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The most exciting bar openings of 2018

London and New York may be praised as the leading lights of the cocktail world, but top-end mixology and hospitality are becoming increasingly international. SB highlights the top eight venues that opened last year.

We put a spotlight on the most exciting bars that emerged in the past year

2018 welcomed an abundance of hot new international bars making waves across the sector.

From the first overseas outpost of legendary bar Please Don’t Tell to the second London venue from brothers Max and Noel Venning, there is an abundance of new bars for cocktail lovers to explore.

Click through the following pages to discover our list of the world’s hottest new bar openings of 2018.

8. Cocktail Bar Max & Dom Whisky, Warsaw

Cocktail Bar Max & Dom Whisky is a new spirit­-focused bar in the heart of the Polish capital, Warsaw.

The venue was created by the team behind Poland’s whisky festival, Festiwal Whisky, and boasts a back bar with nearly 6,000 spirits from around the world. The majority of these bottles can be found in the first­-floor Whiskey House, a space reserved for serious whisky lovers with 4,000 Scotch, Irish, American and world bottlings to choose from. The first floor is also home to the bar’s Cuban Room, which offers rum fans a selection of drinks and cigars that is unrivalled in Poland.

Meanwhile, the ground floor is where the Warsaw venue serves up its flamboyant cocktails, many of which are mixed with fresh, exotic fruits, including dragon fruit, passion fruit and coconuts.

The space incorporates an eight­-metre high round bar stocked with spirits used to craft some of the best cocktails you’ll find in the city.

7. Rake’s Café Bar, London

Rake’s Café Bar at London’s Andaz Hotel, Liverpool Street, opened this year boasting a vibrant colour scheme and an innovative cocktail list.

The luxury London hotel bar is made up of three rooms, each offering a slightly different ambience.

The Front Room is the place where you’ll find a lively atmosphere, with DJs playing every weekend. The Parlour is described as the perfect place to escape the city, and there is a secret room that can be reserved for private parties.

Meanwhile, the drinks offering has been themed around William Hogarth’s series of paintings, A Rake’s Progress, which tells the story of the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell.

Each cocktail on the menu has been inspired by one of the paintings in the series, including The Heir, made from mezcal, cachaça, lemon, grapefruit, agave and chilli; and The Gaming House, which combines whisky, red vermouth, Campari and Cognac.

6. Origin Bar, Singapore

This year, Origin Bar opened its doors in Singapore’s luxury Shangri­-La Hotel, where it hopes to transport imbibers through the state’s districts.

Located at lobby level, Origin Bar features a drinks list created by bar manager Adam Bursik, which takes guests on a voyage of discovery through five key districts of Singapore: Orchard, Chinatown, Little India, Boat Quay and Marina Bay. Each cocktail is intended to reflect the colours, flavours and historical anecdotes of these areas, and drinks on the menu include: The Pearl, which has been influenced by Marina Bay, and contains tofu, elderflower, sea grapes, mugi shochu and black forest gin; and the Leaf Curry, which reflects Little India with its mix of curry leaf, tamarind, cardamom and aged rum.

For those avoiding alcohol, Origin Bar offers a number of drinks that celebrate the local botany and fruits – from refreshing citrus to roasted coffee.

5. Nick & Nora’s, Sydney

Inspired by fictional murder-­solving duo Nick and Nora Charles, the newest venue from Australian bar operator The Speakeasy Group promises to bring the couple’s love for the good life into the modern day.

Nick & Nora’s champions cocktails, Champagne, Cognac and caviar from its vantage point 26 storeys above Sydney’s city streets. The venue boasts a harbour­-facing terrace and an 11­-metre-­long back bar that is home to 900 spirits and more than 50 Champagnes. The cocktail list features sections named in honour of guests who may have attended parties hosted by the Charleses, and includes: Femme Fatale, where imbibers will find Martini cocktails; Hollywood Starlet, which lists Champagne-based cocktails; and The Snitch, for Sours.

Drinks include the Burnt Butter Old Fashioned, mixing brown butter Ron Zacapa, Madeira, Benedictine and chocolate bitters.

4. 9 Below, Dublin

9 Below is the latest luxury cocktail bar to open its doors in the heart of Dublin, Ireland.

Since taking over the basement of the city’s historical Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, 9 Below has gained a reputation for producing some of the best cocktails in the capital.

