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Drink like a local • Bars in Europe

Quintessential drinking experiences in Europe – local bars the locals love…

 

Oliver Knight

Paris • France

Try: a fine Bordeaux at Le Baron Rouge

A glass of wine at a Parisian bar is an enduring classic; do it in style with a 1989 Château Angélus from Saint Emilion. Aged in oak barrels in one of the most prestigious vineyards of Bordeaux, it’s a rare and precious bottle – and Le Baron Rouge is one of the few wine bars where you’ll find it.

A superb little wine bar just around the corner from the Aligre market, Le Baron Rouge often welcomes hungry refugees at stall closing time. It’s no pompous den for snooty oenophiles, but rather an amiably down-to-earth working-class hangout, where drinking is a pleasure and the evening is to be enjoyed, often raucously. The tiny room is welcoming and atmospheric, its walls invisible behind rows and rows of bottles, and any spare space filled with wine barrels stacked from floor to ceiling. Those in the know bring their empties to refill – it’s cheaper than buying a new bottle, though you can do that as well, from an excellent selection. During the week, beware the crowded after-work apéro hour – along with pretty much everybody else, you’ll be stuck with drinking on the pavement outside. Food-wise, come on Sundays for oysters with Sancerre, or stick to a charcuterie board accompanied by a good robust red. Camille Griffoulieres, Music & Nightlife editor, Time Out Paris

1 rue Théophile Roussel, 12th arrondissement, Paris, France. +33 (0)1 43 43 14 32.

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Amsterdam • Netherlands

Try: ‘The Walking Dead’ at Hiding in Plain Sight

Fearsome cocktail ‘The Walking Dead’ offers taste of liquid danger in the oldest part of Amsterdam. Based on the potent classic the ‘Zombie’, HPS’s secret recipe is served (and then set on fire) in a giant glass skull, and features three different types of rums including Bacardi 151. Bar-imposed limit: one per night.

On a corner in the north-eastern outskirts of the Jodenbuurt, cocktail gem HPS lives up to its name. Upon entry, the small ground-level bar and cramped seating area don’t seem to offer much more than the staff’s smiles. Up a flight of steps, however, a luxuriantly louche leather-couch seating puts you on eye level with chalkboards full of chemistry notations above the bar. Flashes of florid wallpaper play backdrop to bookshelves and worn curiosities like an antique radio, pinned butterflies and pocket-watch motifs.

Beautifully turned-out staff members will presently appear bearing free water, massive, fresh green Cerignola olives and mixed nuts, along with a stack of exquisite letterpress-style menus. Although the bar looks fully stocked, aside from a short but respectable list of wines and a €5 bottled beer from Dutch brewer Swinckels, the menu is all about the 16 craft cocktails on offer, ranging from €8 to €16. The €16 price tag is reserved for house specialty, ‘The Walking Dead’, whose cinnamon sprinkles crackle and spark as the drink is set on fire at your table. Racier drinkers will find the concoction goes down a little too smoothly…

Luckily, the rest of the cocktails measure up to the same exacting standards, with house-concocted ingredients like strawberry-infused cachaça (in the ‘Morango Fizz’, €12) and popcorn-infused rum (the ‘Cinema Highball’, €8). If the sultry atmosphere has you craving fresh and fizzy, opt for the HPS Mule, an Asian-influenced taste of summer that incorporates vodka, ginger beer, orange and lime juices, house-made syrup and muddled cucumber. Good to know that, whatever the weather, a sip of summer is always at hand in this boozy hideaway. Elysia Brenner

Hiding in Plain Sight Rapenburg 18, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. +31 20 737 1890.

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Natalie Pecht

Barcelona • Spain

Try: ‘Vermouth time’ at Quimet i Quimet

Everyone passing through Barcelona should knock back an afternoon vermouth at the cosmopolitan Quimet i Quimet tapas bar, in the city’s Poble Sec district. Vermouth time – usually on Sunday around midday lunch – is a quintessential part of Barcelona’s character. 

On Sundays before lunch, the city stops for vermouth. ‘Vermouth time’ has become a ritual for many youngsters in Barcelona, and it’s lifeline for many thirtysomethings with kids – a sedate way of bar-hopping parents whose all-night partying days are sadly behind them. So for many (including, apparently Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, who cites it as one of his favourite places in the world), an afternoon at the legendary bodega Quimet i Quimet is an afternoon in heaven.

