From sprawling markets to stunning architecture, Marrakech is one of the world’s most tantalizing destinations. But chances are you’re not booking a flight to Morocco to drink your way through the red city; in some parts of the Islamic country, drinking is outright banned. That’s not to say it can’t be done. Resourceful travelers will find speakeasies, wineries and swanky hotel bars all waiting in the wings. In between your camel rides and tile photography, these are the places to drink in and around Marrakech.
With its French influence, it’s no surprise Morocco has a fledgling wine industry. Take a day trip from Marrakech to Essaouira; buses run several times per day and take approximately three hours. Before arriving at the coastal city, you'll find Domaine Val d'Argan. The winery is owned by Charles Melia, whose family had a winery in France's Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here you’ll find a lineup of more than a dozen grape varietals, including syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and muscat.
North Africa may seem like an inhospitable climate for wine production, but its clay and limestone soil is mineral rich, and an early harvest period in July helps adjust for the intense summer heat. While the influence may be distinctively French, pay attention to the winery’s many Moroccan touches, such as workers using camels to tend the fields.
Hotel bars have long provided refuge for travelers thirsty for a taste of home. In Marrakech, the grand Royal Mansour reigns supreme with plenty of options for your sipping pleasure. Under one roof you’ll find the Main Bar, Lobby Bar, Fireplace Lounge and Cigar Bar, as well as restaurants La Table, La Grande Table Marocaine and outdoor Le Jardin.
Each of the spaces has its own feel. The main bar has a gilded Art Deco look and the classic cocktails to match. That's your place to order a Martini, while outdoors you may want to try a refreshing libation showcasing fresh fruit juices and purées. For a drink-in-hand splurge surrounded by all the wondrous Moroccan style you've been conjuring in your head while dreaming about a visit to the country, Royal Mansour is a winning ticket. Even better, you don’t have to be staying at the property to visit.
The subterranean Baromètre beckons you with its street-side metallic “B” sculpture signaling that you've arrived. Inside, you'll find a sleek lounge crowded with tourists and locals alike, as well as a glowing yellow backbar loaded with infusions and bitters made from Moroccan spices and herbs—cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, dates. Drinks are fancifully presented, with distinctive glassware and concepts for each libation on the menu. Consider the Marrakech Market, with cinnamon-infused whiskey, date syrup, orange and saffron served in a terracotta Collins-style glass.
Continue to Essaouira and visit Heure Bleue, a stunning hotel tucked inside the old city walls. Built in the fashion of a riad, the property features a soaring, central, open-air courtyard, although in this case it has managed to tack on a gorgeous rooftop pool with ocean views and a lounge vibe that would feel right at home in Miami. It's an ideal spot to luxuriate for a few days. You won't regret your decision when you head to the hotel's eponymous restaurant for a Moroccan wine tasting or a Moroccan wine-pairing dinner.
"We only work with Moroccan wines on our list," says M'Barek Amalhenna, the deputy manager of the property. He and his team also embarked on a project to blend their own exclusive house bottles from Val d'Argan, producing both a red and white cuvée, both of which pair nicely with the restaurant’s seafood bounty and hearty meat dishes.
Looking for a nonalcoholic drink anytime of the day or night? Relish the ubiquity of Moroccan mint tea. Cafés and restaurants serve it by the bucketload, and you’ll likely be welcomed with a glass if you visit a guest house for a locally prepared meal or overnight stay, as it’s a sign of hospitality. Keep in mind that tea, potentially alongside a tray of cookies, will be served at the start of a meal rather than the end. In Marrakech, mint and any other flavoring herbs are left in the teapot, while in the north of the country, the mint is placed directly in your glass. Sugar cubes may be added either into the pot or your individual glass.
Essaouira is far more liberal-leaning than the rest of the country when it comes to alcohol consumption, reflected by the city's penchant for hosting music festivals and celebrity retreats. There are several beachfront bars, including Le Bar Celone, perfectly positioned adjacent to the main city gates, with a view of the city's famous harbor to the right and miles of soft, tan sand in the other direction. You’ll feel right at home in this tourist and expat bar, as you soak up the sun with a cold Casablanca beer in hand.
Moroccan hammams are part of everyday culture in the country—part bathhouse, part social center and part purifying ritual. As a visitor, you’ll want to try the experience at one of the more well-appointed facilities. The spas at Royal Mansour and Heure Bleue are both world-class, with every detail covered to provide you with an indulgent experience. The spas are known for sourcing local ingredients, such as purifying clay from the Atlas Mountains or North African prickly pears and rose petals for a hand treatment. You can personalize your hammam visit by picking and choosing between scrubs, wraps, massages and an assortment of skin treatments. As for the experience itself, expect to sweat it out for a bit in a steam room before laying on a marble bench and being rubbed down, doused with water and argan oil and scrubbed clean. Afterward, you'll feel ready for anything, especially another drink.