Cheers, salut, bottoms up – however you say it, nothing beats raising a glass in a new city, country or continent.
Whether you’re a fan of barefoot, surfside imbibing or you prefer sophisticated cocktails in stylish surrounds, you’ll find something to quench your thirst in our new book, 50 Bars to Blow your Mind. Here’s a taster – we’ll see you at the bar.
Northern Lights – Reykjavik, Iceland
A Christmas-themed bar?
Not a chance. This is Nordic uber-cool boutique bar action, about 45 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik.
Will I see the aurora borealis?
October to April is the best time for some dazzling light shows. The double-height windows look out across the ice-worn rocks and barren ground with a full sky backdrop. If your vision was up to it, you could probably see forever.
That sounds pretty special.
There’s no question, this place is all about location, location, location. As a part of the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel, you’ll find a quality drink (though you may have to call for service in this minimalist-in-all-ways establishment).
So I’ve seen the lights. Now what?
If it can be called adventure, you can do it here: hiking volcanoes, horse riding on black-sand beaches, super-jeeping to glaciers and waterfalls. And more: rafting, fissure diving, ice climbing. You’ll be seeing stars. Or lights, anyway.
Do I have to do all that?
Yes. Yes, you do.
Baba Nest – Phuket, Thailand
This sounds very cosy.
It is, cosy and luxurious. It’s part of the Sri Panwa resort, on the coast of Phuket in Thailand’s south.
Of all the Thai beach resorts, why am I here?
Do it. Most people go so they can ooh and ahh at the spectacular sunset. Truthfully, it’s pretty special – even more so when you’re looking at it with a cocktail in hand, on a giant comfy cushion. The bar’s rooftop platform hovers, like an airborne wooden jetty, over the beach below, with nearly 360° views of the island’s beautiful surrounds. Oh and if that’s not enough, the whole podium is encircled by an infinity pool.
Sounds like it may be packed with people pointing their phones towards the sun?
We can’t lie, there will be a few happy snappers, but there’s limited capacity at Baba Nest so only the special 40 or so with a reservation can elbow each other out of the way when capturing lifetime memories.
What happens when the photo opportunities are exhausted?
That’s when you’ll see everyone sitting peacefully, languidly chatting, legs outstretched, with blissed-out expressions on their sun-kissed faces.
Gordon’s Wine Bar – London, United Kingdom
Are you sure this is a bar?
I see your point: the little entrance gives just a hint at the truly subterranean drinking scene inside. But descend the rickety wooden staircase and you find a cavernous, candle-lit basement, stacked with wooden tables under a curved-stone ceiling.
It must be quiet as a morgue.
There’s a buzzing hubbub of happy punters. It’s super snug and wonderfully atmospheric, although if you’re claustrophobic or just enjoy natural light with your wine there is outdoor seating on the side of Watergate Walk.
So Gordon’s prides itself on wine?
Gordon’s promotes itself as being London’s oldest wine bar (established in 1890) and there is an impressive international wine list to back it up. Also, there is a specials board promising a range of limited edition wines from private domains.
What can I eat?
What goes better with wine than cheese? Gordon’s has a mouth-watering array of more than 20 cheeses (international and local) to choose from and each board is expertly matched with wine. Beyond the cheese boards there are larger pub lunches, a Sunday roast and some tapas in the evenings.
Ice Bar – Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
This sounds familiar.
This is the original ice bar. There are many ice bar incarnations around the world but this innovator in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, remains the best.
What can I expect?
You can expect things to get a little chilly. Temperatures are maintained at -5°C in order to keep the spectacularly carved interior as pristine as possible. Each year the bar is resculpted into a new design by international artists and sculptors. Artists also contribute to the design of the special artists’ suites of the adjoining Icehotel.
I’d like a hot toddy.
Would you like ice with that?
Is everything made of ice?
Yes, the stools, tables, chairs, lamps, and even the glasses the drinks are served in are carved out of ice, although the dancefloor mixes it up by being covered in a light drift of snow.
If the bar manages to warm the cockles of your heart there’s an ice chapel attached to the hotel that performs weddings in frozen surrounds.
Blue Frog Lounge – Mumbai, India
So why am I going there?
Walking into the Blue Frog is like walking into an alien’s spaceship, or maybe it’s more like an enormous beehive-turned-nightclub... in any case, you get the picture – it is entirely otherworldly.
Large, floating metal discs are suspended from the ceiling and there are cylindrical booth seats dotted like giant honeycomb around the bar floor. The Blue Frog Lounge’s surfaces are smooth and fluid, and the whole place pulses with psychedelic lighting.
Sounds crazy – what’s the deal with this place?
It’s a music venue as much as a bar with a constantly rotating line-up of local and international artists, usually with an electronic edge. In fact they love music so much here that there’s actually a recording studio as part of the complex.
Can I go for a drink and a bite to eat?
Yes, there’s an extensive drinks list including a set of pretty standard cocktails. They won’t tell you what’s in the ‘Blue Frog’ except to say that it’s potent. Perhaps order a round of fried bar snacks as insurance.