Here, they craft their own beer, and they serve the best vermouth in the world on tap. They also offer customers a choice of wines that stretches from floor to ceiling. But besides all that, this tiny spot in Poble Sec – along with neighbouring Sant Antoni, the upcoming hipster area – can justifiably claim to serve the best tinned and jarred food you’ll find anywhere, with seafood a speciality. Name the item and they’ll have it tinned – and three or four tins translates to a great dining experience. Quimet i Quimet has been owned by the same family going back four generations – not just the quintessential Barcelona drinking experience; more like the quintessential Barcelona anything experience. Ricard Martín, Food & Drink editor, Time Out Barcelona

Quimet i Quimet, Poeta Cabanyes 25, Barcelona, Catalonia. +34 93 44 423 142.

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Britta Jascinski

London • UK

Try: a classic martini at The Connaught

‘Skyfall’ reminded everyone how brilliant a drink the martini actually is – a purist combination of smooth English spirit and aromatic French vermouth. But it never went out of fashion at The Connaught – the barmen at this super-luxury London hotel have been mixing them to the highest standard for decades. 

The Connaught experience begins on the street outside with Tadao Ando’s shimmering water sculpture on Carlos Place. Glide past the doorman and you’ll be escorted by one of the suited staff to one of the best bars in London, redesigned by the renowned David Collins in 2007. Although the room retains traditional Edwardian features, it’s now atmospherically dusky in deep pastel tones. There’s an overwhelming air of opulence, but anyone can walk in to this pleasantly egalitarian bar for a drink – no bookings are taken.

Although the drinks list is a joy, the ultimate Connaught cocktail is the martini. Choose your spirit (Tanqueray 10 is a fine London dry gin), and a barman with trolley will attend your table with an ice-filled crystal decanter in which to mix the martini in front of you. A wooden display case of apothecary-style glass bottles hold a selection of homemade bitters – licorice, grapefruit, lavender, for example – which add intriguing notes to the concoction. It’s expensive, of course (around £15), but service is impeccable whether you’re A-list or no-list, and it’s good value – a martini in The Connaught is an accessible taste of sophistication unmatched in the city. Euan Ferguson, deputy chief sub-editor, Time Out London

The Connaught Carlos Place, London, UK. +44 (0)20 7499 7070.

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Murat Tekin

Istanbul • Turkey

Try: Rakı at Yakup 2

As Turks, we might flirt with other drinks from time to time, but we always come back around to our national drink: rakı To get a feel for the most authentic rakıtables in Istanbul, head to Yakup 2, a slightly bohemian, slightly seedy meyhane (tavern) in Asmalıescit where the food is always good and the conversation lasts for hours…

Thanks in part to its ritual and its jargon, rakıhas always been a pillar of Istanbul’s eating and drinking culture. It’s made out of distilled dry grapes and the moment the clear, aniseed-smelling liquid meets with water, it takes on a cloudy white colour – hence its nickname in Turkish of ‘lion’s milk’. It is customarily enjoyed at a dinner table decked out with meze – predominantly white cheese and melon – alongside plenty of conversation.

And in Istanbul, Yakup 2 is the place to partake of all three. The venue’s regulars include writers, poets, artists, journalists and, lately, a growing number of young people. What’s attracting them is perhaps the place’s simplicity – it adheres to the meyhane culture of old Istanbul without any embellishments or fuss. The menu at Yakup 2 is always the same; only the seafood changes depending on the season. Upon seating, you’re presented with a tray of meze so you can choose which ones to order, and – unlike at many of its competitors – everything that arrives at your table is fresh. Our recommendations for meze are the marinated whiting, köpoğu (an Aegean meze that includes cubed eggplant, tomato sauce and garlicky yogurt) and octopus salad, while the must-try warm starters are muska börek (triangular puff pastry with cheese or minced meat) and liver. In keeping with rakıdrinking culture, the music is kept to a very low volume so that trying to converse doesn’t become a chore. Elif Eren Altıarı, editor, Time Out Istanbul (Turkish edition)

Yakup 2, Asmalıescit Sokak 35/37 Tünel, Beyoğu, Istanbul, Turkey. +90 0212 249 29 25.

