Few things in life are as satisfying as the first swig from a pint of chilled beer at your local dive bar, after a long day at work. Familiarity, without added frills, served with a smile, a bowl of masala peanuts and a bill that is accommodating of your end-of-the-month bank balance–this is a universally celebrated combination. While you can afford to grab drinks post work at these watering holes three times a month at least, there are those days when the heart hankers for a finer drinking experience. One that calls for a fedora, your finest Saturday night outfit, a bulkier wallet and the brightest red lipstick you own. Luckily for Delhi, there’s been a rise of cocktail bars where well-mixed drinks, the sounds of ambient jazz music and promise of intimate conversation await.
Inspired by the speakeasy jazz bars of the Prohibition era, the decadent clubs of the Victorian age and even elegant Parisian cafes, these bars transport you to another world altogether. The distinct personalities of these spaces also lends themselves to their liquor, where the cocktails, crafted with artisanal skill and innovation become boozy delights to remember. Not just another evening of loud music and bar nibbles, commercial beats give way to jazz and blues tunes, and the food menus are a delightful curation of culinary delights at these establishments. An ambience conceptualised as the result of artistic thought might even make it okay for you to be sipping a martini in the middle of the afternoon, completely guilt-free! Raise a glass to the bartenders and cocktail bars that are re-inventing the capital’s drinking culture.
To bring to you the best of the season, we curated a list of six of our favourite cocktail bars in the city, where you can unwind with panache. Scroll on to discover where you can light a cigar, let your hair down and take that well-deserved pause and an evening of tasteful intoxication.
Address: Vasant Vihar (PCO)
M-8A, M Block Market, Greater Kailash-2 (PDA)
Created by the same team, PCO and PDA are synonymous with the growing cocktail bar culture in Delhi. Based on the speakeasy concept (you need a passcode for entry, PCO is built to resemble an underground 1920s jazz bar. On entering you will find Sinatra, red telephone box restrooms, a long, deep bar and leather swivel chairs instead of bar stools– straight from the sets of Chicago. If you are looking for some privacy, head upstairs to settle yourself in chintz armchairs and take some puffs in your very own cigar room. As for something to sip on, choose your poison from their wide range of spirits and let them serve you a cocktail in true bespoke style.
As for PDA, this new bar has taken the classic Italian elements of a taverna and given it a modern twist for a truly timeless and cozy experience for its patrons. Catering to those who crave a beautifully stirred martini after-work or those who want to unwind with some nibbles and negronis at night, PDA is where artisan cocktails are born. We suggest their in-house gin fusions, especially Twirling in the Air– saffron-infused gin, maraschino liqueur and bitters in an Islay malt-washed glass. Other such exceptional creations can also be enjoyed with European accordion and jazz tunes playing in the background.
If you are looking for an evening of intimate conversations and refined indulgence, make your reservations at PCO or PDA.
Price: Approximately Rs 3,000 for two.
Address: 71, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar
Adding to the conundrum of Khan Market’s mushrooming culinary and spirited (pun intended) experiences is the the country’s first wine and coffee bar–Perch. What beckons you into this modern European cuisine cafe is a seductive fragrance of coffee beans, full-bodied vinos and fresh herbs–they grow them in pots all around the restaurant. Spread across two floors, it offers a range of wines—sparkling, white and red— sourced from Australia, Argentina, Spain, France and India, most of which can be had by the glass, carafe or bottle. Caffeine lovers can choose from the house blend of Indian coffees to single-origin Ethiopian, Indonesian and Columbian beans. Spread across two floors, its straight-lined keekar furniture and the subtle sound of indie music lends the space a casual quaint tone.
What we love about Perch is that it’s perfect both for a solo evening with your favourite book for your next date night.
Price: Approximately Rs 3,000 for two.
III. The Library,
Address: Africa Avenue, Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave
Tucked away at the plush Leela Palace Hotel in Delhi, The Library is the pre-dinner pit stop where you might find yourself wanting to linger for hours. Inspired by the decadence of the Victorian age they have both volumes of first edition books and limited-edition whiskey collections on their shelves. A place for spirit connoisseurs (and those in the making) let the bartender guide you through the cocktail menu, as you lounge on their leather sofas or choose to sprawl in their alfresco seating. If you’re looking for recommendations, you can’t go wrong with their Smoked Honey Comb Martini –cigar smoke infused, with caramelised pineapple.
So loosen that tie or let your hair down at The Library and succumb to the glory of a bygone era.
Price: Approximately Rs 4,000 for two.
Address: SCO 23, Sector 15, Part 2 Market, Gurgaon
The first of its kind in the neighbourhood, this bar brings the Prohibition Era to Gurgaon. Surrounded with the tales of bootleggers, rum runners and moonshiners in a contemporary yet warehouse aesthetic, cocktails from ‘golden classics’ to ‘new-age straights’ await you. Conceptualised as purely a ‘bartender’s bar’, Cocktails And Dreams serves you its wicked boozy concoctions under the eye of Yangdup Lama- one of India’s leading mixologists. A corner of the bar has been dedicated to the American jazz musician Louis Armstrong where local bands set the tune for a night of decadent debauchery in true-blue Prohibition style
Price: Approximately Rs 2500 for two.
V. Ek Bar, Defence Colony
Address: D 17, First Floor, Defence Colony
If you are not for the swing and cigars of the Jazz age, and prefer something closer home, then Ek Bar –India’s first Indian Cocktail bar is where you should spend your next cocktail evening. Their eclectic bar has acquired quite a reputation for its artisanal cocktails made with fresh seasonal ingredients and in-house syrups. Inspired by Indian history and culture, they feature kahwa tea, aam ka murabba and even kesar badam milk ingeniously mixed with a variety of liquors. As for the culinary section, it serves an innovative new-age Indian menu inspired by regional delicacies–signature thalis and khameeri pizzas await. This bohemian bright, space painted in warm colours, done up with quintessential wooden shelves against a white brick wall and spunky chandeliers is where happiness goes to drink.
Price: Approximately Rs 5000 for two.
VI. The Bar Cat
Address: E17, Third Floor, Block E, South Extension II
The Bar Cat is the latest venture in Delhi that gives you a taste of the Prohibition period’s underground soirees. Promising the biggest throwback to an era of grandeur they plan to bring entertainment from the roaring 1920s–the seductive notes of live jazz performances and and the infamous swinging flapper dancers to the country’s capital. The cocktails at The Bar Cat are an ode to classics, long forgotten by most bars across the city. Their in-house suggestions include - The Cat’s Meow - vodka infused with popcorn and their namesake The Bar Cat - a heady concoction of black gin, absinthe and much more to keep you smiling through the night! If you are looking to grab a bite, The Bar Cat offers a menu you would rarely find in the city–European style meets American finesse. Designed like an amphitheatre for music lovers along with separate rooftop seating, The Bar Cat is where the 1920s come alive.
Price: Approximately Rs 2000 for two.
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