As Tales of the Cocktail names the nominees in each of the twenty-four categories at this year’s Spirited Awards, one section in particular has received lots of attention.
The Best New International Cocktail Bar award is set to be one of the competition’s most fiercely fought battles, with eleven outstanding bars from across the globe fighting it out to be crowned winner. Featuring opulent lounges, secretive speakeasies and everything in between, the nominee list for this year’s award is more diverse and enticing than ever before.
Let’s take a deeper look at the eleven candidates bidding for the title.
Three Sheets, London, UK
510b Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AB
Located in the achingly cool east-end district of Dalston, Three Sheets keep things simple with a nine-drink menu that changes weekly, and is proudly based on on seasonal produce. A collaboration from brothers Noel and Max Venning, the bar’s minimal interior perfectly makes itself at homeamid the galleries and record-stores of this pulsating corner of the capital. Using only premium spirits in all of their cocktails, the team at Three Sheets are not afraid of drawing on their full armory of ingredients to create some of the most original drinks around. Eastern-inspired drinks made with miso and silky Pisco-laced numbers feature regularly on the ever-changing menu, whilst British ingredients are kept at the forefront of this café-bar’s ethos. Fermented rhubarb, bramley apple and leaf cordial are just some of the quintessentially English components to be found in this impossibly hip establishment’s pantry. Throw in some top quality ciders, wines and snacks and it soon becomes clear that Three Sheets are serious contenders for this years award.
Odori Vermuteria di Atene, Athens, Greece
Skouleniou 2, Athina 105 61, Greece
Inspired by the vermouth bars that once littered the Italian city of Torino, this visually stunning bar is the latest project by the team behind local institution The Clumsies, consisting of Athenian locals Lefteris Georgopoulos, Thanos Tsounakas and George Kaisaris. Serving just eight classic cocktails and aperitivo, which include the option of either vermouth or local Greek spirits, Odori Vermuteria exudes its own personal brand of elegant simplicity. With an interior which blends classical Greek with verdant modernism, this place is fast becoming a favorite with locals in the know. Open all day long, the bar serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner to a diverse clientele, who flock to Odori Vermuteria’s sophisticated interior for Negronis, homemade focaccia and wood-fired oven pizza made with authentic, imported ingredients.
Dr. Stravinsky, Barcelona, Spain
Carrer dels Mirallers, 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Blending avant-garde techniques with a vintage aesthetic in Barcelona’s El Born district, this new addition to the Catalan capital’s already top-notch bar scene brings a dash of old-world attentiveness to the most modern of cities. With an emphasis on warm service, visitors to Dr. Stravinsky are wowed by the bar’s cosy yet stylish interior. The place truly comes into it’s own when one studies the quite brilliant menu, designed by local mixologist Antonio Naranjo. The sheer creativity of the options at Dr Stravinsky is something to marvel at, with ingredients that could seemingly never work together combining to form mouthwatering, truly unique cocktails. Take the “Camp Nou” for example, an incredibly innovative drink named after the city’s legendary football stadium on the far side of town. Combining dill syrup, coriander, thyme, house distilled gin, lime and chamomile, it is a riot of fresh ingredients that would seemingly be more at home in a botanist’s workshop than in one of Europe’s most exciting new bars.
La Commune, Paris, France
80 boulevard de Belleville, 75020, Paris
Classic French ingredients inspire a tropically infused selection at this super-fun Parisian hangout. For €11 per head, guests get a share in a huge punch bowl, which is most effectively enjoyed on La Commune’s expansive, verdant terrace. These bowls are generally filled with a wonderful array of exotic – yet highly drinkable – ingredients such as rooibos tea, champagne, calvados and all manner of rums and other fine spirits. There are nine to choose from, with one of the most popular being the Planteur, which is made from Falernum syrup, lemon, fennel, mint, cucumber, sparkling water, egg yolk, 30/40 liqueur and Calvados. Indeed, this casual approach to cocktails is reflected in this superb little bar’s overall ambience, which is informed by a clandestine facade and a soundtrack of ice-cool French hip-hop. As for the edibles, focus remains very much on bringing a shot of equatorial sunshine to northern France, and again the team at La Commune do not fail. Middle-eastern inspired options such as flaky, cheese stuffed pastries and shakshuka line stomachs in preparation for a night enjoying some of Paris’ most sought after cocktails.
Guilhotina Bar, São Paulo, Brazil
R. Costa Carvalho, 84 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05429-000, Brazil
Continuing a great year for São Paulo’s cocktail scene, the opening of Guilhotina Bar in December of last year brought with it a new sense of rustic, laid-back charm that had perhaps been missing from the city. Now, Guilhotina is carrying the flame for the city’s new wave of mixology. Spearheaded by bartender Márcio Silva (one of three co-owners), the focus at this simple yet chic downtown locale is on original drinks served with panache, all at egalitarian prices. One of their most popular drinks is “Cutuco ou não cutuco”, which translates into “To nudge or not to nudge” and includes a heady blend of Jose Cuervo Tradicional, Amaretto, Umeshu Genshu and Lavender bitters. Guilhotina invites guests to “lose their head” when they step into the bar, emphasizing the informal and therapeutic atmosphere at what is surely São Paulo’s coolest yet calmest new cocktail spot.
