A good bar should be about good drinks, a wise man once told me. This must also be the philosophy of Herr Fritz Müller-Scherz, owner of the Green Door bar in Schöneberg in Berlin, since the feeling you have when you enter his bar (after having to ring in front of a big green door, quite a speakeasy feeling) is that the important thing is right there in the middle: a vaste selection of ingredients (I counted more than 30 gins), professional and passionate bartenders, and great drinks. No food menu, no loud music, no specific features. Still, the place has a lot of character, with an eclectic feeling surely coming from the fact that the “boss” (as they call him in the bar website) is an actor, musician, writer. Martinis at the Green Dor are close to perfection, served in frozen classy glasses, with space for discovery. I was able to get a martini with Tanquerey Malacca gin (see this post for the story of this gin, recently recovered from oblivion), perfectly balanced with some bitter and with a grapefruit peel. The bar has a good list of signature cocktails, it has a no-mobile phones and a yes-cigarettes policy, and it is said to be one of the favourite spots of David Bowie in Berlin. Not to be missed, just look for the green light above the green door… Classic Martini rate: 9.
This is probably the oddest bar I visited, and even if it does not stand out for its Martinis, it deserves a post. This is the story: in 1973 former professor Jim Turner, inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books, created a bar in manila called Hobbit House. OK, what’s the news? Well, the bar staff is composed only of “little people”, or dwarfs as you prefer. You’ll see a massive mural with characters from the Hobbit, and you’ll enter (of course) through a big colorful circular door. Once you pass through the door, a bell will ring to welcome you into a candles-lighted room filled with paintings from the Tolkien trilogy. Most probably, live music will be on, mixing folk, rock, blues, jazz and reggae. Head to the bar, where – apart from a MArtini – you can try “Lambanog”, the veeery sweet local coconut liquor. With your drink, you can get some interesting finger food: try the spicy Taquitos.
All of this, surrounded by very friendly and big-smiling mini-waiters and mini-bartenders. And the best part is that in the last 35 years Mr Turner, that you’ll most probably meet at the bar quietly drinking his beer, has been rescuing dozens of “little men” from the worst Manila streets and got them a decent job in the bar. Thinking of this, you’ll enjoy the mini-Elvis who will sing for you even more. Classic Martini rate: 6/10.
Who said that Belgium is only beer, beer and beer? The Mattiz Bar wants is the evidence that in the hearth of the country you can get a good cocktail, and is doing its best to prove this. Located in the very centre of Leuven, the bar is the place to go for a drink if you do not feel like having a trappist: the owner claims it is the only bar in town without draft beer…. The drinks menu is impressive, counting both classics and creative creations, with an eye to the students’ drinking population of the city. The bar itself is a small gem, modern and trendy, with a nice philosophy behind: they claim that “they love what they do”. And, indeed: we love it too! The martini comes shaken, with Beefeater. Classic martini rate: 7.
The Alchemist is a bar with a philosophy, stated on their site “Quality ingredients, modern interpretations, avant-garde techniques, respect for the classics whilst creating a path that is our own”. And having a philosophy, in these postmodern drinking era, is already a valid reason to pay a visit. Then, once you have ordered your drink, being it a classic martini or a creative molecular mix of unexpected ingredients, you’ll tap your own shoulder for being there. The bar – standing on the ground floor of a restored building in a posh area of Shanghai – is classy but informal, the decor is full of intriguing details, the staff is friendly and professional, the food is “very delicious”. This-is-the-place-for-a-drink. Or more, maybe. Classic Martini rate: 7,5/10.
The race to be the highest bar in the world is open and wild, but I am ready to state that the Ozone is the highest open roof bar in the world (please correct me if I’m wrong, I am ready to invite you to martini…). Opened in March 2011, the Ozone is on the last floor of the ICC building in Kowloon, Hong Kong, the fourth highest building on the planet with 484 meters and 118 floors above the ground. The bar is impressive for a number of reasons: first its height, which gives a feeling hardly comparable to any other skybar I know: looking down simply feels veeery unreal. Second, the design (see some pics here): created by Japanese achistar Masamachi Katayama, it is an absolute wonder of geometrical shapes on the floor, the wall, the ceiling, with amazing irregular columns and with a long transparent bar. Third: the fact that – even if the bar is hosted by the Ritz-Carlton – the staff is extremely flexible and will let you in even with casual clothes; ok the crowd is mainly made up of tourists and of hotel guests, making it the perfect place for a drink or two before enjoying some more local place. Final tip: do not miss the bathroom, which has probably the most stunning view you will ever enjoy while in a toilet! Drinks are pretty good, even if they are not at the level of the bar itself. Still, Classic Martini rate 7/10.
Looking for the best cocktail bar in a city like Shanghai is not an easy job, with the city drinking culture improving faster than you can imagine, and many potential good choices for a proper sip. In the city of records, several bars claim they have the best view, the bigger cocktail menu, the highest terrace. The M1NT bar claims for example, in its website, that “Breathtaking views, outrageously funky music, hip furniture, first class service, succulent snacks and simply the best organic cocktails combine to make M1NT’s Lounge the envy of the industry“. And, believe me, that’s true. This bar is unique for a few reasons: it is a “shareholders club” counting on some 100 members (but it is open to everybody) who pay a yearly fee to get privilege access and the best tables, it has a 10 meters aquarium filled with (real) sharks, it gets together a lounge bar, a great restaurant and a club that is said to be the best in town. Further, it has an amazing view in the Pudong skyline and – last but not least – it fixes some fantastic drinks. Head bartender Helmut Rossler and his team can get you the best martinis you can expect, and much more (do not miss the bloody mary!). The lounge is chic and reasonably expensive, but every penny is worth for the view, the crowd, the place, the food, and the drinks. Well done. Classic Martini rate: 9/10.
Common sense suggests that in Verona, as in most of Veneto, what you get in a bar is only Spritz and vino bianco. But common sense is there to be challenged, as a drink at the Amnesya Cafe will prove. This bar, in the very centre of Verona a few steps from the wonderful Piazza delle Erbe, is a small gem, where creativity and quality of cocktail coexist with a cosy and not-pretentious atmosphere, with very affordable prices. Bartenders Luca and Marco will propose to you delicacies such as the smoked martini, the molecular (yes, molecular!) cardinale or the tobacco-flavored martini, and believe me: each one of these deserves a good sip. Food is available (you’ll need some after a couple of these drinks!) and the crowd is relaxed and friendly. All in all, a few drinks at the Amnesya are an experience not to be missed! Classic Martini rate: 8.