door, a small speak-easy style bar run by a very international team of bartenders. The venue has a no-standing policy, which basically means that you have space enough to enjoy your drinks without people bumping into you all the time and the team can focus on hospitality instead of just banging out drinks. And you are allowed to walk around if you really feel like it. The drinks menu is exceptionelle, with many homemade ingredients coming from their kitchen. And indeed, they serve great barfood, too!

Little Red Door - image by Mohé

Little Red Door -image by Mohé

The second day I went to visit bars in South Pigalle, the Red Light area of Paris, formerly known as Pig Alley. Many infamous ‘cabaret’ clubs are here basically to scam tourists. It’s good fun to read the reviews of this area on Trip Advisor :). Many of these bars and clubs have been closed down in recent years dus to obvious reasons, but the liquor licenses remained and a new type of owner was found. One of the first bars to come to this area was Dirty Dick, a great Tiki bar run by the heavily tatooed American Scotty Schuder. Dirty Dick is the original name of the venue that dates back to 1931 when it was a brothel, but now it’s covered wall-to-wall with Polynesian artifects and memorabilia to honour the Tiki-gods. Rum is logically the star of this bar and with prices starting around € 6 for a cocktail it is a great place to be. Next door is a recent opening called Lulu White. This bar is a mixture of ‘Fin de Siècle’ Paris and 20th century New Orleans and of jazz and French electronic music. The interior is amongst the most stylish of all and it’s a sharp contrast with the surrounding area. Absinth plays a major role in the menu, the high alcoholic spirit that was once banned. The team from Little Red Door has set up this place immaculately, a must-visit when in Paris. Across the road is another bar, called Glass, and this is a great place for cocktails before going clubbing. The dj has a central role next to the bartenders to get you started to explore the nighlife in Paris. The cocktailmenu reflects what’s now hot in Paris amongst bartenders: Mezcal, Vermouth and Absinth & Pastis.

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Lulu White – image by Mohé

 

In the opening sentences I already mentioned the new Pigalle Grand Hotel opening in SoPi soon, but 2 of the best bartenders in France (Joseph Biolatto and Julien Escot) have just opened their own bar called Baton Rouge Pigalle. This bar also find it’s inspiration in New Orleans and Louisiana, but when I visited Paris the guys were still under construction. On my list for my next visit, most likely in June for Cocktails & Spirits!

 

 

Posted on 29/03/2012 by Mistercocktail

 

Image by The Connaught

 

When The Connaught re-opened in december 2007 after a year-long restauration of the entire hotel, the bar immediately set a new standard for hotelbars. It combined the old style of the hotels with the new style of mixology. The cost for this “contemporary interpretation” totalled a nice £ 70 million and the result is impressive, to say the least. While re-design of the hotel was done by Guy Oliver, the bar of The Connaught was handed over into the capable hands of David Collins, who you might remember from Artesian Bar.

The area in which The Connaught lies, is one of grandeur and style, Mayfair, with the American Ambassy trying to make it all ugly again. The most expensive shoppingarea in all of London is just a few blocks away on New Bond Street, so you may expect a clientele of a certain level. The small square in front of the hotel is most elegantly re-designed as well, giving a good indication of what you may find on the inside that lies behind the wonderful facade. The initial name of the hotel was The Coburg, but in 1917  it was renamed the “Connaught”, after the 3rd son of Queen Victoria: Prince Arther, Duke of Connaught.

The main hall of the hotel is quite small, giving a surprisingly warm and familiar feeling: here the entrances of The Coburg Bar, The Connaught Bar, Espelette and the famous restaurant of Hélène Darroze all come together. And of course the entrance to the hotel itself. In between you can find the very helpful and skilled staff of The Connaught, navigating everyone to his or her destination within the hotel, all with the attitude to make them feel at home. Which already starts outside, with the doormen wishing you welcome.

The eye catcher in the main entrance are the stairs: large and majestic, leading all the way to the top floor of the main building. I was told that Ralph Lauren is a big fan of The Connaught and he even rebuilt the stairs in his flagship-store in New York. My destination for this evening is of course The Connaught Bar. As for almost every bar in London, it is highly recommended to reserve ahead, to avoid disappointment and missing out on one great evening.

At The Connaught Bar you’re welcomed by a most friendly hostess, guiding you to your table to make sure you are well installed and hands you the drinksmenu. This is divided in several sections and are almost invariably own creations, a fair deal firmly based on the classics. Their Signature-section boasts some lavish creations by the barteam, which includes Agostino Perrone who was named International Bartender of the Year in 2010. He received this award during The Tales Of The Cocktail-event in New Orleans and The Connaught Bar picked up the award for World’s Best Hotelbar that same night. The night I visited The Connaught Bar, we were served by Rusty Cerven, a young rising star in the world of bartending.

The drinksmenu will keep you busy for a while and you may want to start with a glass of champagne. Feel free to call for help, the hostess will guide you through the different flavours with a steady hand.  One recommendation I’d like to make is their house-special the Dry Martini, which is prepared exactly how you’d like to drink it at your table, with your choice of vodka or gin, vermouth, bitters, garnish and way of course the choice between shaken or stirred. More house specials we tried were the Bloody Mary with a spectacular ‘air’ of celery on top and the Mulata Daisy, one of Agostino’s award-winning creations. I try to stay away from saying “drink this cocktail” because as it fits my taste, it might not be your choice in the end.

Every cocktail you order is served in a beautiful, handcrafted and hand-painted glass, which are also for sale in the bar. Especially the coupettes are great. Another nice feature is the small card that you receive upon leaving, of every cocktail you drank that evening, to re-create at home.

Should you feel a bit hungry after a long day of shopping in London, or just need a quick bite to stay focused when tasting all these wonderful cocktails, there’s always the possibility to order from their tapas-menu. All items on the menu are developed by Hélène Darroze, so Michelin-star level food. I have to admit that I could not resist the urge to have some nibblers so I tried the Grilled Scallops and the Lobster Spring Rolls. They were both just fabulous and I can imagine the same goes for the rest of the menu.

Having a drink at The Connaught Bar is not something you should do “in-between” – take your time and indulge yourself in this oasis of hospitality, where a highly skilled team works very hard to make sure you have an amazing experience.

The Connaught Bar – Carlos Place, Mayfair, London – +44 (0)20 7314 3419

Posted on 22/03/2012 by Mistercocktail

Picture by 69 Colebrook Row

SpeakEasy-style bars come in all different shapes and sizes. Unnoticeable doors, secret cellars, password-only, members-only etc etc. And although the strong arm of the law will not hunt these premises down, it feels special to be in a place that’s not accessible for everyone. On 69 Colebrook Row you can find The Bar With No Name, and conveniently called 69 Colebrook Row. Some things in life can be just that simple. To find this bar, you just have to turn on the navigation on your smartphone and you’re most certain to find this place, although it’s very easy to miss. The speakeasy part with this bar is that it’s just very small and tucked away and that they ask you to be nice to the neighbours after you leave, a kind gesture.

The bar opened mid 2009 and the man responsible for this  is Tony Conigliaro. No not this one, this one! Mr Conigliaro is a veteran when it comes to bartending and working with spirits. He not only opened this bar, but also a laboratory, where new flavours are added to existing brands, which opens an endless array of possibilities for creating drinks. Most of the base-spirits, syrups and bitters are created in the Drinks Factory, establishing 69 Colebrook Row as one of the most progressive bars in the industry.

The place itself is not of the fancy kind: no expensive designs, no marble bar or gold-plated ornaments: at 69 Colebrook Row it is all about hospitality and great cocktails. It is highly recommended to make a reservation, just in case a few other people before have decided to have a drink in the same place: it fills up pretty easylee. You’re welcomed by the staff – the hostess and the bartenders,  and the space is small enough to make no one enter unnoticed. All the (award-winning) staff-members are very capable of navigating you through their menu to find the perfect cocktail for you.

Drinking cocktails in The Bar With No Name is something special. As I’ve mentioned before, almost every ingredient that is used behind the bar comes out of their own lab, so you have to be open to try new flavours and put your taste buds to the test at times. And you will be rewarded for going here, for the drinks are all of extremely high quality. And yet pleasantly priced at £ 9. One example of all these great flavours is the Barbershop Fizz, in which you can find pine-infused gin (!) and a birch-vanilla syrup…talking about experimental!

The team has recently decided to revive the Gibson Martini , it’s not on their menu yet, but don’t hesitate to ask the staff. Just like you can ask for any classic cocktail – you are in safe hands when it comes down to these as well.