The bar changes its menu seasonally and currently serves creations such as Pillow Talk, which mixes Tanqueray Ten with Martini Bianco, strawberry, basil, citrus and rose mist; and Bittersweet, which is made from Ketel One, white Port, grapefruit, lemon and cranberry bitters. Or opt for Peach & Love, made with Don Julio Añejo Tequila, lime, peach, honey Fino Sherry, violet, Prosecco and mezcal mist.

The space is sleek and stylish, retaining its original vaulted ceilings alongside art deco-style lighting that creates the perfect space to enjoy 9 Below’s impressive wine list.

The whisky selection is also worth shouting about, with rare bottlings such as Midleton Pearl 30th Anniversary sitting alongside expressions from Glenfiddich and Woodford Reserve.

3. Existing Conditions, New York

One of New York’s newest cocktail dens has been created by Dave Arnold, formerly of Booker + Dax, Don Lee of famed PDT and Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom.

The space is simple and unassuming, as the team endeavoured to leave it as unchanged as possible when they took over. Inside, customers will find booths and low tables, as well as vintage vending machines that distribute bottled cocktails, such as Manhattans and Martinis.

Located in Greenwich Village, Existing Conditions aims to blend science with classic cocktails through its list of stirred, shaken and alcohol­-free creations.

Shaken cocktails include the Helicopter, made from milk­-washed aquavit, Aperol, Cynar and grapefruit, while Existing Conditions’ stirred drinks includes the Waffle Turkey 101, which combines waffle-­infused Bourbon and maple syrup.

The bar also offers a number of alcohol-­free creations, including: Horse and Carriage, made from carbonated clarified Granny Smith apple, clarified carrot and Tasmanian pepper berry; and the Stingless, which mixes together carbonated melipona honey, clarified lemon and vanilla.

Alongside their cocktails, visitors at Existing Conditions can enjoy a host of small plates, including crispy cauliflower and shrimp sticks, as well as a selection of larger dishes.

2. Bar Three, London

Bar Three launched in March as a collaboration between Max and Noel Venning, and London restaurateurs Clive Watson and Justin Gilbert.

Taking over the basement of London restaurant Blixen in Spitalfields Market, Bar Three is the second venue from the Venning brothers, and showcases the duo’s signature minimalist style and creative approach to drinks creation.

After descending the stairs in Blixen, guests enter a subterranean bar that is split into two distinct areas. One side allows guests to perch on stools at the bar or high­top tables, while customers can also enjoy table service in an adjoining low­-lit room.

In keeping with its name, the menu is split into three, with cocktails presented in sections that have been categorised by flavour rather than spirit; light­-, medium-­, or full­-bodied. Drinks include the Rhubarb Spritz, made with rhubarb, Beefeater Gin, Aperol, vanilla and soda; and the Stone Wall, which combines Somerset brandy, pear, lemon, perry (made from fermented pears) and egg white.

The menu also offers a choice of three wines, beers and non­alcoholic creations, such as a Spritz made from Bramley apple cordial, verjus and soda.

The venue’s concise food menu was created in collaboration between the upstairs Blixen and Bar Three.

1.  PDT, Hong Kong

This year saw the opening of the first overseas outpost of legendary New York cocktail bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell).

PDT has taken over the mezzanine level at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, creating an intimate drinking den with seats for just 25 guests.

The second venue from Jim Meehan and Jeff Bell follows the tradition of the pair’s New York original, with guests entering through a door disguised by a phone booth at the top of the staircase.

Torsten van Dullemen, general manager of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, said: “After hosting PDT’s pop­up as part of our Masters of Mixology programme last year, we recognised that PDT would be a perfect permanent fit for us.”

PDT Hong Kong’s drinks menu includes 15 cocktails, including a mix of PDT classics and new creations crafted especially for Hong Kong. Imbibers can enjoy: the Big Fan, made from Cabeza Tequila, lime juice, pink peppercorn, guava and Moonzen Fujian Radler; and the Bad Hunter, a mix of Chivas Regal blended Scotch whisky, Fernet Hunter, lemon juice, dragon eye fruit and Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne.

The bar’s food offering comes from chef Richard Ekkebus’s take on American comfort food, and features the Honkie Dog, a fried pork dog with sakura shrimp and XO mayo, and Okonomiyaki-­style tater tots.

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