When we travel, we love to look forward to finding another cool place to indulge in a refreshing adult beverage. It doesn’t matter where in the world we are, or whatever language is spoken, great cocktails and a wonderful bar experience are universal requests.
With that said, there are many a swanky bar and amazing new speakeasy popping up daily in just about every corner of the planet. Here, I’m going to share just a few of my favorites that will absolutely wet your whistle with a quality cocktail while still engaging your need to seek out a little intrigue.
El Madrigal – Havana, Cuba
Situated in the Vedado area of Havana, El Madrigal is located upstairs in what was a classic Vedado home. When you climb the last flight of steps and walk into the space, you will be greeted with an amazing collection of old radios, contemporary Cuban art and usually a Latin jazz band playing full swing.
Of course when in Havana I always go for rum, and El Madrigal usually has the good stuff even when other bars in the city are out. Ask for a shot of the dark Santiago de Cuba…muy deliciosa. Their tapas menu is quite good too!
Havana Social Club – Bangkok, Thailand
While we’re on the subject of Havana, how about a Cuban speakeasy located in the heart of Bangkok? Yes, I’m not joking. Slink down the dead end alleyway, look for the “telefono” sign and wiggle into the phone booth. There you’ll enter a code and pop through the secret door into one of my favorite themed bars. Inside, the owners have completely nailed down the feeling of Havana, from the laundry hanging overhead to the Fidel speech playing in the restrooms. Cigars are available upstairs along with pretty damn good Cuban bites.
Definitely make an evening of it here as the DJ gets warmed up around 10 for some swinging salsa and Latin vibes. Once again, all this deep in the heart of Bangkok. You can always grab a bowl of Pad Thai or green curry outside on the street if you don’t believe me.
Hanson’s Shoe Repair – Orlando, Florida
Patience is a virtue, at least please keep that in mind at Hanson’s. Small, cozy, intimate and always busy, Rene as the main bartender has his hands full. A fantastic way to get away from the house that the mouse built and worth the wait, Rene definitely puts thought and heart into the cocktails he pours. Get there early, enjoy your drink at the small bar or on one of those rare dry Orlando nights, sit at the large family style table outside. If you’re indecisive with your cocktail selection, let the bar choose for you. Always interesting and if you’re looking for a real adult beverage with a more distinctive and complex taste, this is your place.
Bank Bar – Manila, Philippines
Last on this list, but also my current favorite is the Bank Bar. Found in the fast growing modern section of BGC amidst the chaos of Manila, the Bank Bar is a fantastic speakeasy with all of the characteristics a distinguished cocktail aficionado could desire. Located in a 7-eleven within a large office building, guests need only to make sure they are well dressed as they give a nod to the bouncer hanging out against the wall and secret entrance. Through the wall opening, walk through the faux stockroom, past the large velvet drapes, and you will find yourself in a truly elegant and perfect space.
Large ceilings, interesting architectural elements and beautiful furnishings await your leisure. A very selective and wonderfully edited cocktail menu is ready to be perused and ordered from while listening to one of the coolest DJ’s around spinning old school, classic house, funk and disco. Depending on your selection, your server will bring the bar tray directly to you and mix your cocktail at your table for real “attention to detail” service.
Great cocktails, wonderful music, cool media, top it off with a great tapas style menu, and one can easily see why the Bank Bar tops my list as one of the best bars around…anywhere. A must visit when in Manila!