With Prairie Oysters and Fairy Ales, bartenders from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv are telling new stories about the luxury cocktail
London has dominated Europe’s cocktail scene since the turn of the century – but new contenders are starting to mix things up. Today, bartenders from Amsterdam to Kiev, from Lisbon to Tel Aviv, are making inventive, indulgent cocktails that redefine the meaning of a luxury drink. And they’ve no need for the gimmicks of yesteryear – no diamonds, no antique Cognacs, no Nebuchadnezzars of champagne – just craft, creativity and great ingredients.
1) Amsterdam: #A-Bar Martini at the A Bar
Dutch spirits are the focus at this stylish craft cocktail bar. And, since the Netherlands’ national spirit, jenever, was the product that gave the world gin, the classic Martini makes an excellent choice. Your choice of Ketel One vodka or Dutch Courage gin is lovingly stirred with A-Bar’s private label vintage vermouth, crafted from Riesling grapes and Dutch flowers and herbs, then garnished with olives or a twist.
A Bar at the InterContinental Amstel, Professor Tulpplein 1, Amsterdam; +31 20 622 60
2) Athens: Nostalgia at The Clumsies
Financial hardships are best discussed over a great drink, as Athenians know full well. Athens’ bar scene is booming right now and The Clumsies stands at an impressive #6 on the well-regarded World’s 50 Best Bars list: in fact, it’s the highest-rated venue outside of London and New York.
The mixologists here count among the world’s most experimental: their creative inspirations have included Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The Nostalgia cocktail is an enchanting, bitter-sweet expression of this ancient Greek concept in pineapple rum, vermouth and bitters, served amid a theatrical cloud of dry ice. Book a slot at their intimate, upstairs space, The Room, to enjoy it.
The Clumsies, Praxitelou 30, Athens; +30 210 323 2682
3) Cannes: Red Lips Daïkirï at Chrystie
There are not many 80s cocktails that bear reviving. But the scarlet hue, summery flavour and fresh fruit tang of the Strawberry Daiquiri is beginning to attract a new generation of fans – and it’s the perfect fuel for a long night on the Croisette. Pull up a stool at Chrystie’s glitzy central bar, and savour theirs: it’s modernised with a crowning glory of lemongrass foam.
Chrystie, 22 Rue Macé, Cannes; +33 4 9399 6691
4) Frankfurt: Minty Silk at The Parlour
Hamburg and Berlin may have the edge when it comes to the scale of the German cocktail scene, but The Parlour flies the flag for craft drinks in low-key Frankfurt. Despite the hard edges of the distinctly masculine space, the Minty Silk is fresh, fruity and subtly feminine. An edible flower coated in gold dust tops off a toothsome blend of lemon curd, citrus, fresh mint leaves and gin.
The Parlour, Zwingergasse 6, Frankfurt; +49 69 9002 5808
5) Kiev: Siesta at Parovoz Speak Easy
Since reinventing itself as a speakeasy in 2013, Parovoz has raised the bar for Kiev’s cocktail scene and showed the world that there’s more to Ukrainian savoir-faire than (admittedly great) vodkas. The Siesta is a contemporary craft cocktail that uses inventive techniques and surprising ingredients to recreate the bittersweet aromatics of the classic Golden Age cocktails. In the mix? Coffee-infused Campari, a 19th-century style vermouth, tequila and… hot pepper.
Parovoz Speak Easy, Krasnoarmejskaya Str. 19, Kiev; +38 44 235 2413
6) Lisbon: Liquid Legend at Bistro 100 Maneiras
From the mossy herbariums to the axes protruding from the walls, the décor at Bistro 100 Maneiras (pronounced “Say Maneiras”) seamlessly navigates the challenging hinterland between kitsch and cool. Jorge Camilo, who mans the small but perfectly formed bar here, is likely Portugal’s top bartender, and the drinks here helped set the tone for Lisbon’s rapidly evolving bar scene.
The Liquid Legend is a very Iberian reworking of the classic Old-Fashioned with Brazilian cachaça, Mexican mezcal, thyme and lemon. Peckish? Monocle rated the restaurant #1 in its 2017 awards.
Bistro 100 Maneiras, Largo da Trinidade 9, Lisbon; +351 910 307 575
7) London: Prairie Oyster at The Bar with No Name
Technically entitled “The Bar with No Name” but known to all by its Islington address, 69 Colebrooke Row, the first bar from modernist cocktail guru and liquid research scientist Tony Conigliaro still delivers almost a decade after opening.
The Prairie Oyster takes its name and concept from the raw egg hangover cure made famous by P.G. Wodehouse’s archetypal English butler, Jeeves, yet melds it with a second cure, the Bloody Mary. A solidified, coloured Bloody Mary mix forms the egg yolk; spices and vodka surround it. When you slurp the yolk from the oyster-shaped dish, it literally pops in your mouth.
The Bar with No Name, 69 Colebrooke Row, London; +44 7540 528 593
8) Prague: Fairy Ale at Hemingway Bar
Absinthe is the spirit of Bohemians, and Prague was the capital of Bohemia, which means that absinthe battles it out with the herbal bitters Becherovka for the position of the Czech Republic’s national spirit. The Fairy Ale blends absinthe, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, lemon peel and tonic to create a distinctively Czech set of aromatics. It’s served in a theatrical glass vessel that’s half samovar, half alchemist’s alembic, with fresh herbs for extra drama.
9) Tel Aviv: Sabra Cadabra at Imperial Craft
The term “sabra” means both the prickly pear cactus that flourishes in the Negev and Jews who were born in Israel: supposedly, both are tough and spiny on the outside, with a sweet heart hiding within.
Taking its name from the heavy metal standard Sabbra Cadabra, this sour-style drink is a tweak on the Pisco Punch, a mix that dates back to 19th-century San Francisco. Besides pineapple, pisco brandy, citrus and bitters, home-made prickly pear syrup adds that elusive desert sweetness.
Imperial Craft, 66 HaYarkon Street, Tel Aviv; +972 73 264 9464
For more cocktail inspiration, have a look at the newest twists on restaurants & bars menus across InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.