Monkey is perched on the rooftop of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, the beating artery of Istanbul’s cultural scene. Creative movers and shakers are regular patrons here, though don’t expect to see any bohemian artist types here as the drinks aren’t cheap. The sleek, wood-decked terrace boasts a dizzying view of the Golden Horn and the Historical Peninsula gleaming yonder. Monkey often invites local spinners to play laid-back disco and house to help wind you down, though nursing one of their signature cocktails while watching the sun go down will do the trick. Go for Narcist, English Breakfast Tea or Hot Passion.
Over on the Asian side of town, Kadıköy remains the apple of the eye for an ever-increasing number of Istanbulites looking for a fun night out. Kadıköy’s beloved bar street, Kadife Sokak, is usually so packed during the weekends that you’ll be hard pressed to wade through the crowd without stepping on someone’s foot. If you’ve made it half way through the street, then duck right into Bina, one of Kadıköy’s most popular bars whose calendar is peppered with a selection of talks, screenings, performances and other events curated by independent magazine Bant on the upper floors. The bottom floor garden is a wide open, smartly-designed space with plenty of room to kick back with friends over a few drinks, while the ground floor hosts DJs until well after midnight. For drinks, try the Stalker, which is made with smoked lavender, or the espresso-spiked Dude.
The street that snakes away from the hustle and bustle of Istiklal Caddesi and down past Ara Kafe leads to one of Beyoğlu’s most vibrant corners, where you’ll be greeted by a crowd spilling out onto the backstreet. Ziba, the establishment responsible for the commotion, is a great little bar whose relaxed vibe and intimate atmosphere has made it a Beyoğlu favourite. In the summer months, the breezy terrace helps accommodate its usually overcapacity crowd, though the pleasant weather draws in even more people than usual and we’re just happy to be standing on the buzzing street with a beer in hand waiting for a table that never comes.
Since settin up shop up in Akaretler in 2012, Craft Beer Lab has introduced over 100 international brews to Istanbul’s beer lovers. The interior’s steel-meets-wood is both decorative and functional, as the large pipe hanging above the counter connects the many taps lining the bar front with the upstairs cold room, where the kegs are kept fresh in controlled temperature. The waiters at Craft Beer Lab take their beer seriously and approach food pairing with the sensitivity of a sommelier; that chopped steak served with strained yoghurt does indeed go nicely with a pint of London Pride. The roadside tables are ideal if you want to partake in some people watching while sipping a cold one, or you can grab a chair under the shade of a tree in the lush back garden and forget that you’re in downtown Istanbul. Don’t miss their October-fest themed events that take place concurrently with the festivities in Munich.
It's been a few years since the neighbourhood’s culinary and cultural hub Bomontiada opened its doors inside the old Bomonti beer factory, whose storied beer gardens were once at the heart of social life in the city. Bomontiada’s courtyard is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the gardens, especially during the summer when free outdoor concerts draw the crowds and the local brew flows freely in The Populist, a microbrewery and craft beer pub that’s situated on the square. The Populist’s airy ambience, exemplary bar fare and signature beers crafted by brewmaster Philip Green have made it a favourite summer destination – as you can’t make reservations for the outdoor tables, we recommend heading there as early as possible.
Featuring one of the most impressive cocktail menus in the city, Arnavutköy's Alexandra is easily among Istanbul's best bars. Situated on Arnavutköy's ever-so-buzzy main street and spread out over several floors of a historic building, Alexandra's sophisticated decor and candlelit tables make it a great date spot, while its rooftop terrace offers an ethereal Bosphorus view. The catch is that, as with quite a number of Arnavutköy’s night-time hangouts, it might be a bit tricky to get in unless you’re dressed up to the nines and have a balanced guy-togal ratio. You won’t need a prescription to order their best cocktails, Xanax andPassiflora.
The lastes venture by by Umut Evirgen – the man behind popular nightspots La Boom andLa Boucherie – Chicki Boom has been the talk of the town lately and not least because it won Best New Bar/Club at our Eating & Drinking Awards this year. Like its sister club Gizli Kalsın, Chicki Boom plays at being a speakeasy, though the cat has been let out of the bag (if indeed there ever was one) and this little ‘hidden bar’ has become the stamping ground of many a celeb. Budha, Atypique and Voulez Vous are our preferred intoxicants on a weekend night out in Chicki Boom.
The after-work classic Efendi is run by a seasoned mixologist better known as Dede (Grandpa), whose original recipes have gained him scores of admirers beyond the Topağacı neighbourhood. The vanilla-infused Encore and the sweet and sour Cashmere are amongst our favourite tipples. It’s always a true delight to sit at one of the street-side tables at Efendi with one of Dede’s classics in hand while smooth funk and soul play in the background.
While Cihangir has lost some of its brightest and best to the greener grass of Kadıköy in recent years, it still counts the likes of Orhan Pamuk and Nuri Bilge Ceylan amongst its residents and is home to Istanbul’s coolest hotspots. By day, Cihangir’s Geyik is a third-wave cafe offering coffee from El Salvador to Honduras, and by night, it’s one of the city’s best cocktail bars. If you’re early (or lucky), you might just be able to snag a cosy seat inside the brick-walled and wood-paneled bar, but then standing elbow-to-elbow alongside a cast of regulars out on the curb outside is half the fun. Aside from Geyik’s signature cocktails, we suggest you try their take on classics like Old Fashioned, Mojito or Whiskey Sour, with the latter being our favourite of its kind in the city.
The ever-so-sleek Finn has pulled an impressive feat in staying open through all these years, when so many of its neighbours went under as the Karaköy hype slowly subsided. But then again, we couldn’t expect Finn’s great cocktails and tasty finger food to go unappreciated. Try their fresh, fruit-inspired offerings like the Bramble made with fresh blackberries or the verdant Grass infused with greengage plums.