From the taverns where revolutions were plotted to the speakeasies where illicit drinking went down, bars have been part of our history for ages. Today, the most important characteristics include the quality of the drinks and the atmosphere, as these bucket-list bars prove.
Descend Into a World of Whisky in Beverly Hills
Most bars are generalists, offering up a menu that will have something that speaks to everyone. At £10 (known as “Ten Pound”) inside Montage Beverly Hills, it’s all about specialization in one coveted spirit: The Macallan single malt whisky.
Hailing from Speyside, Scotland, distillery The Macallan was founded in 1824 and has spent the past two centuries building a reputation as the best of the best. For the casks, The Macallan sources distinguished, mature oak from North America and Europe that is seasoned with sherry in Jerez, Spain. Every bottle they produce is high quality, and £10 has some of the rarest and most vaunted—including ones that have been aged more than 60 years.
Drink your Scotch the way you like—inside a handcrafted cocktail served in a Lalique crystal glass, perfectly poured over a sphere of ice made from water that comes straight from the Scottish Highlands, or in a flight of three, with themes ranging from “Teens” (whiskies aged 17 or 18 years) to “Rare.”
The atmosphere is dark and rich, designed by Nina Petronzio and accented with bespoke furniture and artwork that pays tribute to the bar’s namesake, the £10 Scottish note.
Go for the Green in London
Along with the classics that have stood the test of time, bar manager Derren King and his team of mixologists create inventive botanical tastes by combining handpicked tonics with lesser-known spirits. Gin and tonic fans have seemingly endless options of combinations to choose from, garnished with accompaniments like cranberries and grapefruit or fresh chilies and lemon peel.
The name, of course, comes from the bar’s collection of absinthe—the “green fairy,” as it’s known—that somewhat mysterious spirit that was a favorite of the bohemian artists and writers who frequented the Café Royal (Oscar Wilde and painter Walter Sickert among them). Drink it as is from a stylish fountain, or try it in a cocktail like Doctor’s Orders, combining absinthe with rye, buchu leaf reduction, lemon zest and star anise, or La Bohemian, which adds mint and multiple forms of lemon.
Get a Handle on History in Hanoi
Folk legend and activist Joan Baez took refuge here during the Christmas Bombings in 1972, and she ended up recording a portion of one of her albums in the subterranean space. Visit the shelter, which was excavated in 2012, every day at happy hour.
Then head upstairs to Le Club, where you’ll find a bar with a vibe that’s described by the hotel as “aristocratic smoking rooms with a hint of 1920s speakeasy.” It oozes sophistication, befitting of its status as the social hub for the legendary Metropole.
Live jazz performances take place six evenings a week, but it’s not just nighttime that steals the show—the “Afternoon Indulgence” from 3 to 5:30 p.m. includes High Tea and the Chocolate Library, which adds 20-plus types of chocolate to afternoon tea—think ganache, éclairs, mille-feuilles, a chocolate fountain and much more. For a drink, try the Joan Baez Toddy, prepared with lemon tea, Bacardi rum, a slice of lemon, a stick of cinnamon, and local honey.