Consumatorium Reviews: Craft Bars in Budapest, Hungary

During our recent, very brief stop in Budapest, Hungary, we found the craft bar scene surprisingly good, but we were disappointed to find out that during our Sunday/Monday visit to the city, several of the best bars were closed. Undaunted, we found a couple of interesting cocktail purveyors and another that’s not only worth mentioning, but we urge our readers to try first before visiting the others, even though it was closed while we were there.

Ruin Bars, Budapest

Our first stop was at a Ruin Bar. These are bars that form in back alleys, abandoned stores, warehouses and open lots, usually with some outdoor exposure. They are in the old Jewish Quarter, most of which was left in terrible shape after WWII. The bars are full of paintings and graphics from local artists and there is often some entertainment as well. The “furniture” is a hodgepodge of whatever anyone had at the time the bar was set up. Old sofas, lawn chairs and stools.  It’s not clear whether or not these bars are legally where they are, but no one seems to care. The bartenders pour beer and a variety of cool, unique cocktails.

We stumbled into one, Anker’t, while looking for a craft cocktail place we had heard about. While the cocktail list wasn’t particularly impressive, the bartenders were there to please. Definitely worth a visit even if just for the experience.

As I already mentioned, in Budapest, many of the better drinking establishments are closed on Sunday nights (and even Mondays) . While we generally find that bars in hotels leave us wanting, when everything else is closed, the hotel bars are almost always open. We found several references to the good cocktails at the Blue Fox in the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest on the Pest side of the river and headed there for our first full craft cocktail experience in the city.

The selection of spirits was quite good and the list of cocktails included the classics and many unique drinks. I had a smokey Sazerac – a Saz made in a vessel with smoked birch wood. It was a bit overpowering, but quite good.

Smoked CocktailThe one we missed may be the best one in town, Boutiq ‘Bar. It is truly a hole in the wall. We walked by it three times before we saw it and then only because someone pointed us to it from a block away. We knocked on the big iron door an the owner came out. He was very apologetic and told us they were closed, begging us to come back again. We had a brief look in and took a look at the menu, which was fantastic. while we missed it, we definitely recommend it as your first cocktail stop while in Budapest.

 

Consumatorium Reviews: Craft Bars in Scottsdale, Arizona

The cocktail scene in Scottsdale is excellent. In addition to the fact that there are many craft cocktail bars, most of the bars also offer a happy hour where drinks are often considerably discounted. To our surprise, it isn’t only the well drinks (the drinks often made with lesser, cheaper ingredients) that get the lower price treatment, but also the hand crafted specialties offered by most bars. Your mileage may vary of course – not all bars offer a happy hour – and keep in mind that these happy hours generally end by 6 or 7 pm. So start drinking already!

Virtù - ScottsdaleOur choice for the best bar in town is Virtù. The bar is an integral part of a small, intimate and excellent restaurant. There are only about 8 seats at the bar – we always recommend sitting at the bar if you can. That way you can interact with the bartender and learn more about the drinks he or she is creating. As is the case with any great bar. Virtù’s bartender was engaging and informative. When we asked about ingredients, he poured us a shot of the spirit in question so that we could try it. The drinks he made were unique and very tasty. The food that accompanied the drinks was terrific as well. At the end of the evening, he decanted some newly infused Seckel pear grappa for us to try on the house. Fabulous. The whole experience was great. It will definitely be our first stop when we visit Scottsdale again.

The Beverly - ScottsdaleWe next hit The Beverly. A much larger place than Virtù with a bigger bar area. As always, we sat at the bar and conversed with the bartender. We ordered a few items off the classic menu which were not made with all the classic ingredients. The bartender explained that each bartender at The Beverly had a different cut on the classics and used their own twists on ingredients. I ordered a Vieux Carre made with Casoni 1814 Aperitivo that was quite good and a Sazerac made by burning off the excess absinthe in the glass. Good for the show, not as much for the drink, IMO. 

