by Kellie Davenport
If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to a city’s heart is through a highball glass. Explore Europe’s top cities by way of their signature libations and thirst-quenching origins.
Courtesy of Four Seasons
Drink: George Fizz
For a real night on the town, or rendez-vous incontournable in local parlance, head to the iconic and luxurious Hotel George V. But don’t let its minimal name fool you – Le Bar exudes timeless elegance, with its rich velvet and chandeliered interiors. When in Paris, drink champagne! This bubbly wine has been made in France since the 17th century. Try Le Bar’s George Fizz, a Champagne cocktail with fresh berries and guava juice.
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Courtesy of the Savoy HotelLondon: The American Bar at The Savoy
Drink: White Lady
As its posh surroundings suggest, this art deco bar is far more than a humble watering hole – it’s a historic institution. It was one of the first and now longest running establishments in London to serve “American-style cocktails,” a.k.a. mixed drinks. Since the 1890s, bartenders have been pouring concoctions like the White Lady, a combination of gin, Triple Sec and lemon juice. (It was said to be a favorite of slapstick stars and bar regulars, Laurel and Hardy.)
Courtesy of Nordic C Hotel
Stockholm: Icebar at Nordic C Hotel
Drink: Vodka Cranberry
After you’ve donned your parka and gloves at the door, step into the world’s first permanent ice bar. With walls made from the frozen waters of Sweden’s Torne River, it’s a chilly minus 5°C year-round in this very “cool” bar. Your entrance fee/cover charge gets your first drink on the house. It’s all vodka, all the time here, so keep it simple with a classic cranberry cocktail – served in a glass made of ice, of course.
Courtesy of Belmond Grand Hotel
St. Petersburg: Caviar Bar at Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Drink: Vodka (neat)
This art nouveau ballroom will transport you to the days of Russian royalty. But the real king and queen of the room are caviar and vodka. With a name like Caviar Bar, you can’t leave without sampling the goods. Try black beluga or go all-out with a bite of rare golden caviar. Wash it down with a reco from Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier. The bar’s heritage rye and wheat varieties have been recreated from 120-year-old recipes. For a more modern spin, choose something from the flavoured vodka trolley – ginger or garlic anyone?
Courtesy of A La Mort Subite
Brussels: À la Mort Subite
Drink: Lambic Beer
The tiny country of Belgium boasts more than 180 breweries – and over 1,000 different varieties – so it’s no surprise that the national drink here is beer. The regional speciality in Brussels is tart lambic – an oddly tasty sour brew made with fruits, like cherry, raspberry or peach. For some of the best lambics in town, head to this 115-year-old estaminet (beer pub). Order a house-brewed lambic draught or a traditional Belgian abbey ale.
Courtesy of The Sheep Heid Inn
Edinburgh: The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston
Drink: Single Malt
Established in 1360, the Sheep Heid is reputedly the oldest pub in Scotland – Mary, Queen of Scots herself was a regular! Nestled in the quaint village of Duddingston, the bar is a bit of a trek from Edinburgh’s city center, about a 30-minute bus ride, but it’s well worth the trip. Order like a local by asking the barman for a single malt, not “Scotch” or “whisky,” served neat. After your drink, try your hand at skittles, an early form of bowling, in the authentic 19th-century skittles alley out back.
Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Winter 2016 issue.