From a standout speakeasy in Chicago to a groundbreaking gin bar in Hong Kong, recent months have seen a slew of sleek nightlife spots pop up around the globe. Which new bars set the best scene? No matter your spirit preference, we’re sure you’ll find something to sip at these five new watering holes we love.
Pawn & Co., South Yarra, Australia
Pawn & Co. is one of the only bars in the world where everything is for sale — including the vintage couch upon which you sit, the glassware from which you drink and the bartenders’ bow ties. The space, opened near Melbourne in January by Josh Lefers and Stephen Wools, has a decidedly 1920s New Orleans feel to it. Curios and book-adorned shelves and cabinets line the interior, a hollowed-out baby grand piano becomes a DJ booth and a stretch of vintage pianos makes for a long wooden bar. Dainty sliders arrive on platters bearing price tags, and the absinthe-heavy cocktail menu includes creations like the Arsenic and Old Lace: Plymouth dry gin, Noilly Prat vermouth and crème de violette stirred with Jade 1901 absinthe. And since Pawn & Co. is open until 7 a.m., you really can just about shop ’til you drop — just remember you will pay the price tomorrow.
JIMMY at The James New York in Soho has been lauded as one of the best rooftop bars in Manhattan. So it seemed only natural for partners David Rabin, Larry Poston and Johnny Swet to bring the same swanky lounge atmosphere to the Windy City in late August. However, while the New York location has a rooftop pool and aerial views of the city, its Midwestern sister is a small (just 35 seats) bar hidden behind an unmarked door in The James Chicago. James Beard Award-winning designer Thomas Schlesser uses walnut paneling and earth-toned upholstery to evoke the feeling of a 1970s speakeasy. And with nary a window nor a clock in sight, you’ll be sure to pass the time quickly with the menu of classic cocktails and libations inspired by cinema of the era; try the Cucumber Vesper (Tito’s vodka, Nolet gin, Lillet Blanc, lemon, simple syrup, muddled white peppercorn and fresh cucumber) and the Blueberry Thrill (Journeyman Bilberry gin, blueberry lavender jam, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lemon and egg white). A small snack menu also pays homage to the ’70s with items such as an elevated fondue made with goat cheese and vegetarian Swedish meatballs.
Origin, Hong Kong
Origin, the fourth in a series of spirit-focused bars from Charlene Dawes, is the first establishment in Hong Kong dedicated to gin. Master bartender Antonio Lai draws on his extensive mixology knowledge, using several molecular gadgets to create 12 different house-infused gins, as well as seven classic and 11 signature cocktails. A laboratory at the far end of the bar displays a rotary evaporator, used to redistill unique botanicals into microbatches of Beefeater gin, and a water bath and vacuum are used to slow cook infusions. Flavors range from basil, as seen in the Basil Smash, to the more creative pandan leaf used in the Green Hornet and the Earl Grey that stars in the Earl Grey martini. Sweeping exposed brick walls, lofty ceilings and a caged-in bar lend a chic industrial vibe, but details like plaid upholstery, postage-stamp wallpaper and a vintage bathtub sink add cozy charm to the space as well.
Scotch at The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland
When the staff of The Balmoral in Edinburgh found themselves directing guests elsewhere for Scotch whisky, the luxury hotel decided to build its own whisky bar to pay homage to the country’s prized spirit. Three kilted whisky ambassadors pour drams of more than 400 kinds of whisky curated by expert Charlie MacLean, including blends, malts and vintages dating back to 1940. Also featured are Uisge Source waters gathered from springs near distilleries in Speyside, Islay and the Highlands. Whisky connoisseurs open up the natural flavors by drinking these types of water, which are thought to enhance the malts made in those regions. While the grand oak-paneled whisky cabinet is certainly the centerpiece, the interior of Scotch is bathed in a natural spectrum of warm golden and cocoa tones. Expect the bar snacks to be top-notch — The Balmoral’s executive chef Jeff Bland flawlessly prepares contemporary Scottish dishes such as an interpretation of haggis with neeps and tatties (a savory pudding made with turnips and potatoes), a very traditional accompaniment to Scotch whisky.
No Vacancy, Los Angeles
If it’s Hollywood drama you want, look no further than No Vacancy. The latest in a line of bars imagined by brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston, this turn-of-the-century Victorian house will sweep you into an entirely different era. First, ascend the red-carpeted back stairs, where you’ll enter through one of three mysterious doors. The interior, bathed in red velvet and dark wood, exudes Old Hollywood. Take note of the gently restored original décor, such as gas lamps, cement Chantilly tiles and flocked wallpaper. An old telephone booth becomes a discreet photo booth, and a gift shop carries cigars and old-timey confections. Tables come with a large gin-, vodka- or rum-based punch bowl served in vintage glassware. A vintage apothecary cabinet displays a plethora of craft bitters. The menu of concoctions was curated by mixology aficionados from across the country, including New Yorkers Jim Meehan of PDT and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Dushan Zaric of Employees Only. For added privacy, reserve a private room upstairs, complete with a private bar and bottle service. Outside, a garden courtyard with fireplaces sets the scene for thrilling acts including fire swallowers and tightrope walkers. A DJ warms up guests in the parlor area before jazzy late-night bands take the stage.
Photos Courtesy of Simonie, Fogelson-Jetel and Rocco Forte Hotels