June 3, 2012

Four cocktail bars in Copenhagen

My cocktail loving friend and I are very efficient when we test bars. On the first day of summer which was manifesting itself with showers of intense rain and even hail we checked four places out, we had never visited before.

I'll review them in the order we visited them:

We got there a little early but found a dry bench to wait out the 10 minutes until official opening. Fugu is a relatively new place, it's in the basement in the oldest part of town on the canal at Gammel Strand.

But for next 4-5 years it won't be able to serve people on the street level as a new metro line means huge construction.

We made out way to the garden in back of the bar - but it was too wet and windy and midway through our first drink we went back inside and found a high table with a view to the bar and some comfortable benches.

We both had an Aztec Punch for out first cocktail of the night. But we didn't get the same cocktail mine was mysteriously without grapefruit juice. It tasted alright and I was in too good a mood to complain.

Next up I had a classic - the Bramble - and now I've written off Creme de Mure as a future purchase - the cocktail was way too sweet for me and the blackberry taste almost jam like. My friend was very happy with her chamomile concoction.

There is nothing wrong with Fugu, it's a perfectly nice bar and all cocktails are well crafted but over all this was the bar that left the least of an expression on me that night.

If you visit say hi to the fugu fish - he looks a lot less poisonous than he is.

I believe the oldest cocktail bar in Copenhagen except for Library Bar at the Plaza Hotel. It's right in the city center not far from Fugu on the canal facing the parliament - and not cut off from view by the high green fence facing Fugu.

For full disclosure: My friend and I are middle aged women and we do not look glamorous or important. That set us apart from the rest of the crowd at K-Bar. The staff did nothing to make us feel inferior in any way - and we didn't - but it's not a place that welcomes you with open arms.

However K-bar served the drink that impressed me the most that evening. A Phi Phi Martini - which as the name implies is a martini with a Thai twist: Gin, coconut syrup, lime juice, kaffir lime, lemon grass, coriander, chili and fresh ginger.

My theory was that the herbs were cooked with coconut water into a syrup, but my friend asked and the bartender told us, that she blended the kaffir lime leaves, the lemon grass, chili, coriander and ginger fresh and then shook it with the rest of the ingredients. Which explained why the Thai tast got stronger as I drank the cocktail. I loved it.

My second drink was a Rosehip Hibiscus magarita - much too sweet for my taste - but I should have know that. My friend loved the house espresso martini.

So overall great drinks and nice staff but K-bar is also the only bar in Copenhagen where I have ever been asked to leave my credit card with the staff when we indicated we wanted more than one drink.

I suppose I could take it as a compliment, but really how did they imagine that two middle aged women, one more than a little round, seated in a window nook with their coats behind them and one backpack between them would sneak unnoticed out?

We left the city center and ventured out to Nørrebro which is a neighborhood with a mixture of immigrants, students and young professional families. It used to be the poorest of the neighborhoods around the old town, now there has been a lot of renovation.

Gilt does not announce itself to the world. The facade is closed but a light sign beckons: Udsendelse (it's an old On Air broadcasting sign) - I liked that a lot.

Inside is a dark, warm and very cosy place. Looks like the average Danish living room in the 1960's except for the wood panels on the wall.

Only two guests and one bartender was present when we entered, they had a conversation in Swedish and Norwegian and that was perfect as we studied the Nordic part of the drinks menu.

We settled for a rhubarb/gooseberry interpretation of the Clover Club Cocktail and loved it. It was startlingly pretty and a very well crafted cocktail with a thick foam of egg white. In the darkness we used out fingers to lick out all the goodness of out glasses. Next came another perfect drink: Beets and cherries. This was a mix of white rum, Maraschino, red beet syrup, gooseberries and simple syrup.

It was a gorgeous deep red and had a full and complex taste. To my taste buds the Maraschino overpowered the gooseberries but my friend said she tasted them distinctly and the drink was her favorite of the evening.

As we had another bar on our tour we left, but we could easily have stayed the rest of the evening. Instead we heartily recommended it to a group of people outside who had always wondered what the On Air sign meant, but never investigated further. I hope they did

The Barking Dog
The heart of Nørrebro is Sankt Hans Torv, a square with lot's of bars, cafes and restaurant who all have outdoor service during the summer time. The Barking Dog is in a quiet side street of this square. It's another basement bar and it's a quiet eclectic space. Over all very warm and welcoming.

Only available table when we arrived was a tall one with tall rickety chairs, but fortunately half way through our first cocktail a table in a small nook became available and we moved.

I started out with the house whiskey sour which was a very nice middle of the road drink, my friend had a Negroni-interpertation that was really nice and served over clear ice, as it was very light in color. That was a cool touch.

My only teeny little complaint is about the absence of cocktail napkins. As all drinks seem to be very well chilled with the attention to ice, pretty soon the table and we became wet. But it's nothing major and we didn't even bother to go and ask for some.

The final drink of the night was a Rum Ting - served in a lovely glass, in fact the stemware at The Barking Dog was the nicest of the evening. I likes this trendy cocktail - but didn't bother to find out if they have actually sourced the Ting soda in Copenhagen or used fresh juice and soda.

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