With its picture-perfect canals, amazing art scene and reputation as one of the world’s most free-spirited metropolitan cities, Amsterdam is always a fun place to visit, especially if you’re looking to have a drink. Beer, wine and the local spirit genever can easily be found throughout the Dutch capital.
Cocktails can be a bit harder to locate, which is where this list of trendy establishments comes in. From martinis to barrel-aged sips and fiery craft concoctions, here are five places for a fine drink in the Venice of the North.
You don’t really need Dennis Tamse, global ambassador to the Nolet Distillery and alumnus of this famed closed-door lounge, to tell you that Door 74 is one of the best bars in the world. Since its debut in 2008, Western Europe’s first bona fide speakeasy has earned a slew of accolades, cementing its reputation as one of the international greats.
The spot, which sits just a 12-minute drive from Amsterdam’s oldest hotel, NH Collection Doelen, is serving its 16th unique menu — a graphic-novel-like, space-travel-inspired offering titled “To Infinity and Beyond.” Cocktails in the out-of-this-world collection range from weird and wacky libations like the Creature from the Green Lagoon (Leblon Cachaça, Swedish punsch, fresh lime, pandan-lemongrass foam) to classics like the Moscow Mule.
Veteran barkeep Timo Janse (who will soon open his own bar, Flying Dutchmen Cocktails) also offers this insider tip: “Every day we create a cocktail of the day, and every Friday and Saturday, a gin and tonic of the day as well.”
Swanky hotel bars exist in every major metropolitan city. In Amsterdam, the one to visit is Pulitzer’s Bar at the Pulitzer hotel.
With its own separate entrance right off of the Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), the posh bar — fully refurbished in 2016 — is all kinds of wonderful. Classic wood paneling juxtaposed against rich leather and green velvet channel luxe art deco glam.
Bartenders sport crisp white shirts and bowties while pouring exemplary classic martinis alongside an inventive menu of signature drinks such as the Bulleit Bourbon-based Valley of the Ashes, a twist on a Caribbean Corn ’n Oil.
For something extra special, lead bartender Andrei Talapanescu suggests ordering a barrel-aged cocktail. Not on the menu but available by special request, these one-of-a-kind drinks are poured until the barrel is empty. One of the most recent creations was a Dutch Boulevardier, made with Millstone 100 Rye, Willem’s Wermoed (a Dutch vermouth) and Campari, aged in a barrel for one month.
Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS)
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood with no sign out front (just a logo on two of the windows), this hidden gem is definitely worth the search. This chic and cozy lounge carries a welcoming vibe that’ll put you at ease immediately.
Grab a seat at the bar and let the staff wow you with a real live cocktail display. A showman to the core, lead bartender Mounir Hamza cites ever-popular The Walking Dead cocktail, a twist on a Zombie, as the one you shouldn’t miss. Served in a clear, skull-shaped glass, the Instagram-worthy, red-hued libation is lit on fire right before it’s served for a dramatic sparkling effect.
Named after James Bond’s signature sip in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, this Amsterdam bar serves up a sensational Vesper Martini.
But you don’t have to stick to the basics here. “We like to give our customers a tailored experience and are always happy to create special drinks or classics upon request,” creative director Jules Bayuni says.
Sophisticated yet laid-back, worldly yet unpretentious, Vesper has gained a reputation for its cutting-edge, exquisitely crafted libations, cinematic themes and its monthly changing selection of “100 percent original creations.”
Recent menu themes have included “Skyfall,” which spotlighted autumnal ingredients; “Trash the Place,” a meditation on the theme of reuse and recycling; and “Vesperitivo,” in which each drink was adorned with its own aperitivo-style food pairing.
Tales & Spirits
The critically acclaimed Tales & Spirits is housed in a multi-level building near NH Collection Barbizon Palace. Though the address features a full kitchen, cocktails are the focus, and they come in all shapes and sizes.
Ceramic tiki mugs mix and mingle next to crystal stemware. Old Fashioned glasses rest alongside mini caskets that open up with a cloud of smoke. Owl-shaped cups, flaming zombie heads and more line the bar. But don’t let the playful, and sometimes kitschy, presentation fool you — everything here is done with precision.
Sunday Punch Day, in which the bartenders whip up a huge bowl of specialty punch, is also a fun weekly event to experience the craftsmanship.