69 Colebrook Row is very well worth the visit, comes with a little journey to reach your destination, and has reset the standard for developing new flavours. You find yourself amongst a pleasant crowd and on week-end days a pianist will play tunes to enrichen the experience. Highly recommended!

The Bar With No Name – 69 Colebrook Row, London – +447540528593 or drinks@96colebrookrow.com

Posted on 12/03/2012 by Mistercocktail

When you walk down Gerrard Street, it is hard to believe that one of the very few real speakeasy bars in London is located here: brightly lit Chinese restaurants and massage-parlours dominate the streetview here and you’d sooner find a signature Peking Duck than a signature cocktail. My companion had visited the bar previously, so she knew where the very inconspicuous door is located, as I had passed it by on several occasions previously. I strongly advise you to reserve ahead: there is always some room for passers-by, but you may find a closed door on busy days. Which is most of the days.

The people that on first sight just happen to just hang around at street-level, appear to be the doormen of ECC. Having a reservation is not a guarantee to get inside: when you’re not properly dressed (London trendy at the very least) it is possible that there’s no seat available anymore. Better leave your home well prepared.

The bar is spread out over 2 floors of which the first one is reached after a long stairway. You’re welcomed upstairs by the host, who takes your coat and shows you your table. The atmosphere of the place just radiates that 20s clandestine feeling of illegal establishments, hidden from the public eye. The low and richly decorated ceiling combined with the raw brick walls accentuate this feeling. A glooming centre of attention is the bar, behind which stylishly dressed bartenders produce drink after drink. The menu is as the name of venue promises: experimental, although most cocktails are just great drinks that are quite accessible. The waitresses take time to take your order, although a big part of their job is to socialize with the clientele and on busy days they get pretty tied up. But guiding you through their menu is something they happily do and one drink that you’ll have to try is the Saint-Germain des Prés, an amazing cocktail, rich and foamy in texture and refreshing in taste.

I have tried some very tasty drinks from the menu and together with my companion we could share drinks amongst each other to do a little tasting. Your taste is probably quite different from mine, so follow your own feeling for your choice in drinks. A seat at the bar is highly recommended at busy days, as most tables are quite low and your view can exist of other people rather than the beautiful interior.

Upstairs is a somewhat more intimate bar, with an even lower ceiling and you may find yourself amidst the trend-setting crowd of London. The dj has his setup here and you can experience a somewhat more pleasant volume than downstairs, where on weekend-days it can get quite noisy with music and chatter competing.

ECC is quite an experience, for a number of reasons: the stylish (in-)crowd, the interior design and of course the skilled crew and high quality of the cocktails. But remember to travel well prepared: make a reservation and dress up!

13A Gerrard Street, London Open:Mon-Sat: 6pm – 3am Sun: 5pm – 12midnight Underground: Leicester Square Phone:+44 782 521 877 Website here.

Posted on 08/03/2012 by Mistercocktail

Visiting a cocktailbar is one thing. Visiting cocktailbars in London is also one other thing, but visiting hotelbars in London is a whole different ballgame. At least a good few of them. One of these bars is Artesian, the bar that is located in the prestigious hotel The Langham, the oldest 5* hotel in London conveniently located just a few minutes away from Oxford Circus. For entering the bar you can use the side-entrance, but I’d suggest you should go through the main-entrance of the hotel, getting you in the right mood instantaneously.

The entrance of the hotel radiates style and luxury and you may notice the pleasant scent that you smell upon entry, which is the signature smell of all Langham Hotels worldwide. The pillared marble entrance and the view of the Palm Court restaurant all add to the Grand Entree and as you follow your way to the left you may find Artesian Bar.

The bar itself is a design by David Collins and he did just one excellent job. Enormous Victorian chandeliers hang down from the ceiling and comfortable chairs and sofas make sure you can enjoy the great atmosphere as relaxed as possible. Purple leather and snakeskin-chairs all add to the luxurious space, which is lushly decorated with flowers. But a greatly designed bar would be nothing without great bartenders to prepare you drinks. As you’ve probably guessed, my first advise is to aim for the bar: there’s only 4 seats there, but still there’s a good chance that you find yourself lucky enough to get one of them. At fair part of the clientele is there on business or are well-known people from the entertainment industry, who prefer the comfortable sofas over a seat at the bar. There are a few indicators that the guys on the other end of the bar really know what it’s all about, including the award for World’s Best Cocktailmenu at The Tales of the Cocktail, the Oscar’s for the cocktail-scene.