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Philipp Beloborodov

St Petersburg • Russia

Try: a shot of ‘Foxy’ at Mishka Bar

It may share its name with a LOLdog (Mishka the talking husky is a Russian internet phenomenon), but Mishka is one of the most interesting and significant drinking spots in St Petersburg. And for the cutting-edge SP experience, it’s a cider, a ‘Foxy’ shot and a Kinder surprise…

On the embankment, and a sensation since it opened, Mishka has become an indispensable stopping-off point for St Petersburg’s young and trendy on weekend evenings. It’s the regular destination for both shot lovers and connoisseurs of quality music – world-class DJs are often on the bill – as well as the odd face locals will know from TV and the gossip columns. The music policy is nicely democratic nevertheless, and the PA system is open to anyone who wants to share the tracks from their iPods and good humour with other guests. Hard bartenders offer you Kinder surprises and excellent sandwiches with a broadest smile here. And the excellent cocktails come decorated with jelly bears.

Current top of the shots for the St Pete’s cognoscenti is a ‘Foxy’ – vodka and Amaretto, which are downed by the dozen on weekend evenings. After a few of those, the huge colourful bull mosaic that dominates the decor can take on an alarming psychedelic, sometimes, animated aspect…

But the place is transformed by the light of day, when it becomes a place of calm rather than chaos. Salads, speciality toasted sandwiches and croissants are served. As an accompaniment you get flavoured cocoa or cider. It’s two quintessentially St Petersburg experiences rolled into one. Kovalchuk Taras, Food & Drink editor, Time Out St Petersburg

Bar Mishka Naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki 40, St Petersburg, Russia. +7 812 643 25 50.

Fumie Suzuki

Zagreb • Croatia

Try: Rajika at Cica Bar

The Cica Bar is the stand-out place on Tkalčićeva, Zagreb’s endless pedestrianised drinking strip. It’s also the best spot in town to sample Croatia’s favourite local liquor, rajika – a variation on grappa or ouzo. Here it’s served in a variety of flavours, try ‘medica’ (honey) or ‘orahovica’ (walnut), and like its fellow Mediterranean aperitifs, you’ll need a throat of steel to enjoy it…

Cica Bar, a slightly sunken ‘graperia, cafeteria and galleria’, is the most underground place you’ll find on the Tkalčićeva strip. The interior undergoes radical changes every year or so and has the appearance of an art installation rather than a café-bar. For instance, 2011′s gothic bathroom look with ceramic sinks serving as tables was replaced with a long table that looks like a space shuttle and emits an enigmatic blue glow. Skeletal black chairs look like instruments of torture but are strangely comfortable.
Outdoors, a scattering of tables on both sides of the street is insufficient to cope on summer evenings, when it’s standing-room only both inside and out. Otherwise, Cica’s main claim to fame is the long menu of house rakijas or brandies, which stretches to blueberry, honey, nut, fig and aniseed alongside the more common šljivovica (plum) and tavarica (mixed herb) varieties. Jonathan Bousfield, Time Out Zagreb

Tkalčićeva 18, Zagreb, Croatia.

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Nicosia • Cyprus

Try: Rakomelo at 7 Kleidia

You may not have heard of ‘rakomelo’, but it’s probably more familiar than you realise. ‘Raki’ is a well-known spirit endemic to this part of the Mediterranean, and ‘meli’ is Greek for ‘honey’ – that should give you some idea of what to expect from this typical Cypriot quaff. It’s served hot, in a shot glass, and is the star spirit of a beautiful corner of Cyprus’s capital known as 7 Kleidia…

In greek, ‘kleidia’ means ‘keys’ – and the cosy 7 Kleidia redefines the age-old Cypriot institution of the ‘kafeneio’ (the place where our ancestors used to gather and enjoy traditional coffee). If nothing else, you will find the key to relaxation here. It’s also the key to the past: the bar’s tranquil surroundings – helped enormously by the restrictions on cars in Nicosia’s Old Town – will transport you back centuries and give you a sense of what Nicosia used to be.

Designwise, 7 Kleidia’s policy is artfully arranged wooded furniture, harmoniously accompanied by some amazing antiques, giving the place a heady authentic character. Aside from the rakomelo and assorted other local spirits and beverages, you can sample platters full of fine national treats. Enjoy cold coffees, beers and nuts or even an ouzo with a plate of octopus. Everything, of course, tastes better with decent prices and the right music, and 7 Kleidia immerses its clientele a mix of Greek and international alternative music. A large part of 7 Kleidia’s winning ambience is down to the owner himself, Mr Fotis; he’s never been known to serve a glass of rakomelo (or anything else, for that matter) without always has a smile on his face. Michalis Michaelides, Time Out Cyprus

92 Trikoupis Street, Old Nicosia Town, Cyprus. +35 7 22 103 857.

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