Bars in Warsaw are on the up and the international bartending community is starting to take note. Where should you visit on your visit to the city? MIXOLOGY author Andrew Wilkin has teamed up with some local insiders to find out.
With its reputation as a dreary Soviet relic long shaken off, Warsaw is now known for its boisterous and lively nightlife scene – and not just its legendary milk bars. A fledgling cocktail scene has sprouted with a number of extremely talented bartenders front and center. Together with some of the local industry insiders, we compiled the five bars in Warsaw you shouldn’t miss out on in the Polish capital.
Bars in Warsaw: Kita Koguta – zanier than thou
There’s nothing pompous or serious about Kita Koguta, one of the harbingers of Warsaw’s cocktail wave. It offers up two floors of professional cocktails with auteur twists, with a zany approach that stretches from its drinks to the decor and even the (vinyl only) music. The industrial-cool look rules downstairs, whilst upstairs is packed with colorful furniture.
Amongst their many twists – including a bike with antlers hanging off the wall – longtime connoisseur of Polish bars, Anna Mach, particularly recommends their “After Hours” cocktail, made with gin, absinthe, mint and lime cordial, with a drop of chocolate oil floating on top. She also notes that the party can get rather rowdy. “Sometimes there’s even spontaneous dancing between the tables and – why not – on the bar!”
Kiti Bar: new sibling
They may be siblings, but Kiti Bar, the sister bar of Koguta, is an entirely different beast and also one of the best bars in Warsaw. The city’s first Tiki bar, it opened up in November 2016 with a huge Polynesian totem in the center signaling its intent. An intent to create innovative, exotic drinks – all of which are listed on a postcard collection with recipes on the reserve – and equally inventive small plates.
Anna Mach again recommends this bar, recommending specifically the “50 Shades of Earl Grey”, with tea and pink peppercorns, and the “Libre” – a delicious reinterpretation of the Cuba Libre, with cherry-infused rum, cold brew and cardamom. Pair either with one of their signature Hawaiian steam buns.
Bar Wieczorny: secret garden
Bar Wieczorny keeps things on the down-low – there’s no website and it’s located in a residential district out of the center – but there’s nothing low about its cocktails. Set in a small, intimate garden, it’s renowned by Pawel Hominski, the man behind bar blog Homik, as one of the “few places I can get a decent classic cocktail before or after a screening in my favourite nearby cinema (the Iluzjon).” Pawel Rodaszyński, owner of the legendary and sadly shuttered El Koktel, also praises the bar: “It’s the best place to lay down, relax, drink cocktails and (most importantly) enjoy your life.”
Wieczorny, run by MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS judge Tomek Roehr, came to the attention of many in the international community when it was packed with guests for his Bar Symposium in May 2016, with many bartenders from the UK, Norway, and Germany giving their cocktail and hospitality knowhow to an engaged audience.
The Roots: the hoarder
The Roots is firmly rooted in the past, but there’s nothing archaic about it. Tomek Roehr, praises The Roots for its “incredible collection of antique bar equipment and books,” which include antique shakers, glasses, and antiquated manuals. It’s a treasure trove for collectibles.
This clear passion for the tradition of mixology stretches to its two-part menu. There’s classics in the first part, with the second focusing on seasonal cocktails from different regions around Poland. Try the “Kaszuby”, a concoction of spelt wheat vodka with vanilla syrup, apple juice, apple puree and yeast paste, or a particular highlight from their recent spring menu, the “Drzewo Życia” (Tree of Life), made with Piołunówka – a bitter alcoholic infusion similar to absinthe – lime, chamomile syrup, nettle, and celery bitters.
Coctail Bar Max and Dom Whisky: all the libations
“An alcohol collection that has no equal in Poland and maybe even Europe. Something for everyone,” says Tomek Roehr about the oddly-spelled Coctail Bar Max and Dom Whisky.
The extremely cozy locale has an alcohol cabinet not to be sniggered at, but it’s the well-trained, inventive bartenders who make this bar a perennially great pitstop. Explain your preferences at the circular, central bar and the bartender will be able to come up with something to your taste. There’s even coffee and ice-cream, and the adventure continues in a glass-covered room with cigars and rare whiskeys to the side. Who cares there’s a “k” missing?
Bildquelle: Photo via Shutterstock.