January 19, 2020 / Bars
Bar stars – iconic watering holes around the world
Bar stars – iconic watering holes around the world
Home to classic cocktails and master mixologists, these iconic bars continue to stand the test of time, and should be on every gin-lover’s bucket list.

Long Bar at Raffles

328 North Bridge Road
Singapore 188719


Raffles started welcoming guests in 1887 and, following a recent restoration, it’s safe to say the hotel is wearing its old-school charm well. The update is best admired at the historic counter of the two-storey Long Bar, which is surrounded by plantation-inspired cane furniture, green lampshades, tropical plants and rattan ceiling fans. It’s hard to imagine today, but this historic haunt had some pretty humble beginnings. In the early 1900s it was just a collection of tables and chairs set up alongside the hotel on Cad’s Alley, which earned its nickname as the spot where rubber and palm-oil traders would admire passing women. A century later and one important tradition survives: guests are invited to brush peanut shells off the bar and onto the floor, which might just make Long Bar the only place in Singapore where dropping litter is actively encouraged.


Sip a Singapore Sling at its source


Widely regarded as the national drink, it was a Hainanese bartender working at Raffles who created the famous concoction in 1915. At the time, strict etiquette meant it was forbidden for women to consume alcohol in public, but the ever-entrepreneurial Ngiam Tong Boon came up with a solution in the form of a pastel-pink blend of gin, pineapple juice, lime juice, curaçao and Bénédictine. So, while the drink looked like a socially acceptable fruit juice, the glass did in fact contain a delicious alcoholic infusion. The word ‘sling’ originated in America and refers to any drink made with sweetened and flavoured spirits. It quickly caught on and become known as the Singapore Sling – the bartenders at the Long Bar shake and serve thousands of them every year.


The American Bar at The Savoy

London WC2R 0EZ


The longest-standing cocktail bar in London has survived two World Wars and served countless famous faces, from Winston Churchill (who was rumoured to have his own private whisky collection stashed behind the bar) to Neil Armstrong (who enjoyed a specially created Moon Walk cocktail on his return to Earth). But the American Bar at The Savoy is perhaps best-known for the classic concoctions that were recorded in legendary barman Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book, which features recipes for world-famous drinks including the White Lady and Corpse Reviver #2. The spirit of invention continues with the recent release of a new drinks list called the Savoy Songbook, which features 20 cocktails inspired by 20 songs and pays tribute to the some of the talented people who have performed in the American Bar over the years. A live pianist is in-house seven days a week, which is the perfect backdrop to a Concreate Jungle cocktail dedicated to Jay Z and Alicia Keys, or the Fred Astaire homage, Breathless Charm.


Pegu Club

77 W Houston Street

New York 10012, United States


Not to be confused with the Pegu Club in Yangon, an officer’s club established in 1882 when Burma was under British rule, this pioneering Soho spot was founded by mixology legend Audrey Saunders in 2005. While bartenders will whip you up a traditional Pegu Club cocktail (gin, orange curaçao bitters and lime juice), Audrey is widely credited with helping make gin fashionable again, so it would be rude not to try her Earl Grey-infused MarTEAni. It’s not a stretch to say that many of the world’s best bartenders are born at Pegu Club and have gone on to open a number of other iconic institutions in Manhattan, including Death & Co. and Please Don’t Tell.


El Floridita 
Obispo, 557

Havana, Cuba


Make like Ernest Hemingway while sipping a daiquiri at his favourite Havana hangout. The rum-based cocktail was created by bartender Constante Ribalaigua in the 1920s, but El Floridita has been serving thirsty customers – mostly expat Americans, hence the name that means ‘little Florida’ – since it opened in 1817. Stand next to the Hemingway statue at the corner of the bar and raise a Papa Special to the literary legend. This grapefruit-flavoured daiquiri features two shots because, well, that’s how he liked it. While in town, check out another of the author’s beloved watering holes – La Bodeguita del Medio (Empedrado, 207) – which is allegedly where the first-ever mojito was made. Look around and you might just spot Fidel Castro’s signature among the names scrawled on the bar’s walls.


Harry’s Bar

Calle Vallaresso, 1323

30124 Venice, Italy


Declared a national landmark by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs in 2001, Harry’s Bar occupies a stunning spot just off St Mark’s Square. It’s was opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, who named it after the American student who lent him the money to get his venture started. Over 80 years later and the canal-side restaurant and bar is still going strong, and has won worldwide acclaim for inventing the Bellini cocktail (Prosecco and white-peach juice). Like a few of the bars on our list of icons, Hemingway was a regular (we are spotting a trend here) as well as many other rich and famous patrons, including Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Peggy Guggenheim.


Home-grown heroes


You don’t need to get on a plane to discover two bars that are busy establishing their own loyal following. Placed 79th and 80th in this year’s World’s 100 Best Bars list, you can be guaranteed a good time at these Aussie icons. It might be hard to find, but once you descend into Sydney CBD basement bar The Baxter Inn (152-156 Clarence Street, 2000) you’ll be rewarded with a huge range of single-malt whiskies. This place channels a 1930s-era Boston speakeasy, and the smart seven-tier back-bar stocks plenty of liquid inspiration, whatever your tipple of choice might be.


Open till 3am every night, neighbourhood bar Black Pearl in Melbourne (304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 3065) has been serving expertly crafted cocktails for more than 15 years.  Some of the country’s best bartenders started out here and the team are always refining and reworking their menu. Counter summer heatwaves with a frozen Cosmopolitan or snuggle up in the cosy upstairs attic come winter.

By Gin Society

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