From South East Asia to South America and everything in between, here are our top 10 picks that we think you should put on your list.
The last year has been an exciting one for the global cocktail scene. We’ve all seen the rankings, the awards, and even a Netflix show – a welcome gesture to bring cocktail culture into the mainstream and give it the spotlight it deserves alongside the many food shows. In the flurry of activity in the post pandemic world, we’ve paid special attention to a few bars while they quietly tinkered away to create magical drinks we think are worth travelling for. From South East Asia to South America and everything in between, here are our top 10 picks that we think you should put on your list.
Bar – Virtu, Four Seasons Otemachi
Cocktail – Mellow Amer Negroni
The beautiful bar team helmed by Keith Motsi, presents a riff on the classic Negroni with Japanese ingredients at the forefront. VIRTU’s “Mellow Amer Negroni” uses Okayama craft gin as the base, giving it a fruity aroma derived from rice shochu and a juicy flavour from domestic white peach liqueur. The bitter liqueur is accented by the use of Campari and Amer Picon for a bittersweet flavour. The drink is finished with a spray of chartreuse elixir vegetal, a “plant spirit” that is valued as an elixir that is said to cure all illnesses if drunk according to the original recipe formulated in the 1600s!
Bar – Live Twice
Cocktail – Vesper
At this charming little cocktail hideout, styled to transport you to mid-century Japan, the vesper becomes somewhat of a shapeshifting creature of the night. In this version, Ki No Bi Sei Navy Strength gin and Ketel One vodka is shaken with Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero d’Or, before passing through a coarse strainer, which allows larger shards of ice to remain in the drink and keep it cold longer in its Kimura glass. We’ve never stopped at one, you shouldn’t either.
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Seoul, South Korea
Bar – Charles H, Four Seasons
Cocktail – Rubi Negroni
Created by Alyssa Heidt & Odd Strandbakken who recently relocated from Oslo to take over the reins at Charles H at the Four Seasons in Seoul, this drink deserves special mention. A Negroni with lush flavours of Hibiscus & Cocoa, with an enhanced mouth feel and no added sugars, and served on a Ruby-cut block of ice, the Rubi Negroni is a spectacular showcase of minimalism with flavour at the centre of its ruby heart.
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Bar – Darkside
Cocktail – Summer
The team at Darkside are notorious for their highly stylised and creative cocktail menus. The latest, The Art of Mahjong, might just be their best one yet. For the Summer tile of this mahjong set, the team has created a fizzy and refreshing drink based on a popular local café drink made with lemon and soda but replaced the lemon with the popular summer fruit – lychee. Combined with Japanese whisky and their own Darkside Hong-Kong Amaro, the drink is served in an elegant hand-blown rocks glass and makes for a beautiful homage to Mahjong, Hong Kong, and summer.
Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
Bar – Smoke & Bitters
Cocktail – Bananarama
A tiki sour template with wild honey, all house made ingredients sourced locally and sustainably, this lush cocktail is the perfect garnish for the breath-taking sea views at Smoke & Bitters.
Co-created by Don Ranasinghe & Gihashan De Mel the drink is made with Halmilla arrack, named after the dense wood vats used to age it, along with wild bee honey harvested just twice a year from the jungles in the north east region of Sri Lanka. The honey is first smoked in house in an offset smoker using halmilla wood, then infused over 48 hours with 2 types of roasted banana and banana peel. Savoury and sweet, Bananarama is a nod to the tropics and it’s 25 + varieties of banana. The addition of a clove heavy falernum adds another layer of spice while a generous dash of hellfire bitters punches though with a spicy end to cap off the drink.
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Bar – Wax On
Cocktail – Go Apes
Staying on the king of fruits – the banana (don’t fight us on this), Go Apes is a playful, simple, yet impactful drink. To the average guest, listing banana on the menu implies a certain texture – using pectinase and a centrifuge, fresh banana is processed to create a clear banana water – and the Go Apes’ clarity plays with the guests’ preconceptions of what an ingredient should look like and also how, with modern equipment applied correctly, any given flavour can be expressed. Rum and banana is at the centre of the Go Apes, coffee and black walnut bitters provide depth of flavour whilst a small amount of sugar brings it all together. The drink is carbonated in-house in order to serve it quickly and as cold as possible.
