Amidst a roaring pandemic, 2021 has seen a few green shoots.
Bars in cities like Singapore and Dubai have been able to safely operate and keep the wheels turning, with the help and support of patrons and brands alike. While the world patiently sits back in anticipation of vaccines, people are gradually gaining the confidence to step out and seek safe spaces to see friends for a drink when possible. This was evident on a recent trip to Dubai. The UAE’s vaccination programme is on overdrive with several options being made available to residents and locals. This has allowed for the easing of some restrictions, while still being extra cautious to ensure minimal risk in public places.
While to some, the reopening of bars sounds like a roguish move, it’s important to note that the hospitality sector accounts for 50% (if not more) of the working class and keeping doors closed would mean large scale unemployment in a country where the cost of living is unimaginably high. The measured decision to reopen nightlife has come at a time when Dubai residents and the local government are in a place to commit to safety measures and ensure rules are followed. This is why Dubai is forging ahead.
2020 even saw some new openings in the city – a brave and laudable step. Some of these newly opened bars have employed staff who had lost their jobs at other venues, putting them back in the driver’s seat and allowing them to remain in the country and be gainfully employed.
Among the new openings is the brand new bar at the ground level of the trendy new hotel designed by Zaha Hadid – Me Dubai. Botanica, the sophisticated gin & tonic bar on the hotel’s ground level is the city’s newest buzz. Run by Danilo Pozone and his star studded team, the bar has a promising year ahead. As part of the launch, Botanica is hosting a month long pop up by Dante (New York City), Best Bar in America 2019 & 2020 and No. 2 – World’s 50 Best Bars. Bartenders Chris Moore and Jack Hubbard have been behind the stick every night, dishing out some knockout versions of Dante hits. Drinks on the menu include the refreshing Bicicletta and Bergamot Cooler on tap – no fuss drinks with a quick turnaround ensuring minimum contact. An absolutely delicious clarified Pina Colada makes an appearance on the menu, allowing for a brief and welcome change from the otherwise fairly boozy choices. The Silver Needle Sazerac (Remy Martin VSOP Cognac, Bruichladdich, Merlet Creme de Peche, white wine & silver needle cordial, peach bitters) gets a fair bit of love love and rightly so, while the Chocolate Negroni (The Botanist Gin, Campari, Mancino Rosso, dark cacao, chocolate bitters) is definitely the popular nightcap of choice.
According to Chris, the drinks chosen for the pop up menu are a mix of Dante favourites and classics that truly represent the bar and what it is best known and loved for. Cocktails on tap, Negroni fountains, classic flavours, quick service – one can see why Dante consistently remains one of the best bars in the world. Having the team down at Botanica has been a gamechanger for the city’s bar scene and has likely indoctrinated more than a handful of keen patrons and helped nurture a love for cocktails. Guest shifts and pop ups like this one help make cocktail culture more accessible by stripping out some of the inhibitors that prevent consumers from entering that world. Every drink is served up in a simple and beautiful way, there are no loud antics behind the bar, affable bartenders talk guests through the drinks and make sure they are comfortable with their orders without them having to know the A-Z of cocktails. The Dante pop up has all the makings of a great drinking experience. One that we could all use right now.
Danilo and the team at Botanica have some exciting plans going forward. Follow their Instagram handle for news on the next popup and if you find yourself in Dubai, make a reservation and head on over for some good drinks.
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