Zürich may be better known for its banks than its bars, but over the last several years, its innovative watering holes have proven that even the most buttoned-up by day can shrug off their jackets and enjoy a good cocktail by night. And while the city was recently named the most expensive city in the world for an evening out, the creative cocktails being served up by these establishments are well worth the francs.
Once the temporary home of the upscale Widder Bar, Widder Garage has managed to win a permanent place in the hearts of Zürichers. It’s especially loved by those who prefer a shabby chic vibe to a staid business setting, yet want the same rare spirits and choice of 250 single malt whiskies that Widder Bar – now located just around the corner – is known for. The building, an old garage where horse-drawn carriages once parked, is now adorned with shelves of funky vinyl records, disco balls and even a bathtub – for cooling beers, of course.
2. Old Crow Bar
Located in Zürich’s city centre, Old Crow Bar is run by Markus Blattner and Jvan Paszti, the former owners of Widder Bar. Here, they harness 1,600 different spirits to whip up in-ventive drink combinations, such as the Downtown Switzerland (kirsch, Campari, Italian vermouth, Cynar, Amarena cherry and Champagne) and the Lemon Tarte (vanilla vodka, yuzu sake, Galliano, cream and a shortbread crumble rim). If you’re into classics, and mon-ey is no object, ask for the 1964 Black Bowmore Final Edition, a 31-year-old single malt Scotch whisky that goes for CHF1,200 ($1,660) a glass.
3. Bar Sacchi
With its rose-coloured walls, plush dark-green leather sofas and beautiful marble tables, this cosy bar may also be one of the city’s best designed. Opened just last year, the Italian-inspired watering hole serves Negronis and Italian wines with a side of stellar service. Want to know why there is a certain type of olive in your drink? Simply ask the young own-er, Claudio Sacchi, who will dispense your cocktail with a beverage gun. Then, kick back by the window with a glass of natural wine and you’ll begin to understand what Italians mean when they say la vita è dolce (life is sweet).
4. Cinchona Bar
This laid-back venue is named after the flowering shrub from which quinine is obtained – the bitter compound is used to treat malaria and is an essential ingredient in quality tonic waters and the aromatised wine quinquina. Located in the 25hours Hotel Langstrasse, it offers coffee by day and cocktails by night. Highballs are the way to go here; we recom-mend sampling more unusual options such as the Lady Killer highball (Beefeater gin, Cointreau, apricot brandy, passion fruit, pineapple and prosecco) and the Reposado Paloma highball (Cazadores Reposado tequila, lime and pink grapefruit lemonade).
Guinness lovers and literary types will feel equally at home at the James Joyce Pub. Origi-nally part of the Antique Bar at Jury’s Hotel in Dublin, the dark-wood-panelled interiors were saved from demolition and shipped to Zürich. Immortalised in Joyce’s Ulysses, the Irish décor may seem out of place in Zürich – but only to those who don’t realise that the writer spent a lot of time in Switzerland’s largest city, especially during World War I. Visit on a Thursday to join the reading group at the corner table as they discuss references to Switzerland in Finnegans Wake, another Joyce classic.
Cocktail culture is on fire at Raygrodski Bar – order a Hot Russian and you’ll understand why. With a flame-lit passion fruit floating atop this spicy drink, you’re in for not just a tasty cocktail, but a memorable experience too. Alternatively, opt for the Trinidad Sour, Quinces Fizz or ginger gimlet, best enjoyed with a handful of complimentary peanuts. Décor-wise, this minimalist spot features inviting leather couches, communal wooden tables and a bar area with liquor bottles hanging from the ceiling. Drop by on a weekend evening and you might even get to enjoy a live concert or DJ-spun tunes.
Despite being located on the ground floor of the city’s Prime Tower skyscraper – and at-tracting the area’s suit-and-tie crowd – Hotel Rivington & Sons exudes the vibes of a New York speakeasy. An 80-year-old wooden bar takes centre stage, while subway station tiles that were specially imported from the Big Apple line the floors. Aside from classic cocktails, the bar also boasts a decent lunch menu and delicious coffee. Just don’t be surprised when the bar closes at 2am on a Saturday night – New York may be a city that never sleeps, but Zürich still does.
Drink in views of the entire city, the lake and the distant Swiss Alps as you sip a tipple at Clouds, Zürich’s highest bar that’s located on the top floor of Prime Tower. While the bar produces its very own award-winning Clouds Gin, you’ll find another 100 or so varieties of the spirit on the bar’s dedicated gin menu, which the expert bartenders will eagerly shake up into cocktails. Our suggestion? Make it here just before dark and you’ll get to take in the sunset from the bar’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
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This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine