The Bengaluru drinking scene spans the spectrum, from nostalgic holes-in-the-wall to chic cocktail lounges that could hold their own in Paris or New York. Keep a particular eye out for the city's craft beers - local brewers create everything from wheat beers to pale ales and stout - and Bengaluru mixologists who add Indian herbs and spices to the standard cocktail palette. Here's our pick of the best places in Bengaluru to wet your whistle after hours.
Daytime tipples at Noon Wines
The appeal of Noon Wines & Scottish Pub (No 17/21, Vasavi Complex, St Marks Road) lies in its nonchalance. This ‘hole in the wall’ outpost of colonial-era Bengaluru is open for only five hours in the day (12-5pm), but nostalgia seekers flock here for inexpensive wines and an agreeably short menu with simple potato wafers as a best seller. The Heritage wine is extra sweet and extra potent in nature, served in shot glass-sized wine glasses.
Cocktails like grandma used to mix
Take a map of Bengaluru and stick a pin in its heart and you’ll find yourself on the threshold of The Permit Room (thepermitroom.in), a welcome retreat from the hubbub of MG Road. Cosy interiors decked out in the iconography of South Indian slang make you feel like an insider immediately. The moody mixologist, inspired by his ajji (grandma), has reimagined hearty home cooking as well as the cocktail menu; for our rupee, Paati’s Magic Rasam curry, Highway Pandi Curry, and filter coffee-flavoured pot de crème are all decided winners.
Ten of the best at Arbor Brewing Company
Start your love affair with the brews of Bengaluru with a choice of ten in-house craft beers at this spacious, minimalist American-style microbrewery. The pub fare at Arbor Brewing Company is best enjoyed at long communal wooden tables, with low hanging lights running along the centre. Sip crispy Hefewiezens, confident stouts, German-style pilsners, Belgian fruit beers and pale ales with lingering bitterness to wash down amply portioned dishes with a US flavour.
Wheat beer that pulls in a crowd at Toit
Back in 2010, Toit Brewpub almost single-handedly salvaged Bangalore’s flagging pub scene with a sprawling wooden-floored brewery, providing space for close to 400 happy beer drinkers. Of the six house brews, the Bavarian-style Toit Weiss wheat beer trumps the competition any day of the week. Check out the curious logo, inspired by Pepé Le Pew (the skunk of Looney Tunes fame), with the motto ‘sending it since 2010’ (a local phrase for downing a drink).
In the cocktail mood at Sotally Tober
At this twenty-something focussed nightspot (sotallytober.com), expectations are set high by paint-splashed walls, vintage cameras and lamps fashioned out of Mason jars and teapots. The moody lighting arrangement keeps heads turned in conversation until the juicy pulled pork and signature cocktails arrive (try the Sotally Spice – vodka, peri peri sauce and mint). Start with familiar hummable music during the day and reach a joyous crescendo as the sky turns dark.
Monkey around with mangoes at Monkey Bar
The brains behind Monkey Bar mixed a substantial list of ingenious cocktails and bar nibbles with piles of monkey-themed trinkets and cheeky posters. Browse the specials on the menu and home in on the 'Maanga' – vodka flavoured with green mango, cumin and salt. For eats, the aubergine tacos and Sorpotel pickle pot (an east –west fusion of pork belly and liver) will transport you to food heaven.
Reinvent the Raj at Toast & Tonic
Toast & Tonic (toastandtonic.com) is the kind of place that’ll make you forget flowers, violins and heart-shaped balloons as romantic gestures. Reserve ahead for a dreamy evening of mellow yellow lighting, soft-toned wooden décor and smooth Gin ‘n’ Tonic based cocktails. Try the British Raj, infused with cinnamon and pomegranate and topped with a rose petal cucumber ice. With a harvest of international flavours on the dinner menu, what’s not to love?
Tunes, views and party people at Watson's
The intense devotion of regulars at Watsons (facebook.com/WatsonsBLR) is thanks to the uplifting view of a leafy canopy of trees below. Drinkers congregate for affordable beer and signature cocktails like the Watsons Mule, Mirchi Margarita and Flat White Martini. When it comes to food, any dish suffixed with the words ‘pepper fry’ is sure to fly off the table. The winning ingredient, though, is the 90s music, which has everyone on their feet as the evening progresses. Come early while you can still see the décor.
Bar hop to Bangkok in Bengaluru
Down-home ‘ten table’ bar One Night in Bangkok (facebook.com/onenightinbangkokbangalore) has a sparse menu, a shortage of elbow room and poorly lit interiors, but it’s still easy to sing its praises. For starters, it feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret – a green velvet curtain parts to reveal a cheerful facsimile of Thailand, complete with a massive Muay Thai mural. Add in cheesy music from the 80s and great pub grub, and it knocks the socks off many of its glitzy neighbours.
Catch the breeze at Windmills
There are plenty of reasons to splurge on the in-house brews and American-inspired cuisine at Windmills (windmillscraftworks.com), with its book-lined walls, small stage for live jazz gigs and open-air wooden deck that catches the breeze on sultry Bengaluru evenings. It’s up on the 5th floor, diners order on tablets and the music of the in-house Jazz Theatre is intimate and uniformly brilliant.