All cocktails are prepared with great care, displaying a different technique for each cocktail. And don’t expect ordinary glassware here: each drink is served in a different vessel, each beautifully decorated. They are famous for their enormous collection of rums and I can highly recommend you to go for a rum-based drink. They created a drink called the BBC, to celebrate their strong relationship with their famous neighbours. Another specialty is their collection of Jenevers, the Dutch specialty with which they’ve created some very special drinks, like the Club Netherlands. Make sure to pay attention to the ice, which they treat with great attention, sometimes carving it by hand. The bartenders, Alex Kratena , Simone Caporale and Roman Foltán are very well capable of guiding you through the menu and show you their excellent skills in hospitality. Or rather experience their hospitality, because each member of the staff will give you the feeling that you are most welcome and they will treat all guests the same.

Cocktails here are a bit pricier than in high-end cocktailbars, but the setting in which all is served more than makes up for this. This truly is an experience for all senses and well worth every penny and of the hotelbars that you must visit in London.

Artesian Bar – The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Regent Street, 020 – 7636 1000

Posted on 03/03/2012 by Mistercocktail

Image for Nightjar by Paul Storrie


Having learnt from a previous occasion, I
reserved ahead for my Saturday-night visit to Nightjar. Trying to find the nondescript door with small logo next to it is not the easiest thing to do as it is located on one of the busiest roundabouts of London: City Road and Old Street in Shoreditch. As told, I had been there on a previous occasion, only to find a friendly but unrelenting person at the door. This time however, I was welcomed in and could make my way down the stairs and into the venue.

The moment I stepped inside it felt like I had entered a picture perfect filmset of a 1920s movie: a dark and dimly lit place, with mirrors reflecting the beautiful lamps around. The ceiling is quite low, emphasizing the speakeasy-style in which the bar is located. Speakeasy bars come from the Prohibition-era, a period from 1920 till 1933 during which the production and selling of alcohol was illegal in the United States. Bars were still operated during this time, only illegally, and customers were asked to “speak easy”, so no attention would be drawn to their venue. Nightjar welcomes guests until the seats are taken, so you won’t find any guests standing around, obstructing nor the routing of the very busy staff, nor the beautiful view of the place.

I was lucky enough to grab one of only five seats at the bar, to a get a great overview of the whole place: In the left area, there was a band playing stompin’ and pompin‘ jazz. It looked like the place was as on fire: people we dancing at their table and in the small dancefloor in front of the bar. The bar itself is a cabinet of beautiful and strange bottles, glassware and tools for crafting cocktails. No other drink than cocktails have I seen being prepared behind the bar and every single table in the bar had a few beautifully prepared drinks on it. The view of the barmen is pretty amazing: their motions are precise like a robot, yet fluent like water. Each drink is prepared with the utmost care and wonderful garnishes turn the drink into a work of art. The whole team is working together on this, to make sure everyone is served on a constantly high level.

The cocktail menu is divided into 4 sections, 3 from different eras and 1 with Signature cocktails, each section with different spirits and flavors. I would suggest that you leave your prejudices towards spirits you might not fancy behind you and trust that all cocktails are great. Of course I have not tried them all, but each cocktail me and my companion had was just perfect in taste and presentation. Even when I just randomly selected one from the menu, just to see where it would take me, I was still amazed by how the work with flavours.

Having visited Nightjar now on several occasions, I can honestly say this is one of the better places you can go to in London. It combines amazing cocktails, craftsmanship, great interior design and style all into one basement in Shoreditch. And when you get back outside again, there will remain a part of Nightjar in your mind that makes you want to come back for more!

Bar Nightjar, 129 City Road, London, Reservations here.

Posted on 20/02/2012 by Mistercocktail

Photo by Ming Chao...Sensez.com

 

Tucked away in a small street in one of the oldest areas in Amsterdam, called De Jordaan, lies Vesper Bar. It takes some navigation to get there, through the small streets of this area, where even finding a parkingspace for your bike is somewhat difficult. It fits the despcription of a neighbourhoodbar just as well as that of an international cocktailbar: located on a corner, with stylish black sunscreens, windows all around and with a dim-lit mostly dark wooden interior, combined with international design and, of course, bottles everywhere you look.