Cowboy Ciao - ScottsdaleCowboy Ciao is a fairly popular dinner stop in Old Scottsdale and has been around for years. We didn’t sit at the bar, but had a great waiter who walked us through the drink list. On their menu, they have a very inventive list of house drinks that changes seasonally. We had the bartenders’ cuts on a French 75, Manhattan and Old Fashioned. All were very good and excellent variations on the originals. 

Hula's - ScottsdaleFor a change of pace, we visited Hula’s Modern Tiki to check out their take on tiki drinks. We didn’t regret it. Tiki bars, especially ones in touristy areas, can often be fountains of synthetic sweet and sour mix. Hula’s uses fruit juices and a wide variety of rums in their tiki creations. We ordered off the extensive Signature Cocktail list, asking the bartender for guidance along the way. While I wanted to order the Scorpion Bowl for 6, my single drinking partner talked me out of it. Instead, I had a Zombie and a Painkiller (the bartender’s favorite). Both classics and both excellently made. Did I mention that during happy hour the Signature Cocktails are only $5? Next time, I’m having the Scorpion Bowl.

The House Brasserie - ScottsdaleOn our final night in town, we visited the The House Brasserie. We chatted it up with the bartenders who were very engaging and happy to share their thoughts on ingredients. We had a Green Lantern (Gin, Green Chartreuse, melon, serrano pepper) and  Pimm’s Mule (a mule is a drink made with citrus juice – usually lime – and ginger beer), made with Pimm’s #1. Both were fabulous. The drinks at the House Brasserie were classic with a uniquely southwestern twist. Not a cheap place, but definitely worth the visit for the excellent drinks.

Unfortunately, we missed our opportunity to check out Counter Intuitive which we had read about before our visit. It’s supposed to be a great bar, but is only open on Friday and Saturday nights after 10PM. By 10PM, we had already planted ourselves at another bar. They don’t even have a web site and we walked by it a few times before we found it, blacked out windows and all. If any of our readers have been there, please comment. We’d love to hear more about it.

Making Your Own Grenadine

Grenadine Containers

One of the great, fun parts about visiting craft bars is that you get to talk with bartenders who truly enjoy what they're doing and who are, generally, very open to sharing what they know. One of the big secrets I often hear from craft bartenders is … [Continue reading]

Consumatorium Reviews: Craft Bars in Berlin, Germany

Windhorst Bar, Berlin, Germany

Just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie in what used to be known as East Berlin, is a quickly growing area of new bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Contrary to its long term austerity during Soviet occupation, it has become a young, hip and … [Continue reading]

Fig-Infused Bourbon

Fig-Infused Bourbon

As we've discussed before, infusing your booze seems intimidating and maybe even difficult. Trust me when I tell you it's not. I know from personal experience - I'm inherently lazy, after all. To prove it to you, one of my drinks is named Apathy, and … [Continue reading]

Simple Syrup – The Step-by-Step Guide

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is, perhaps, the most basic and commonly used syrup employed in making craft cocktails. It adds the touch of sweetness that helps create balance and depth in the taste of many drinks. While you may see recipes that list synthetic "sweet … [Continue reading]

Guest Post from a Pro: Strong International Specialty Spirits

A glass of wine is nice, and nothing beats an ice cold beer, but for those times when you'd like to celebrate with something a little stronger, consider some of these unique, potent liquors to create a cocktail you won't soon forget. That is, as long … [Continue reading]

Aviation Cocktail

Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation is unusual among classic cocktails in that it is probably more popular today than it was in the golden age. Its distinctive pale blue color along with a rich red cherry make it a feast for the eyes, and a floral aroma stimulates the … [Continue reading]

The Zombie Cocktail – The Original Tiki Drink

Zombie

The Zombie Cocktail is the drink that started the whole Tiki craze. As discussed in our Intro to Tiki Drinks, Donn Beach, the man responsible for brightening our civilization with faux-Polynesian concoctions, created the drink with his vision of what … [Continue reading]

Intro to Tiki Drinks

Tiki Drinks

Tiki is dead. Long live Tiki. Like many great cocktail genres, Tiki virtually died in the 70's during the great vodka onslaught. It was the era when we gave up the taste of alcohol in favor of the tastes of what we could quickly mix with it. When … [Continue reading]