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Copenhagen: A Culinary Hub That’s Great For Cocktails, Too

Copenhagen cityscape and roofs, Denmark during a beautiful sunny spring day.

Copenhagen has long been established as a modern foodie’s haven. Noma opened the floodgates of international intrigue, but even with the city still awaiting its reopening, there’s a renowned, thriving and diverse scene to explore. Less discussed though is the city’s cocktail credentials, where there’s now very much a thriving and dynamic world to explore all on its own.

There’s no better place to start than Ruby, a near-annual entrant among the World’s 50 Best Bars since its debut a decade ago. Enter into the dimly lit environs of the main floor and be greeted with warm hellos from the crew standing behind a beautiful white marble bar top.

Ruby Bar Copenhagen
Ruby Bar Copenhagen

With centerpiece rugs on wooden floor, plenty of open space, and enclaves of comfortable seating, the environs feel more like a home’s nicely appointed study, which happens to be stocked with stellar cocktails. The bar is also divided into multiple spaces across several floors, including a basement whiskey lovers retreat which can be turned into a private lounge.

Ruby Cocktail "The Dark Side"
Ruby Cocktail “The Dark Side”

“We like to welcome people and make them as comfortable as possible, and embrace them,” says general manager René Hedeland Larsen, who’s been with Ruby for the past five years. Try a signature drink such as the Dark Side, a rum old fashioned based on Ron Zapaca Edicion Negra, with a Danish elderberry liqueur and a smoky spritz of Laphroaig.

It’s really nice to be a part of somebody’s good night

The logical next stop on your journey is Lidkoeb, Ruby’s sister bar which just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Similarly to its elder sibling, Lidkoeb is in a large, multi-floor space, with distinctly different offerings across its rooms. The main floor turns into a fast-paced, music-thumping party spot on the weekends, but continues to serve excellent and creative cocktails regardless of the crowds, while it’s the top floor here which serves as a whiskey wonderland, offering several hundred bottles from a diverse global selection.

Lidkoeb Bar Copenhagen
Lidkoeb Bar Copenhagen

Lidkoeb initially launched with the idea of serving as a local’s hangout in an emerging neighborhood, but the bar quickly outpaced those humble plans and became a noted cocktail destination. Once again, welcoming service is a focal point.

“It’s really nice to be a part of somebody’s good night,” says general manager Colin Edie. “It’s always important to remember why you got into it.”

Lidkoeb Cocktail
Lidkoeb Cocktail

Along with an emphasis on hospitality, what you’ll also find at many cocktail joints around town is a connected, communal feel, where bartenders recommend other bars across the street or rave about the latest drinks served at a potential competitor across town. “It’s only good if we all help each other,” Edie says. So don’t shy away from asking your bartender for his or her favorites once you’re in town.


For a decidedly more vintage vibe, head to Humberto Marques’s Curfew, a Prohibition-era themed bar, with attention paid to every detail, from glassware and bar tools to seating, from hand-picked stools to discrete nooks and crannies. “It all comes together and speaks the same language at the end,” Marques says. “I opened this place for passion, for service, which is really number one, and of course to compare to the other great bars as well.”

Curfew Bar Copenhagen
Curfew Bar Copenhagen

For a decidedly more vintage vibe, head to Humberto Marques’s Curfew

The two-year-old bar offers a mix of classic drinks, dubbed “unforgettables,” and classics lost to the times, “forgotten,” along with Marques’s latest concoctions. Come with a few friends and ask for a round of Negronis prepared in Marques’s vintage cocktail stirring machine. The view alone may be worth the price of the drink. While the Prohibition theme thrives, “it’s with a modern approach,” Marques notes. “It’s not a speakeasy. It’s always about service. This to me is the most important.”


Balthazar Champagne Bar Copenhagen
Balthazar Champagne Bar Copenhagen

Another stop not to miss is Balthazar, located in the elegant five-star d’Angleterre hotel. The bar is noted for its massive Champagne list, a list 160-strong presented in a massive tome separated by producer. If you thought you needed friends for a 4-serving Negroni at Curfew, you’ll need to find a few more for Balthazar’s 12 liter Balthazar bottle.

The bar team also serves up excellent cocktails here as well, with each drink incorporating Champagne in some fashion, whether it’s a strawberry Champagne vinegar shrub, or a lemon Champagne cordial. A high-end whiskey and Cognac selection is also on hand if you prefer a neat pour, but Balthazar’s zest for Champagne helped kick off a citywide trend of bars with readily available Champagne collections.

Of course, this is Copenhagen, so you’re going to want to be eating well, too.

Marchal
Marchal, the d’Angleterre’s Michelin-starred restaurant

After a round of pre-dinner bubbles at Balthazar, consider shifting to Marchal, the d’Angleterre’s Michelin-starred restaurant. As opposed to the more typical all-or-nothing tasting menu approach of many such restaurants, enjoy an a la carte meal that lets you choose your own adventure – and how much of a splurge it’ll be.

Marchal
Marchal, the d’Angleterre’s Michelin-starred restaurant

If you’re going big, look no further than a loaded caviar lineup and keep that Champagne flowing. Otherwise, it’s easy to cobble together a delightful meal from three or four starters or to hone in on your favorite seasonal entree. Service is excellent, and a deep wine list offers endless potential for pairings. Put your trust in the staff and let them come up with unique and memorable duos, such as a stunningly flavorful crayfish consomme with agnolotti backed by a Grenache.

All the show-stopping entrees come with an element of interactive service – on a recent visit, three cuts of venison were carved and plated tableside by the chef. From top-to-bottom, Marchal’s dishes were so robustly fall-flavored you couldn’t help but feel autumnal yourself upon the meal’s conclusion.

Consider this very much a simple toe-dipping into the imbibing and gastronomic waters of Copenhagen. From its many outstanding food markets to its lengthy list of fine dining institutions, and yes, those world-class cocktail hubs, Copenhagen is calling.

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Written by Jake Emen

Jake Emen is a spirits and lifestyle writer currently based in Washington, D.C. His drinks coverage has been published in Whisky Advocate, Liquor.com, Vice Munchies, Liquor.com, Tales of the Cocktail, Washington Post Express, Distiller, Roads & Kingdoms, and a range of other outlets. He also runs his own site, ManTalkFood.com, and can be followed on Twitter, @ManTalkFood.

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