The first time I visited Prague was in 1990, when it was still part of the Eastern Bloc. Cocktails weren’t a priority for me then, but even if they had been, I don’t think I would have found very many good ones.
Fast-forward to 2012. I have finally returned to Prague, and it feels like a totally different city. While the beautiful architecture hasn’t changed, there is now a thriving restaurant and bar scene, plus the Czech beer culture is once again flourishing. Here are a few places I checked out when I was in town.
Love cigars, jazz and fine libations? Head to Bar and Books (pictured above). There are two locations in Prague (and four in New York, where the sophisticated chain originated). I prefer the one in Old Town, it dates back to 2004 and is decorated like someone’s private library. It offers an enormous selection of whiskies and also tasty tipples.
What to Drink: Cuzco Fizz (Domonios de Los Andes Pisco, frozen grapes, elderflower cordial, sauvignon blanc wine, Belvoir Elderflower Pressé)
Kafka has taught us to be wary of secret basement establishments in the heart of Gothic Old Town, but there is nothing to be afraid of here. Black Angel’s is a series of caves inexplicably filled with nautical memorabilia, giving you the feeling of being on the Pirates of the Caribbean set. Running the drinks program are Pavel Sima and Zdenek Kastenek, a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award nominee for Best International Bartender. There is something for everyone, from standards to molecular mixology.
What to Drink: Chocolate Ball (Olmeca Altos Tequila, honey, water, grapefruit bitters, chocolate, ice ball, lemon twist)
Bartender Vaclav Vojiř kickstarted the Czech cocktail movement in 1995 when he opened Bugsy’s Bar. The watering hole even claims to have introduced the Mojito to the country. It has a huge array of spirits and an exhaustive drinks menu. If that isn’t enough, the Champagne list boasts vintages as old as 1966, and there’s a Cuban-cigar room.
What to Drink: G’Negroni (G’Vine Gin, Martini & Rossi Rosso Vermouth, Campari, served in an ice ball)
While the Hemingway Bar in Paris is currently closed for renovations, you can still toast Papa at this cozy spot. The walls feature pictures of the famous author, who would have surely appreciated this joint’s outrageous collection of more than 350 rums from around the world, including nearly three dozen from Cuba. And when you want something else, there’s an array of other liquor and cigars, and the bartenders know how to fix a delicious elixir.
What to Drink: Hemingway Daiquiri (Havana Club 3 Años Rum, maraschino liqueur, fresh lime juice, pink grapefruit, simple syrup)
Tretter’s is a family-run bar, which has been serving just about any classic you can imagine for more than 90 years. It is also home to the city’s oldest mixology academy. The bar has a display of some amazing antiques like shakers and an ancient cash register.
What to Drink: Sidecar (cognac, lemon juice, Cointreau)
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and co-founder of The 86 Co. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.