Bar – Lost + Found
Cocktail – Kaffir Lime
The ‘Kaffir lime’ was created as a part of the bar’s newly developed LeaF Menu. The LeaF Menu is a showcase of flavour combinations with different leaves as the main protagonist. Leaves such us fennel, dill, bay leaf, sage, jasmine and kaffir lime leaf take centre stage in this menu.The drink – Kaffir Lime was inspired from the teams’ frequent travels to Thailand and the incredibly aromatic flavour of Tom Yum soup. It is a combination of tequila Lunazul tequila, lime, lemongrass, cardamom, ginger, coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. The coconut milk adds depth of flavour and aides in clarification of the drink. The drink is “garnished” on the inside by freezing kaffir lime leaves in crystal clear ice.
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Bar – Camparino
Cocktail – Porcini Negroni
Offering unparalleled views of and located right next to the magnificent Duomo in the heart of Milano, the historic and beautiful Camaprino bar brings together two of our favourite things – Negronis and mushrooms. Created by Saverio Casella, this is an intense and strong variation of the Negroni. Notes of porcini mushrooms and amaretto come together to create an explosive bouquet of bitter, smoky, and bold notes. Campari, mezcal, vermouth, Averna Don Salvatore, Adriatico roasted almond, salt syrup and bitters play significant roles in this drink that we would travel to Milan for over and over again. Not that we ever needed an excuse, but we now have a great one.
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Washington DC, USA
Bar – Allegory
Cocktail – Looking Glass
Allegory is a hidden gem of a cocktail den, tucked away behind the library at the Eaton hotel in Washington DC. The bar walls are adorned with provocative art based on Alice in Wonderland, but with Ruby Bridges replacing Alice as the protagonist. The drinks are phenomenal, well balanced, and curated with tremendous thought to story and detail. One such drink is the Looking-Glass, by Deke Dunn – a cross between a Japanese Highball and Vodka Soda and is light, low ABV, and refreshing. Made using vodka, pisco, chayoto squash, fino, clarified lime-champagne sherbet, and then clarified and carbonated to mimic the Looking-Glass represented in one of the wall paintings by artist Erik Thor Sandberg.
Bar – Alquimico
Cocktail – Petronio
Down in the bustling city of Cartagena, the team at Alquimico continues to enthral hordes of people every day with some of the region’s best drinks and finest hospitality. It never ceases to amaze us how a bar that sees such a high footfall on a daily basis manages to be so meticulous about the quality of their drinks and offers some of the most consistently well balanced drinks we have ever had in a high volume bar of its kind. Truly one of a kind, Alquimico is a bar well worth travelling for, and a drink we think you absolutely must try is the Petronio. Created as a team effort, the drink is inspired by the Pacific music festival Petronio Álvarez, using Tequila, Viche*, Puré de lulo, Vanilla syrup, and lime.
*Viche: a spirit distilled from sugarcane, popularised by the pacific coast of the country. This is Colombia’s equivalent of Mexico’s mezcal in terms of its denomination and legacy. Primarily distilled by women, Viche’s legacy stems from the country’s ties to slavery. Viche is the collective heritage of the Afro-Colombian black communities of the Colombian Pacific coast. Previously illegal, Colombia’s senate passed a law in September 2021 declaring the beverage a part of the country’s “cultural and ancestral heritage,” allowing its commercial production. Viche is also said to have plant components of great medicinal value that are used to treat bugs and ailments across the country. While some journalists have been quick to diss the beverage, our experience of it was quite the opposite. Highly recommended by The Dram Attic. Check out Viche Doña Sofi.
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When you make your travel plans for 2023, be sure the add these bars and drinks to your itinerary….and we’ll want to hear all about it.
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