The Best Bars in 2018’s Hottest Vacation Destinations
Earlier this year Kayak released a list of what they calculated to be the biggest vacation destinations of 2018. If your travel plans take you to any of them, you’ll want to find a good cocktail and we’re here to help with that. Here, the bars you absolutely can’t miss in this year’s most popular travel locales.
Maui, Hawaii: South Shore Tiki Lounge
The only proper drink for a perfectly sunny day in Maui is a tiki drink. At South Shore Tiki Lounge, you’ll get the bar’s signature Mai Tai in a glass tiki mug that will grimace at you like some kind of beach vacay version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Or go for one of the blended drinks, like a brightly swirled Mango-Strawberry Daiquiri. There’s a menu of finger food pupus like calamari and “beach nachos” to soak up the booze after you’ve spent the day soaking up the sun.
Barcelona, Spain: Old Fashioned Gin Tonic & Cocktail Bar
Nowhere does a Gin and Tonic quite like Spain, so if you go, you need to find a good one. And at Old Fashioned (we know, it’s confusing, especially since they offer a lot of takes on the Old Fashioned too), they have more than two dozen different options to choose from—like one featuring Bosford Gin along with blackberries, raspberry powder and Thomas Henry Tonic, or another featuring Tanqueray 10 with kumquat, grapefruit bitters and 1724 Tonic. A cozy spot with about 30 seats, the place feels downright homey.
Bali, Indonesia: Karma Beach Club
You’ll probably spend your entire vacation in Bali on the beach, so rather than drag yourself away from the glistening sand and crystal clear water, pick a bar that combines the best of booze, relaxation and beachside escape. The Karma Beach Club is wedged into the Balinese coastline, a hidden stretch of sandy paradise only accessible by a steep climb down a forested mountainside (or $2 tram). But this tiny beach is anything but serene—expect DJs, seafood feasts and tropical cocktails aplenty.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Tales and Spirits
Coming in at 35 on the most recent list of 50 Best Bars in the World, Tales and Spirits is an eclectic spot. They have a Mexican Zombie fat-washed with avocado and made with four kinds of agave spirits (two mezcals and two tequilas), as well as a Japanese-inspired drink with sake, yuzu, lemongrass and carrot. It looks unassuming—all brick and dinged up wood—but once the bartenders start making on your drink you’ll realize this isn’t just another pub.
Lisbon, Portugal: Red Frog
This speakeasy’s style may be loosely inspired by Prohibition-era New York (nameless entrance, secret door bell, dim and cozy space), but the drinks (and the presentations) are like nothing else. Cocktails like the Machu Picchu (Pisco 1615, quinoa, ceviche stock, chicha, pineapple “air”) and Terracotta (Jameson Black Barrel, artichoke, black garlic, lemon, thistle and tobacco bitters) come heaped with an excessive amount of garnishes, making them a feast for the eyes as much as the palate.
Las Vegas, Nevada: Atomic Liquors
As the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas, Atomic Liquors has seen a lot—from the Rat Pack royalty who drank there to the atomic bomb tests visible from the roof—but these days the bar mostly plays host to beer geeks (who come for the serious draft list and beer-focused events like the annual Sour Saturday), early bird drinkers (who come for the F-Bomb made of Fireball, fernet and a homemade energy drink), and everyone in between (who can enjoy beer-tails like the Smoked Melon made with mezcal, habanero, lime, watermelon and Crafthaus Saison).
Madrid, Spain: La Venencia
Stepping through the nondescript entrance of La Venencia, hidden down a quiet street near Plaza Santa Ana, you’ll feel as if you’ve travelled back into Ernest Hemingway’s romantic vision of the Spanish Civil War, which makes sense since the writer frequented the bar back in the ‘30s. Bartenders take your order (a choice of five types of sherry and nothing else), scribble the order in chalk on the bartop, and serve your chosen fortified wine from one of the barrels on the back bar. Drinks come with complementary tapas, and as the rounds stack up, the snacks get better (ranging from olives and nuts, to jamon and cheese).
Athens, Greece: The Clumsies
Athens may not be known as a destination for cocktail lovers—Greek wine has received plenty of attention, but not so the harder spirits beyond ouzo—but The Clumsies is changing that. The bar landed at No. 6 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2017, putting it in the running with world class joints like American Bar in London and The NoMad in New York. Divided into three floors, the bar offers something for everyone: updated classics on The Main Floor like a tequila Martini with sherry, red pepper beetroot and hops; cocktails featuring fermented ingredients like the Eau De Vie Fashioned (Hennessy V.S., Bacardi Oakheart, fermented banana, sour red grapes, banana leather) in The Basement; and truly creative cocktails in The Playroom upstairs, like the Cinema Paradiso, a clarified and bottled cocktail of vodka, popcorn, cola and jasmine.
Paris, France: Le Syndicat
Le Syndicat has been around for a few years now, so its exterior, papered over with ancient flyers and graffiti and designed to make you think “nothing to see here,” is no longer fooling anyone, and every drinker worth their cocktail glass knows about Sullivan Doh and Romain Le Mouëllic’s intensely creative (but still whimsically fun) cocktail den. Some of their most recent libations include experiments with whiskey and mustard powder and a recreation of tzatziki in a cocktail. They also have large format punches and flights of French whiskey, which makes sense because the whole bar places a focus on French ingredients—even things like single malt whiskey that you wouldn’t normally associate with the country.
Rome, Italy: Jerry Thomas Speakeasy
There are quite a few speakeasies in Rome these days, but the Jerry Thomas Speakeasy takes the genre to extremes: A hidden entrance is marked only with the name of the professor of cocktails himself; receiving the password to access the private club requires you complete an online test based on spirits knowledge; there’s a strict list of rules that includes “the bartender is always right” and “we do not serve vodka;” and bartenders sport suspenders and handlebar mustaches. While Jerry Thomas verges on parody, the bar also makes darn fine cocktails in a sexy, smoke-filled space. Get yourself a Negroni, listen to the live music or quietly bantering Italians, and soak in the experience.