Cocktails. Bars. Bars. Cocktails.
Let’s face it, I’m obsessed.
Whether I’m at home in London, or away on a trip you know I’m hitting twitter to find the best cocktails in town – and who’s making them.,
It’s not about getting wasted – there are much cheaper ways to get that job done – it’s everything else
It’s about the discovery: finding something or somewhere new with your friends, or on your own. About not knowing whether you’ll be in there for the night… or running for the door within 5 minutes
It’s about the occasion: to celebrate something, for a special treat, to commiserate a bad day at work or, you know, because it’s Tuesday.
It’s about the experience: sipping slowly, savouring the craftsmanship, taking in your surroundings, relaxing into the vibe, appreciating the conversation. See, hear, smell, touch and taste.
Cocktails. Bars. Bars. Cocktails.
Because how I feel about bars and cocktails is how I sometimes feel about travel.
Because whatever city I end up in, I hit the bar guide as hard as I hit the Lonely Planet. To me, checking out the bar scene is as much a part of the experience as the monuments and the museums
Seeing the sights
Sometimes they even are the monuments and museums.
A daiquiri at El Floridita in Havana or a Singapore Sling at The Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel are the most touristy of clichéd tourist things to do, but within their walls and inside each glass there is a history, a connection to the local culture that’s worth taking the time to explore. That Ernest Hemingway used to hang out in Floridita, I knew – there’s memorabilia all over the joint. The fact the Singapore Sling was created to mimic a fruity drink so that ladies could drink it in public without fear of recrimination was news to me. Personally, I found it a little sickly, but I drank 2 anyway. You know, for The Sisterhood.
Learning a Lesson
Champagne in Champagne, Port in Porto, Pilsner in Pilsen…
The typical drink of any region has an indelible link to its community: commercial, cultural… sometimes even political. Not just source of income it can also be a source of pride.
On my last trip to Prague, I took a Czech Pub & Pivo Experience where I learned that Czechs drink an AVERAGE of 157 litres of beer every year. Before the 1989 Velvet Revolution, drinking beer was one of the very few leisure activities allowed under the socialist regime, which could go some way to explain its link to the National identity (and appetite…damn, that’s a lot of beer).
Taking a tasting tour is just as much an opportunity to learn the social history of the place you are visiting as it is an excuse for afternoon drinking (like we need an excuse…).
Like a Rock Star
Whether you’re paying for it or blagging it, a cocktail can be your key to turning a pretty good holiday into something off the scale awesome. Like slipping behind the velvet rope with a VIP table at Pacha for Closing Parties (we did the sums, it was a good deal, honest!), or the time 2 girls from my hostel got us into the blingiest house party ever at a Millionaire’s Mansion in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay. Sipping Champagne by the pool while some very beautiful model boys walked the catwalk in a swimwear show is why I ALWAYS carry a pair of heels in my backpack. You never know what’s going to happen. Like when I took an impromptu birthday trip to Ibiza. Sipping on Champagne (obvs) in a beach bar, a waiter knocked over the table, which got me chatting to the girls next to me, who were waiting for their friend the promoter, who put me on the list for Lio, which got me into the VIP party in the DJ booth with an open bar. Happy Birthday to me.
With bills and jobs and responsibilities, we can’t always party like rock stars at home. But we can when we’re away (…so let’s go away A LOT).
Up in the Sky
Keeping it glam, do you know where often has the best view in the city?
I’ve climbed to the top of La Sagrada Familia, struggled to the summit of Volcan Maderas in Nicaragua, taken a lift 124 floors up the Burj Khalifa – incredible experiences, jaw-dropping views. But still, some of my favourites have been from the rooftop bars of hotels. You don’t need to stay there, but a cocktail from the bar can be your golden ticket to spectacular skylines and stunning sunsets… and some really sexy cocktail lounges while you are at it.
Back Down to Earth
Every place you travel to has many stories and, balling in 5* VIP may only be one of them. For a different perspective, head somewhere local and low-key. My most hated travel word is ‘authentic’, usually used by the wankiest of travellers to one-up their mates on the “realness” of their experiences. Well, authenticity can be subjective. I believe that the more sides of the story you see, the more complete picture and the richer the overall experience
I love the glam, but I also love getting dragged around the dancefloor in dark, sultry salsa bars in Cali, Colombia where the only “cocktails” on the menu are rum and aguardiente sold by the bottle. I love that the best capirinhas in Brazil are served in plastic cups from carts dragged onto the beaches of Jericoacoara and Morro de Sao Paulo. Where you get to choose your favourite fruit and cachaca from the makeshift bar while you kick the sand out of your flipflops. I love that I got to spend a night walking the streets of Pelourhino, Salvador watching live bands play in shop doorways, drinking carvinhos and caiprinhas (those plastic cups again…) courtesy of an amazing local guy I met on Couchsurfing. He organised a spontaneous outing to the weekly Tuesday night (not Friday, not Saturday – I love Brazil!) street party for me with about 20 of his friends who just couldn’t wait to show this random inglesa how much they love their city. Best Tuesday night EVER.
