Best bars in… Moscow

18th July, 2013 by SB Staff Writer

Shots and beer have been supplemented with creative infusions and barrel-aged spirits at the top spots in Russia’s capital. Erkin Tuznuhamedov reports.

Best-bars-in-Moscow

Barrel-aged cocktails and unique infusions dominate the drinks lists at Moscow’s best bars

Alexander Kudryavtsev was the first official Soviet barman when he began working behind the bar of Moscow’s Intourist Hotel in 1965.

Things have moved on since, although it was only in 1992, when Yeltsin lifted the state monopoly on alcohol, that local bars started to take off. Today there are some 3,000 drinking establishments in the city, many of them in the dormitory suburbs.

Those that really excite Western drinks companies probably number around 50 and are all downtown in the so-called ‘Moscow garden ring’.

Until a few years ago there was entrenched consumer resistance to mixed drinks with Muscovites preferring shots and beer, with perhaps a whisky and cola at a stretch. What cocktails there were tended to be of the fruit salad spiked with vodka variety. In the last three years there has been a much more professional approach among Moscow’s leading bartenders who have worked hard on improving their menus and cocktail recipes, along with upgrading the design and ambience of their bars.

Almost all the latest top venues are playing around with their own ingredients plus infusions, bitters, distillates, and barrel aged spirits to create unique cocktails that are beginning to catch on. This is reflected in the success of the Moscow Bar Show, now in its second year, in which such international luminaries as Salvatore Calabrese, Anastasia Miller, Jared Brown and Peter Dorelli have attended. Many have become regular visitors, judging international competitions sponsored by the likes of Bacardi, Angostura and Diageo.

The Big Liver

There are several successful and highly rated independent bars like the Mandarin, Luch, Rolling Stone and Solyanka, but the trend is towards consolidation with star bartenders becoming co-owners of the best outlets, which has helped attract investment. The Bartender Brothers Group (www.barbros.ru), for example, is a collaboration between Dima Sokolov, Alexander Kan, Marat Saddarov and others. They act as consultants, offering brand training and staff education, and co-own or control around 20 of Moscow’s foremost drinking establishments. Seiran Gevorkian’s United Bars has a stable of eight popular establishments with names like Martinez, Cuba Libre, Rick-n-Roll and Tequila.

Meanwhile Bek Nazri, who runs The Russian Cocktail Club, oversees bar development and management for the St. Petersburg-based Ginza group. This powerful outfit currently has venues in all the major Russian cities, including 10 in Moscow, as well as interests in Europe and the US.

One Russian idea unlikely to find favour with public health professionals in the West is the Big Liver. This curious loyalty scheme was devised by Roman Toropshin, head of the country’s barmen’s association, in his home town of Yekaterinburg in Siberia, and has spread to other cities including Moscow.

Depending on what they spend of an evening, drinkers are awarded a silver, gold or platinum ‘liver’ on a pin. This then entitles them to up to 30% discounts in participating bars, assuming their real liver can take the punishment.

Which are Moscow’s best bars? Find out on the next page…

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