Salmon Guru, Madrid, Spain
Calle Echegaray, 21, 28014 Madrid
The second Spanish nominee for this year’s award is possibly the coolest of all the entrants. Seemingly taking its inspiration from a mixture of vintage comic books, Brooklyn speakeasies and the garish neon lights of Las Vegas, Salmon Guru is, without doubt, a unique locale. Located at the heart of Madrid’s El Barrio de las Letras, this super-cool bar is another with a split-personality, with the first space taking a retro approach (all velvet lounge chairs and kitsch touches) and the second a decidedly more eclectic style that showcases gleaming neon and Marvel-inspired “BAM!” decorations. Coctelero of the moment Diego Cabrera doles out classic cocktails with his own dash of Madrileño panache, including his personal take on Mezcal that includes touches of cinnamon and cucumber. If the stunning decor and delicious drinks aren’t enough, try Salmon Guru’s delicious snacks and sharing plates including the ever-present croquetas as well as hummus, tortilla española and a whole gamut of desserts!
Swift, London, UK
12 Old Compton Street, Central London, Soho, W1D 4TQ
A bar with split personalities, Swift seems to offer something for every type of discerning drinker. Upstairs is the martini-centric, airy bar where clientele exchange anecdotes amid art nouveau decor. The whole thing could be plucked from a Flaubert novel and yet, there’s still a sense of informal chatter in the air. Downstairs, things take a decidedly darker twist in Swift’s dimly lit, dungeon-like spirits den. The fare in this, the depths of the bar, is of the stronger variety with a focus on Whiskey and classic cocktails with a contemporary twist. There’s a faintly Italian theme throughout the place, reflected in the sophisticated selection of aperitivos and proseccos that revellers slurp down along with Swift’s excellent fresh oysters. Whether it’s a breezy chat upstairs or some intense philosophizing in the bar’s basement lounge, Swift offers ideal surrounds for all strains of a drinker.
Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 188778
If this year’s list sees a shift towards informal drinking establishments with a more intimate ambience, then it can safely be said that Atlas bucks this trend. That’s because this – the grandest of lounges, inspired by the sprawling spaces of late-19th and early-20th century Europe – is unapologetically opulent in seemingly every way possible. From the centre-piece “gin tower” that slithers up to the ceiling in all of its ostentatious grandeur, showcasing spirits from way back in 1910 all the way up to modern craft gins, Atlas offers a chunk of old-world luxury in the world’s most modern city-state. With a stellar staff headed up by bartender Roman Foltán, a visit to Atlas is a must for any connoisseur visiting Singapore for either business or pleasure. Key cocktails include The Atlas Martini, a crisp collection of London dry gin, Ambrato vermouth, orange bitters and champagne vinegar. For those who like a decidedly more intense hit, there’s the Young Churchill, a nod to the legendary British PM that includes salty smoky Islay single malt, herbal liqueur, orange bitters, chocolate, and capers.
Blackbird at The Dark Horse, Bath, UK
The Dark Horse, 7a Kingsmead Square, Bath, BA1 2AB
A celebration of all things local, this exceptional watering-hole comes from the brains behind Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum’s marketing campaigns, Louis Lewis-Smith. It is surely one of the frontrunners for this year award, thanks to its innovative approach and laid-back, local theme. The Blackbird menu is packed full of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, many of which are sourced from the wild hillsides surrounding the city of Bath. Yet there’s more – everything here seems to have been made within a 50-mile radius of the bar. From the staff uniform to the furniture to the building itself, it’s all locally sourced and created. All well and good, one might say, but what about the drinks themselves? Well, that’s exactly where the Blackbird comes into its own. Using all manner of English herbs, liqueurs, wines and of course spirits, the team at the Blackbird, backed-up by Lewis-Smith’s considerable expertise, manage to concoct some of the UK’s most deliciously traditional cocktails. Add a fine soundtrack and subdued ambiance, and this countryside bar could well be on it’s way to this year’s title.
Danico, Paris, France
6 Rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris
As chic as they come in the most stylish city of them all, Nic De Soto’s Danico is a breath of fresh air for the old left-bank district of Saint-Germain. Featuring twelve drinks made from twelve different spirits, the focus here is on pared-back elegance amid an unmistakably Parisian aesthetic. The place is given extra zest with the wallpaper and a logo designed by French tattoo artist Supakitch, whilst the nautical uniform of the staff here lends the place an extra dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. In fact, this is a nod to the fact that Danico, and it’s adjoining Italian restaurant Darocco, are housed in the former flagship location of none other than Jean-Paul Gaultier. As for the drinks, they’re as elegant as the rest of the place – as if you had expected anything else. Of particular note is the St Germain des Près cocktail, a winning combo of elderflower and cucumber ramped up with black pepper and silkened through with egg white. There’s also excellent Italian focaccia and pizza to line stomachs, although with a list like this, it’s tempting to shun food altogether and head directly to Danico’s exceptional selection of cocktails.
The Distillery, London, UK
186 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LA
Home to the Portobello Road Gin distillery, this aptly named establishment is the brain-child of company founder Ged Feltham, who has created what he claims is the world’s first gin hotel. In addition to three luxury lodgings, which come complete with vinyl record players and unparalleled views of West London, The Distillery is home to Gintonica, a Spanish restaurant, and bar that serves some of the capital’s finest tapas in a nod to the Iberian penchant for this most British of spirits. The Distillery’s private dining room offers guests the chance to take in some of London’s most famous streets from above, all whilst enjoying a bespoke dining experience for up to twenty people. In the slick ground floor bar The Resting Room, there is an exceptional cocktail menu created by Portobello Road Gin’s very own master distiller, Jake Burger. To top it all off, the Ginstitute provides an in-depth history lesson on this famously British spirit and even offers visitors the chance to create their very own blend.