A blogger walks into a bar … and has an amazing time! No joke. Here’s a quick write up of some excellent places to have a drink in a handful of awesome destinations I had the pleasure of visiting this year.
Listed below in alphabetical order are five bars outside of London (you can see my top 5 London bars here) I enjoyed visiting the most over the past 12 months along with one honourable mention. That four of these are in the American south (DC’s in the south, right?) and two of those in New Orleans isn’t a coincidence. Drinkin’ below America’s Mason-Dixon Line is a downhome delight … and to do so in NOLA is almost guaranteed to be a splendidly atmospheric experience. The fifth? An awesome little bar in Athens (Greece, not Georgia) where I had one of my favourite nights on a town this whole year.
Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days for more best of 2014 lists. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.
Best Bars (Not London)
Carousel Bar & Lounge
Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Was the room spinning? Nope, but the bar was! A 25-seat “circus-clad merry-go-round” transformed into a spinning cocktail bar may sound like tourist hell, but there’s actually something classy about it. Besides, all the true out of towner louts in NOLA are kept busy over on Bourbon Street. A fixture for sophisticated French Quarter elbow benders from near and far, the Carousel Bar inside the elegant lobby of the Hotel Monteleone is a must for any boozy bucket list. What to drink? I had the Sazerac (Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud Bitters, simple syrup) and would have had another if I hadn’t have had to dash off to dinner elsewhere.
The Dude Bar
14 Kalamiotou, 10560 Athens, Greece
Looking for a laid back joint where you can enjoy a White Russian? Dude, this is the place. I loved this bar. An excellent DJ was there on my visit sharing an enviable collection of vinyl featuring everything from mid 80s Cure to early 60s soul…and a whole lot of punk rock in between.
Off the Record
Basement of The Hay-Adams, 800 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20006
Luxury boutique hotel The Hay-Adams’ hush-hush basement bar, Off the Record (a purported favourite of both First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner), was such a cool venue to have a drink (great food menu too – awesome sliders!). I was massively impressed with my Lafayette Old Fashioned and the Classic Manhattan cocktails. Known for being the place in Washington to be seen but not heard, it’s a fascinating setting for an elbow bending session.
The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
A Frenchmen Street favorite and one of the most fun bars in New Orleans, the Spotted Cat is a friendly place where locals of all sorts and out-of-towners from all over join together to have a good time listening to great music. Drinks are cheap – just be sure to save some money for when the hat’s passed round for the band!
Swampers Bar and Grill
Lobby of the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, 10 Hightower Place, Florence, Alabama 35630
My couple of days checking out the Shoals area of northern Alabama was definitely the pleasant surprise of my year in travel. One of the many highlights of that trip was hanging out at Swampers Bar & Grill, the lobby bar at the Marriott (where I had an especially relaxing couple nights’ stay). Like my room, the bar was incredibly comfy and spacious. Live music by way of local musician Barry Billings was appreciated as was the tasty Naked Pig Pale Ale from Gadsden, Alabama’s Back Forty Beer Company I had (and would be happy to have again and again). The hotel’s breakfast buffet was in the same space the next morning – good fixings!
Honourable Mention: MADRID!
Yeah, it’s kind of a cop out simply to list an entire city. But have you ever been to Madrid? I was blown away by the city’s bar scene during my visit this past summer, and I so appreciate still the Madrid Food Tour’s Tapas, Taverns, and History Evening Walking and Tapas Tour for turning me on to some of the best and most historic tapas bars there – each one of them a marvelously evocative and cosy nook for convivial (and delicious) food and drink.
More of the Best of 2014 to follow!