When it comes to cocktails, Geneva is finally getting on board. Just a few years back your best bet would have been to stick with wine or shell out too much for a mediocre mixed drink in a club. But this year saw the second annual Geneva Cocktail Week and the addition of plenty of great new drinking spots, including bars focusing on single sprits and craft cocktail lounges keeping pace with trends like barrel aging. High end hotels are hopping on board, too!
After a week of research, I still didn’t try all of the places on my list, but I did manage to come up with my current favorite five:
Little Barrel: The Best Rum Bar in Town
Little Barrel not only has the city’s best selection of rums from 30 countries and counting, but they know how to use it. Their spirits are of a quality that can be sipped straight. Otherwise, you can go with something super on-trend like their Pandan Old Fashioned with a Pineapple Plantation base. Owners Nicolas and Quentin are laid back and friendly and that shows through in the end result with an unpretentious welcoming atmosphere. Want something other than rum? No problem, they can do that too. And if you’ve drunk your fill here and looking for fun further afield, just head to the loo where they post a list of their recommended cocktail bars.
Le Verre à Monique: Speakeasy Shabby-Chic
Le Verre à Monique offers up a shabby-chic speakeasy glamour that’s a bit off the beaten path. Décor recalls the hazy days of 20’s glamour with mismatched vintage glassware on display and a lovely copper bar. Their London-based big sister bar, the Gibson, has spent time on the Worlds 50 Best Bar list, so it’s no surprise that cocktails get creative here. The popular Smokey Bear has a truffle-washed cognac base and is garnished with a bed of smoking moss. Want a break from the booze? They also have a good selection of tea and can do a solid mocktail. Oh, and tasty popcorn….
Black Sheep: Geneva’s Best Gin Bar
This quirky cool and relaxed bar puts gin front and center but also offers up a range of other spirits and options (I saw a lot of those drinks with an upside bottle of beer in them the night of my visit, so they can definitely cater to a range of tastes!) But, what I particularly appreciated was Black Sheep‘s trio of barrel aged cocktails like their Old White Negroni. They also offer a selection of house creations based on a range of spirits like the rum-based Tiki Tonka. Service is friendly, and early evenings pull in a lively after work crowd who happily pack into the small space. They were so successful with their concept, they opened a second location with Black Sheep Rive. And their third and is opening very soon!
Manhattan Café: Swiss Take on a New York State of Mind
Step into this dim, sexy space and slide up to one of the many tables with friends for tasty sharing plates or squeeze into a stool at the sweet, but small, bar. The Manhattan Cafe bartenders took inspiration from American Classics in creating the menu. The Manhattan Bijou is made with Beefeater Gin, Grand Marnier and a red vermouth mix. The Sazarac replaces absinthe with Benedictine resulting in a drink made more accessible to a public not used to dancing the green fairy – but also an interesting change of pace from the standard recipe. Do order the mini croque messieur, which is just cute crunchy cheesy bits of delicious.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix: Five Star Bottle Aged Cocktails
It’s the Ritz so of course you’re going to get a beautiful and luxurious setting, well-dressed wait staff and fancy AF cocktail snacks. But being a high-end hotel doesn’t always guarantee great drinks. In this case it does. They’ve put together an impressive selection of four bottle aged cocktails, including a martini with house made vermouth. This is the kind of thing that a lot of swank hotel bars should do to ensure consistent drinks, all through the day, regardless of the staff behind the bar. Plus, my bottle aged martini rang in at 17 CHF – a steal for a cocktail of this level in a five star Geneva hotel bar. And, I have a soft spot for the doorman who’s just appropriately polite and reserved but still seems like super cool dude.
While those are my favorite five, it was a tough call considering all the great spots I stopped into. In the end, bar choices are always going to be a bit subjective, so get out for your own Geneva explorations. My list is based on my experience on my one night in each of the bars. Yours might be different so I also recommend: Bottle Brothers, Atelier Cocktail Club, L’Apothicare Cocktail Club, Barbershop, N’Vy Hotel Bar and Black Sheep Rive.
The fact that it wasn’t easy for me to choose just five is fab – it means that things are definitely looking up for cocktails in Switzerland!