By Natarsha Kallios
Naturally, when in Prague you take a leaf out of a Czech book and order a beer – or two. But in the city of pilsners is there room for a cocktail?
The Czechs pride themselves on the quality of their beer, and are famously known for their homebrewed pilsner. In 2011 the Czechs drank themselves silly, consuming more than 120 litres per person on average. They are the biggest beer drinkers in the world. But Prague is also vast enough to cater for the alternate beverage drinker, and you don’t have to search the city high and low to find that perfect margarita or piña colada or perhaps you might fancy a mojito. Actually, it appears to be that cocktails have made up for lost time.
Here are four great cocktail bars that we found on our recent visit to the Czech capital.
Bombay: Set in an old courtyard just off the Old Town Square is Bombay, a modern bar retained in an eccentric way. Some of the best-recognized cocktails are made here, and if you fancy a cheeky cocktail, bartender Roppy is your go-to guy. The Banana Bitch has earned itself a ‘Bombay Special’ tab on the menu list – just begging to be consumed. In this drink, Beefeater gin and pineapple have been well paired combined with apricot brandy, lime, grapefruit and banana liqueur. The interior lends itself to the exposed brickwork, which adds a rough and rhythmic texture, and is one of many elements that complete the space. The bar happens to rank among the most popular bars in the Czech Republic, making it perfect to sip on a cocktail before a night out on the town. But if you don’t intend on leaving, Bombay is a fairly large venue with a great party atmosphere. It satisfies an even-tempered pack weeknights (although the music might suggest otherwise) but attracts a large international crowd over a weekend – and is certainly not short of its description ‘one of the busiest bars in Prague’.
Hoffa: When it comes to a ‘relax and unwind’ drink, Hoffa Bar has pretty much set the standard for Prague’s classy cocktail experience, but with an urban twist. Settle in with a Cherry Morello for a quiet tipple or join the hipsters weeknights whilst the DJ spins. The bar is fitted with industrial lights and combines softly lit atmospherics with an impressive selection of spirits. With an ever-evolving tapas menu, Hoffa makes for a pleasant surprise; rest assured you enjoy fancy finger food. Beer on the whole is served only in a small glass – strictly good cocktails! The Blueberry Mojito is dangerously good and is garnished with mint leaves and blueberries.
Hemingway: It’s a mixture of homely comforts, early glassware and classic elements – and perhaps I should mention the famous bar patron himself Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway Bar is located on the edge of Old Town Square and has become a popular bar destination for the real cocktail enthusiast. Remarkably, the building is over 500 years old but the bar itself has operated for just three. A fitting structure for a menu that has titled its cocktails Elizabeth Hadley Richardson and Nettle Gimlet – just to name a few. Each bartender has an impressive expertise in crafting cocktails. With great attention to absinthe and rum, you’ll be literally spoilt for choice. Its old-fashioned vibe is consistent in theme, just check the ‘Hemingway Bar Rules’ and do not shout or make a noisy scene – how’s that for olden day protocol? Although the rules do make it that little more casual and drink-focused.
Zatacka F1: F1 is everything you’d expect from the name. A must-visit bar, and the only one of its kind in Prague. Guests will experience high-performance service and widescreen action sure to set the pace for anyone who enjoys a good cocktail. It is complete with barricade fittings, exposed pipes and rustic vents. Sound lighting, black and white checkered strips and themed ‘driver seats’ labelled after the famous Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda are also part of the works. Take a seat inside and enjoy a self-titled Good Formula F1 Life cocktail or a Mai Tai, which combines rum, pineapple and orange juice – one exceptional blend. Relatively new, there are few tourists so you’ll most likely have the bar to yourself. Whatever your pace, you can be sure to slow down and take in the atmosphere on race day or any day. And you can be sure on one thing, F1 has certainly made its Formula One debut in the city.