In my experience, having a rather large collection of bottles could mean trouble. One possibility is that the crew has no idea how to work with them, resulting in a) bad cocktails or b) me doing shots of the good stuff. Both will lead to bad experience the next day, and I’d rather have quality when having a drink in a cocktailbar. It’s reputation had preceded them, so I already knew that in their case having such an extensive collection of bottles meant good things: great staff that knows their stuff.

Because the bar is pretty small, you are welcomed by the bartender/host upon entry, which gives a very personal touch. Try to beat the crowd and be a bit early to make sure you get to one of 5 barstools, or, when in a group, one of the two tables. 4 Important things you already get when you sit yourself in Vesper: a glass of water, a small bowl of mixed nuts, the cocktailmenu and a generous smile. That makes you realise how important it is to feel welcome in the place where you intend to spend both time and money. And possibly for more than once.

The cocktailmenu is not too long, and not too short, offering you some great classics of which the Vesper Martini is of course the best known. Since you’re all such great Bond fans out there I guess I don’t have to explain that Vesper Lynd was Bond’s first lover in Casino Royale. And since this is their house cocktail, you should have this one. Should you feel a little bit more tropical, they have a great section of Tiki-drinks. These are Rum-based drinks from the Caribean, with great tropical flavours. Now don’t picture any ugly glasses with umbrellas, straws and fireworks – expect the serious cocktails from that time, served in Tiki-mugs with a little of that tropical heat inside.

A great feature on the menu is “The Leap of Faith“. How many times have you stared at the menu, thinking of what to order. When you cannot decide, you can let the bartender decide for you, based on some basic questions (what spirit, strong, weak, sour etc). Trust me, these are very capable bartenders working here, award-winning I might add, so your night is in good hands with this crew.

Although Vesper Bar has already been open for 2 years now, there’s still people discovering this great bar every day. Because of it’s open character, combined with the international interior, this is one of the best cocktailbars in Holland and an absolute must to visit every week sorry, every one in a while. Anyways, when want to go out for a good cocktail, or just for a good night with your favourite drink, Vesper Bar is a great choice!

Vinkenstraat 57, Amsterdam, 020-8464458

Posted on 14/02/2012 by Mistercocktail

Picture taken from Red & Grey

Going out for a drink to a bar invisible from the street, has something extra to it, something secrative. That already puts The Canal House 1-0 ahead. Logically, the hotel and bar are located on a canal, and they both share the same entrance. This is guaranteed a personal welcome by the concierge, who takes you to a lush sofa or a comfortable seat at the bar. The bar itself is designed by the renowned agency Concrete so you can feast your eyes, before you can start on the drinksmenu.

The service at the bar is personal and very friendly and your choice is between a very balanced wine-list, that radiates both knowledge and good taste from the composer, and the cocktail-list. The latter is a nice mixture between classics and some own creations, from the young barcrew. I always try a classic, to see how they handle that one before I move on to a house-special. The first drink gave me a good reason to try a special, so you can read here that I was not disappointed. I could recommend a specific cocktail here, but I suggest you let the bartender guide you through the menu, to find the perfect cocktail for your taste.

A very nice detail at Canal House, is the pricing. Although we find ourselves in a upscale hotel, dead-centre Amsterdam, in a designbar, the prices of both the drinks and the food are what you would expect from a normal bar. Not from a hotelbar. This is certainly a big step for any hotelbar, as it lowers the barriers for locals to get a drink in such a nice place.

Should you find yourself hungry, no worries: they boast a very nice menu, from bar-bites to main courses and deserts. Again, all reasonably priced, creating a very good balance between price and quality. I must say here that I enjoyed a good meal at home before heading out to this bar, so I hope to review their food next time as well. The restaurant itself is beautifully designed, combining the classic style of the, well, canal houses of Amsterdam with modern design.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised to discover The Canal House. It is a perfect hide-away from the busy city-life, where you can hide for a while with great drinks and food. And when you step outside again, it feels like you’ve been away on a nice, long weekend.

Adress: Keizersgracht 148 – 152

Phone: +31 (0) 20 622 51 82