Follow the Leader
I have no shame.
I love a cheesy bar crawl as much as anyone and, as a solo traveller, they have proven a lifeline to me. Beyond just providing drinking buddies for the evening, they have given me the chance to get out explore a city by night in the safety of a group on those occasions I’ve not had the confidence to do so alone. They are connectors that bring me together with people who I might hang out with for two hours or two days or two entire countries – whatever. They bring me into contact with people who will impact my journey in some way.
In Buenos Aires, a bar crawl the night before introduced me to an awesome group of like-minded solos with whom I could see the sights, wander the market at san Telmo and gossip over steak and Malbec (and LOTS of dulce de leche ice cream) the day after.
In San Juan del Sur I changed my itinerary so I could stick around for the absolutely mental ‘Sunday Funday’, riding around town in the back of trucks hopping from one boozy pool party to the next before stumbling into a club . The following day I was sharing a taxi to the border with one fellow ‘survivor’, hanging out waiting for my bus into Costa Rica with another and, a couple of days later, ziplining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest with two others I ran into in my hostel.
Not every bar crawl is the equivalent of a debauched student house party on legs. Those I joined in Barcelona and Cancun were refined, dressed-up nights out with reserved tables and bottle service. But what they all had in common? The opportunity to meet those people who would change the game – and my trip – for the better.
The perfect blend
Other people that can make a trip? Bartenders.
Not only are they the mad scientists that craft the delicious cocktails that I love so much, they are the best tour guides in the city. They always know what’s up – the best places to go, the best days to go there, who to ask for when you arrive.
Like the lovely Dan and Jeppe, barmen at Ruby in Copenhagen who suggested that I drop by their sister bar Lidkoeb, near my hostel in Vesterbro. There, I met Irina, who I bonded with over the fact we’d both managed to snag £5 flights with Ryan Air (me to Copenhagen, her to London). When she found out I’d been sent by Dan and Jeppe, I was treated to private tour of the venue (including their very sexy upstairs whiskey bar) and an extra cocktail on the house.
See, its good to talk.
Its not just other bars and other clubs. I’ve been given the heads-up on festivals, tips on avoiding queues at museum , recommendations on where to get the cheapest tickets . I’ve had entire maps drawn for me on the back of napkins, full itineraries – complete with directions – dictated into my phone, I’ve been given the name of the girl who knows the guy who can get me into a concert for free and the number of a guy who knows a girl who can get me an amazing place to stay at my next stop. I’ve had language lessons, a little bit of therapy and quite a few free drinks.
Having a good bartender is like having access to a concierge at the best hotel in town without having to cough up for a room. And with those amazing cocktails.
Cocktails. Bars. Bars. Cocktails.
So, welcome to Diva With a Bar Tab, a safe space for me to obsess about cocktails and travel without fear of getting dragged off to rehab. It’ll be home to bar reviews from around the globe, reports on boozy events & festivals, tipple-related tales from my Diva Diaries and lots and lots of sexy pics of delicious cocktails.
Best thing about cocktails and travel? Its always 5 o’clock somewhere.
P.S Please Enjoy Responsibly.
It goes without saying that, whether home or away, enjoy those delicious cocktails, but be smart about it.
Keep an eye on your drinks: watch who’s pouring them, who’s giving them to you and never leave them unattended
Don’t go too crazy – especially if you are travelling solo. Your new friends from your dorm are never going to watch your back like your mates back home would (having said that, I once watched a girl pretty much ruin her own NYE looking after a wasted girl she barely knew. She was a saint, you should never count on being that lucky).
People you met 5 minutes ago are not your BFFs (…yet) so watch who you are rolling with. Text a friend , check in on Facebook, post pics to instagram to let them know that you are letting people know where you are.
Blah, blah, blah – you know this. End of Public Service Announcement.
Enjoy your drinks, enjoy your travels and, if I run into you on the road, first round is on me.